Spain was invaded by many different cultures. Evidence of this is in abundance so we scheduled a time to view the ancient wonders. Situated on the Mediterranean, offering lovely seaside views. is Peniscola and Tarragona, Spain. Peniscola has a castle that sits atop of the old part of the city surrounded by stone walls. Upward we climbed until we reached the top of the castle. It was a little too touristy for my nature. It is difficult to imagine days gone by when caterers arrive with bouquets of flowers intended for a wedding later that day but panoramic views of the sea abound.
Tarragona proved to be the driving nightmare that we had begun to expect with Roman ruins set amidst modern buildings. Our hotel was across the street from the coliseum where people continue to host modern entertainment. We walked around viewing thousand years old structures intertwined with a Spanish Elvis tribute band and eateries situated around and through the stone. What incongruousness! Fortunately, we drove to a really great ruin of a Roman aqueduct several km outside of town and got to walk rather close up to the engineering wonder.
Our final side trip was conducted through a tour group up to Montserrat. I am Roman Catholic, something that defines me as a person. We are not evangelical people so my intent is not to convert but to explain. I went to the mountain enclave to see a bit of history, the goal of the tour guide. Tucked into the side of a mountain, (Montserrat means serrated mountain.) it is home to a Benedictine Monastery. According to legend in the 800s shepherds saw a light in a cave indicating the presence of the Holy Mother. During the 1200s a statue was carved in her honor. The Virgin of Montserrat is a black Madonna holding her child. Not able to move the statue the monks build around it. Today la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”) is housed behind the altar in the Basilica. For hundreds of years, people have made pilgrimages to this holy place, asking for miracles. I knew little of this before we arrived and thus began our explorations at the gift shop. We then made our way to the Basilica where we found a long queue and decided to ignore our tour group and join the lines of waiting people. Our tour group was going to meet and then proceed to the Basilica where at 1:00 a boy’s choir would sing two songs, a tradition that began in the middle ages. The hour-long wait allowed us time for prayer and contemplation, moving through thousand-year-old rooms with lovely alters and statues before we ascended the narrow staircase to the Madonna. The choir began to play adding to the specialness of the moment. Before me were two middle-aged Spanish ladies obviously prepared for this trip. Their eagerness showed through the language barrier. Each person is allowed a moment to honor the Virgin before moving on. These ladies were overcome and even peeked back into the room as I moved before the Holy Mother. As a Catholic, I need these reminders of God’s spiritualness and didn’t realize how truly filled with awe I would become. It was an accident that I meandered into this queue, not a tour stop destination but it provided one of the highlights of my trip.