Here we were. Up earlier than any other day on our 13-night Disney transatlantic cruise. Staterooms had to be vacated by 8AM, and we had to debark the Disney Magic by 9AM. With our hearts and heads full of memories, we headed off the ship for a few hours in Barcelona, before boarding our 6PM flight back to Florida.
What to Do Around Barcelona
As you probably know by now, we are not huge city people. We much prefer discovering local and quiet villages and surrounding ourselves with nature, than exploring metropolis. Having visited Barcelona several times in the past, and with 9 hours in our hands, we headed for the car rental agency!!
While the kids and I enjoyed our last breakfast on board the Disney Magic, Christian was wonderful and went to get the rental car he had pre-booked earlier in the week.
Since we were in Barcelona early in the morning, and long before any stores opened, we drove up Las Remblas and headed to La Sagrada Familia. I have such fond memories of both of those iconic landmarks and I wanted to share them with our children.
After taking a handful of family pictures, we headed back to the (illegally parked) car and Christian looked up day trips around Barcelona. We had a 150 km allowance on the car and were going to use every single bit of it!
Monastery of Montserrat
We headed down highway A-2 as we escaped the slowly awakening city. After entertaining ideas much further than we could handle in one day, Christian found a site for us to explore – Monastery de Montserrat.
Situated at the top of one of the highest mountains around, and in the middle of several national parks, Montserrat seems to have been carved right in the stone. Hanging against the rock, the site is of exceptional beauty.
We parked the car at the end of the mountain road and paid the very fair price of 6.50 EUR, giving us access to the entire site for the day.
A large platform overseeing the valley was built, giving tourists vertiginous views stretching all the way to Barcelona, over 50 kilometers away.
The catholic monastery itself is stunning. Built right into the cliff and painted in shades of red, yellow, orange, and green, it stretches over several buildings and boasts several chapels and a large church.
We entered the church and were greeted by monks finishing a mass and the male voices of their choir. The inside of the church was impressive, covered with gold, religious paintings, and stained glass.
Make sure you wear appropriate shoes and allow yourself several hours to fully explore the grounds.Had we had more time… the site offers many paths and flights of stairs to several other buildings and chapels.
A funicular rallies the city of Monistrol de Montserrat at the bottom of the valley, to the monastery. With several stops along the way, it also climbs far above the monastery itself, to a chapel located at the very top of the mountain. The view from up there must be breathtaking!
Back to Barcelona
We passed the Mont Serrat and its national park and drove down its reverse side, all the way to highway A-2, taking us back to Barcelona.
On the way down, we came across another hanging monastery.
As well as a beautiful little church named Santa Catalina.
Ending our journey through the beautiful Catalan region surrounding Barcelona, we snapped a couple more pictures of the cliffs and headed back to the airport.
We had not planned our day in Barcelona and had very little expectation. This excursion was absolutely perfect and the perfect ending to a wonderful vacation on board the Disney Magic. If you have one day in Barcelona and want to explore the area around the city, we highly recommend the day trip to Montserrat. Before you do that however, make sure to spend a day visiting the city. Barcelona is a beautiful place, worth getting lost in. Walk the Ramblas, visit the Sagrada Familia and explore Park Güell. We knew Barcelona and were craving a little bit of the surrounding nature between port and airport!
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