Montserrat makes for a pleasant day trip out of Barcelona. We made the journey with my parents and aunt and uncle. A regional train takes you to the bottom of the mountain, where you can catch the funicular or, in our case, a slow cable car up to view the lumpy chimney rock formations along the way. There is a Benedictine monastery at the top, and in the basilica, you can line up with the other hundreds of pilgrims to take pictures with the Black Virgin statue. During our visit, there seemed to be some special trip involving representatives from Nagasaki, but my grasp of Catalan is too nonexistent to catch it during mass (although by now, I have figured out, "germanes" do not refer to our European friends but "brothers" in the language). In the plaza, the locals caved to the tourist hordes and dance the sardana in peasant costumes with tinkling bells on their slippers.
The real reason for us to return to Montserrat I suspect will be the hiking. You can follow the row of market stalls offering tantalizing samples of locally aged goat cheeses, membrillo (quince paste), and dried fig concoctions to trails that wind up, down, and around the mountain range. Some of the more adventurous visitors, clad in performance wear and walking sticks in hand, shunned the public transportation options from the train in favor of the steep, rocky incline. Many looked like they had regretted it by the time they reached the top. We enjoyed a more leisurely trail around the mountain dotted with tiny shrines of painted tilework and picturesque landscapes viewed from the comfort of shady trees.