Milchtoast

Chronicles of a writer abroad

Barcelona Part III: A serrated mountain and a grating on the nerves

8 Comments

For the last post in the Barcelona series, I’d like to take you…outside Barcelona. Just an hour outside. No big thing — we’ll just hop on a train at Placa Espanya and relax as we are shuttled away from the coast and deeper into Catalunya. Here we are: the seat is comfortable, the world outside our window is beginning to look different — we exchange city views for pastoral ones, then move into a more arid zone, with dense shrubbery and reddish soil. Lulled by the scenery, our minds are starting to drift into–

DO Y’ALL KNOW THAT I BROUGHT A CASE OF HERSHEY BARS AND A BOX OF PEANUT BUTTER CRACKERS ON THIS TRIP? DANG, I REALLY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN SOME OF THAT WITH ME TODAY.

Oh, sorry. Did I not mention? There are four middle-aged American tourists in the group of seats behind us. And they are obnoxiously loud, with one voice in particular rising above the rest. Now, there exists a stereotype concerning Americans being loud and obnoxious whilst traveling in Europe. I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, so allow me to say that I’m aware that many Americans are not like this when traveling. But I also know that respectful Americans sometimes pretend to be Canadian when traveling in order not to be associated with this type of person. So, let’s all try not to be this person. I’ll admit to you that I’m extra annoyed by her because of my North American love for Hershey’s chocolate, which I haven’t had for a long time because it’s not available in Europe. This woman has brought a case of it to Spain. How long can her trip be?

But I digress. So here we are, getting closer to–

MY DAUGHTER? THAT GIRL IS SO BUSY. SHE’S WRITING SO MANY GRANTS. FIRST I TALKED TO HER AND SHE WAS WRITING ONE GRANT. THEN LATER SHE WAS WRITING ANOTHER GRANT!

Sorry again. I seem to be getting too distracted here. How about we pick this up again when we get off the train, okay?

(Incidentally, this is why I must do all my writing at home, as opposed to in cafes or other kinds of public spaces. Especially now that I am often ensconced in a foreign language, I cannot help but listen when someone is speaking English in public. It’s sort of a curse.)

…YEARS UNTIL RETIREMENT…BUT HIS WIFE SAID…THOSE KIDS JUST LOVE HER…PEANUT BUTTER?… TEACHING THEM LIFE SKILLS…

Ah, so here we are — finally — at the Montserrat station. Montserrat, when translated into English, means “Serrated Mountain.” Here’s the best panorama I could manage, given the hazy day and my limited photography skills:

So, how cool is this? It’s a mountain that is almost as playful and wacky as Gaudi’s architecture. Maybe it lent…or he was inspired by…? I don’t know for sure, but let’s go up the mountain for a better look. Um, this means we have to take a funicular. It’ll take fifteen more minutes. But it’s going to be–

THIS IS PRETTY, Y’ALL!

Yes. That’s what I was getting to. Uh huh, she’s here too. And she’s right. She’s irritating as heck, but she’s also right. As the train climbs the mountain, we can see the plains of Catalunya below (N.B.: I believe these to be the celebrated main-rain-in-Spain-plains). The expanse of green is broken at intervals by cities and the roads running between them. The sight reminds me of a human body, with the cities forming organs and the roads between them arteries and blood vessels…don’t you agree, co-narrator?

THINK THEY’LL HAVE FOOD UP THERE? LIKE A RESTAURANT, OR A CAFETERIA?

Oh, so you won’t cooperate. You won’t even be–

WOULDN’T THE FOOD BE STALE BY THE TIME IT GOT UP THERE? BA HA HA.

Ah, forget it. The ride’s nearly over.

After disembarking at the top, we’re going to notice a few things. Number one: It’s noticeably colder up here than in the city below. Number two: it’s noticeably quieter than in the train (Bonus item three: There is food. A restaurant, and a large cafeteria).

This mountain is probably swarming with tourists in the summer — I base this conjecture on the frequency of the trains, the aforementioned capacious eating facilities, the very large gift shop, and the fact that my guidebook said the Basilica’s Black Virgin (she is black due to centuries of exposure to candle soot, apparently, but for a long time the cause was attributed to simple miraculousness) draws many visitors of faith. But we’re lucky — we’ve come in January, and so we can enjoy the environs in peace and quiet. When we go ON SOME HIKING TRAILS, FOR EXAMPLE, WE WON’T SEE ANYBODY–

Whoa. That was weird. What, is it contagious?

I think this means it’s now my turn to stop talking. Here, enjoy some pictures of Montserrat. Enjoy them, if you can, in perfect, glorious silence — as we did the train ride back to Barcelona.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Barcelona Part III: A serrated mountain and a grating on the nerves

  1. Nearly choked on my tea with this dialogue! We too have been entertained by loud travelers, although not all American! Heather will remember the noisy Germans in a tent on Long Beach, BC who set up their tent about as close as one could do without trespassing. The joys of travel 🙂
    I love those snaggle-toothed mountains. It would be interesting to know why they have eroded that way. Lovely images … I especially liked the one of the mountain and the road curving off into the distance. Lucky you!

  2. What kind of camera do you have, Kristen? Your photos are consistently amazing… [which is due to your skill as well as whatever camera you use, I realize]…

    • Thanks! I use a Panasonic Lumix (DMC-ZR1) — it’s a pretty simple point-and-shoot digital camera, but it does take nice pictures. Then I improve those pictures further with some editing on my computer — things like cropping, straightening and adjusting the light in under/overexposed photos can make a big difference.

  3. It’s true. Americans are loud. We learned to tone it down to avoid nasty looks on the tram, and we consistently have to shush Americans visiting us. It is super annoying, especially when, like you said, there’s one loud strain of English dialogue in a sea of incomprehensible foreign languages.

  4. ahhh! your american commentary really cracked me up! there are two american girls that are on my bus to work nearly every morning and THEY. DO. NOT. SHUT. UP. they’re constantly yelling at each other (why yell? they’re sitting right next to one another and no one else is talking…) I’m often tempted to get a bit nasty and tell them that this is why most of the world hates americans abroad.

    your photos are lovely! looks like a great time 🙂

  5. I’m still smiling – in sympathy – after reading of your enforced companionship! Your description would make one want to avoid speaking English to avoid anyone thinking you are part of that noisy group. Ah me, the joys of travel, though the pictures are worth the pain.

    Aren’t mountains gorgeous, wherever they are found?

  6. I recall walking into a bar in a train station in England. It was no more than 10 metres wide, but was about as long as a football field, and it was packed with travelers. I walked down the one central aisle to order my beer at the bar, and it seemed to take forever to get there. But just as I got close, the hubub of several hundred people all talking was eclipsed by the unbelievable racket of just 2 newcomers who entered “talking” to each other. I had to have been more than 100 feet away from them, but the volume was enough to make me cringe. The bar eventually fell quiet in slack-jawed wonderment. The American gents just carried on, oblivious. I think they were looking for a spittoon, or sumpin’.

  7. So funny – thanks for including the conversations from your fellow passengers : )

    That scenery is stunning – so glad you went to Barcelona so I could see all the cool architecture and mountains!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s