Barcelona & N. Spain

Day 06 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - Travel Day to Zaragoza; Visit to Montserrat; Tour of Zaragoza, a Pilgrimage Town; Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, and the Roman Forum

We were up early and ready for breakfast at 6:45. The group from Japan had an earlier departure so the staff opened early and we joined the Japanese.

The hotel staff brought the bags down two at a time in the small elevators. Our driver Javier was loading bags as soon as they came down. With 42 of us there is a lot of luggage, many more than the one per person. Hmmmmm…..???

Our estimated departure time was 8:30, and we still had not seen our bags come down so Vic reminded the porters to go back to look on the 6th floor. Everyone was on time this morning, a great sign for our first travel day.

There was no rain but the skies were gray. Javier was able to get out of town easily as there was no traffic, just a few street sweepers cleaning on Sunday morning.

We drove west on Highway A-2. Laura talked to us about the seating on the bus. There will be no rotations; we are on our own to share sitting in the front seats. This is fine with us as we are not particular and would rather sit near the rear.

Our destination today was Zaragoza, but we made a stop at 9:30 at the Monastery of Montserrat. Laura had given us a history of the 9th century monastery and the importance of the pilgrimages to see the Black Virgin in the Benedictine Chapel.

From afar we could see the monastery at the top of the mountain. Although it was sunny below, we could see a cloud covering the peak. The mountain has its own weather system.

The last time we were here we saw a wedding and the famous boy’s choir was singing. The choir was in Poland singing today so we did not hear them but we watched part of a Sunday mass.

The line to pay tribute to the Black Virgin was long, but because we had come early, it was not the thousands of people that waited patiently later in the day. We visited the Virgin, Gennie lit a candle for her mom, and we went back into the sanctuary after the mass to see the incredible art work and gold and silver ornamentation.

Vic talked to a group of young soccer players from Manresa, a town we had passed on our way to Andorra. A family was posing for a photo in front of the church so Vic volunteered to take their picture so they could all be in the group.

After shooting 6 photos with six different cameras, we found out they were from Colombia, a country we loved; as we talked, they asked us to pose with them.

Vic talked to a group of Carlistas, a group of Spaniards who still support General Franco. They walked him through their small museum and talked about the war, one gentleman had actually fought in the revolution.

Our meeting time was at 12:30 and everyone was on time once again. We continued west to Zaragoza and at 2:30 we stopped at a highway rest area, Medas, to get a bite to eat, use the restrooms, and stretch our legs.

Our route has taken us through fields of corn and grain, orchards of peaches, apples, and pears, and then open plains that reminded us of Wyoming. The land is hilly and only with irrigation is the soil able to bloom.

We crossed the Greenwich Meridian, the imaginary line of 0° longitude. This line divides Spain diagonally, but they have decided to keep the country all on the same time zone.

It was 4:30 when we arrived in Zaragoza. We went right to the hotel, checked in, and found our room. The hotel is the same chain as we had in Barcelona so our room looks exactly like our last one.

We took time to start the journal, look at our photos, and respond to a few e-mails. At 6:00 we met in the lobby for a city tour with a local guide.

Carlos, our city guide, asked us to put on our “whisperers” so we could hear him for our tour of the City of Zaragoza founded by the Romans over 2000 years ago. Now the home of 700,000 people, it is in the region of Aragon and a well known stop on the Pilgrimage Trail.

The highlight of the city tour was the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar where the miracle states the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. James, the apostle. Standing on a pillar of jasper, Our Lady became visible before her assumption into heaven, making this the only reported appearance before her death.

Inside the Basilica were paintings and frescos by Francisco Goya, a local artist who was not appreciated as a young man and fired for his modernistic paintings. After he became one of the most famous European painters, the church was truly sorry they let him go after painting only a few of his now renowned masterpieces.

The tour took us past the Roman city walls as well as a newly discovered amphitheater in the center of town. We visited the old Moorish community as well as the Jewish center. All three major religions got along well and lived peacefully in Zaragoza for centuries.

Our tour ended at Las Palomas Buffet and Tapas where we had a wonderful dinner with our group. We walked back to the hotel and Vic took a few night photos of the spectacular Basilica and other illuminated monuments.

By the time we returned to the hotel it was 9:30 so we finished the journal and got organized for another travel day tomorrow. We were sure we could spend more time in this delightful city, but we have more places to go and more cathedrals to see.

Accommodations: Hotel Catalonia El Pilar - - - Meal: B, D

Please see our Trip Evaluation -- Click Here -- A Complete Review of Go Ahead Tours: Barcelona and Northern Spain


You didn't say...did they find your luggage? These pics are fantastic! Never heard of the Black Virgin and the appearance of the Lady of the Pillar -- very interesting. thanks for taking me along - Bless each of you

Pat Heald   October 3, 2012 - 3:05pm
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Lucia, Go Ahead Tours - Laura, Tour Director

Lucia, Go Ahead Tours - Laura, Tour...

Monastery at Montserrat

Monastery at Montserrat

Black Virgin

Black Virgin

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Zaragoza at Night

Zaragoza at Night

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