Day three in Barcelona started in a gin bar, included hanging off the edge of a cliff and ended with paella and my first genuine enjoyment of eating squid. Here’s what happened in between.
I can recount what I’ve been doing on the 14th April for as long as I can remember. That’s because other than it being the anniversary of The Titanic hitting the iceberg or the Birthday of everyone’s favourite vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar it’s also my Birthday. Hooray. This year I was adamant to do something “different” which is precisely how I found myself celebrating 26 up a mountain range in Barcelona. Montserrat is an easy train journey from central Barcelona and the perfect day trip away from the city to see some more of the Catalan countryside.
A train from Espanya station takes you to Monistrol Monserrat where a super cool rack railway then takes you up the mountain. For sure one of the best train rides I’ve taken (and a far, far cry from my usual New Cross- London Bridge route). From the station at the mountain you’re then free to hike up various trails and explore the area with its unique rock formations and cliff side Monastery.
We set about trying to follow a route but then got confused and just kept walking, passing friendly fellow cliff dwellers along the way. We had allocated ourselves 3ish hours in Montserrat so we had enough time to get back to the city and enjoy some of the day there; this meant the longer hikes were out but after some insane power walking we completed a route that was meant to take 45 minutes in 25. The climb up is comprised of a lot of steps as well as rugged paths and the occasional lizard. With every gasping breath on the way up I had been silently sobbing to myself about the very evident deterioration of my fitness in my old age and it wasn’t until we stopped at the top and realised just why we couldn’t breathe that I let myself off the hook. Naturally I then ate lots of cheese to celebrate. We found a vantage point that was just perfect for a Birthday picnic- fine dining is great but it’s got nothing compared to going au naturel.
After lunch with a view we headed back down so we could explore the Abbey. It was a lot busier around here with bus loads of tourists and school groups milling around taking in the spectacular views and sunshine alike.
Past the Abbey there were several market traders at stalls all selling the same product (bizarre) and a cafe with impressive views out the back. It was here we came across this adorable cat who, despite being a bit battered and bruised, was obviously a fan of all the attention he gets while patrolling his mountain top territory. I called him Monty. He wasn’t impressed.
The two trains needed to get back to Barcelona correspond with each other and allow enough time for transfers. As we made our way back to the rack railway station we spotted where we had been watching the world from just an hour or so earlier. Nothing like a bit of perspective.
Up until this point Tom had been carrying around a bottle of Cava in his bag ready for consumption. The plan was to drink it during lunch but then I realised not only do I have the bladder capacity of a flea but tackling those steps going down after even one glass would have been a very questionable choice…So we did what all Londoners do best and celebrated on the train home. Five O’Clock somewhere, right?
We arrived back into Espanya station at 3.45pm and by 4pm we were back at the hotel very comfortably situated on rooftop deck chairs with fresh daiquiris in hand. It was at this point I realised I had very probably peaked on the Birthday celebration scale and it was possibly very inevitably going to be all downhill from here.
The day finished with me doing what I do best and testing the strength of not only Tom’s patience but my ability to recreate a “vision” I have in my head. This particular vision involved Birthday/beach/balloons/unrealistic Pinterest based expectations which are, in my opinion, the best kind of expectations. Attempt this at your own peril.
Dignity swept away with every breaking wave and balloons swiftly distributed to some passing children it was onwards into the arms of our good friends wine and food. Some beach side paella at Barraca was thoroughly enjoyed and included some of the best seafood I’ve eaten. Honourable mentions here go to the squid and langoustines. You go squid and langoustines.
As we so often do we had grand plans of visiting some clubs/bars/partying all night long but in fear of really leaving no where for my future Birthdays to go (and absolutely nothing to do with being tired out by 11pm) we decided to retire back to the hotel. It was wonderful.
Starting 26 as I mean to go on is no mean feat but I’m going to give it a good shot.
Midday Cava anyone?