Walking through the centre of Barcelona, you are surrounded by the city. Concrete, cobblestones, glass, metal, cars, people, dogs, hustle and bustle. It’s very easy to get sucked into the busy pace of the city – the parties, the concerts, the shopping, the cleaning, the working, the gyming, the life. You begin to long for an escape, a moment of peace, a pause to catch your breath and calm your mind. What you forget is that you are actually in a beautiful part of Spain surrounded by natural wonders, wildlife and opportunities for outdoor adventures.
If you take the plunge, then go to Plaza Espanya and buy a ticket and jump on a train for an hour. As Barcelona fades into the distance behind you, salvation rises ahead of you in the form of the impressive and imposing Montserrat – ‘the jagged mountain’. The mountain named for its serrated edges and mounds that are haphazardly astounding.
As you climb the rack railway, the air becomes cleaner, the views begin to open your perspective and immediately the space allows your brain to calm you. At the top, you might choose to visit the monastery and statue in black stone of the Virgin Mary, which is quite a spectacle.
The best spectacle of all, however, is higher up. You pick a trail and keep walking and breathing and walking. The trail gets steeper and less paved, the air gets clearer and the views get more spectacular. You stop momentarily to breath and just be in a place where you can’t see or hear anyone else. You choose the path that goes straight up but you begin to despair that you have entered a cloud cover and the views are gone and you have chosen the wrong path. You keep pushing forward through this rite of passage and your efforts are rewarded, because once you emerge beyond St Joan Hermitage, the skies clear and the sun emerges above the blanket of cloud.
You don’t stop. Spurred on by the reappearance of the sun, you keep going – you pass through the hermitage and up and up to St Magdalena Hermitage. When you get there, you stop momentarily to watch the rock climbers and then head up further. Finally you emerge at the top of one of the mounds and simultaneously you have emerged into nirvana.
You cautiously clamber to the very edge of the rock, take a seat and survey the sunset in the far distance, the expanse of clouds stretching below your feet, the majestic mountains all around you. You inhale the fresh, unpolluted breeze and you marvel at the vastness of the world in front of you. Your senses are exhilarated and even if you’re the most unspiritual and logical, practical person, your soul is awaken. Your mind finally has the space to settle and be…
Add to that it’s a bloody good workout! If you are a writer lacking inspiration, if you are an office-bound worker needing to wash off the doldrums, if you are a hiking enthusiast, a photographer, an artist, a parent who needs a break from everything and everyone, do yourself a favour. Another world is on your doorstep.