To Be a Lemming at Montserrat
So, I’m a reluctant tourist at best. Short attention span at best.
And best at being the tourist who has a companion leading the way. So I don’t have to think or plan or pay attention–
But here I am, exploring a new place, alone. Which is how I like it, so as a tourist, I’m in a little bit of trouble.
Take yesterday and a nice little jaunt to Montserrat, an old monastery an hour and a half outside of Barcelona, up in the mountains. I wanted to go for two reasons. It has been hotter than hell here and I came with winter clothes. So I thought mountains–it will be cooler. But more importantly, I love monasteries, cloisters, in spite of the fact I was raised Catholic. I love the aura of peace, age, and otherworldly.
The trip to Montserrat includes metro, train, and either ‘spectacular scenic’ cable car for the last bit, or ‘scenic’ rack train. To put it simply, I am afraid of cable cars, so I had chosen the rack train. My ticket included the rack train, not the cable. The rack train even dropped you off in the monastery compound itself. The cable route made you trudge up a hill. Who could trudge after a death-defying ride in a car swinging over a vast abyss? Who would want to?
The hour ride on the many-stops train was mind-bogglingly dull. What can I say. So that when we hit a stop that was for Montserrat, even though we got there fifteen minutes before my printed schedule said we were to arrive, I eagerly filed off the train following several other tourists. It was only as I got out the door that I realized that many other tourists were remaining on the train. As the slow realization dawned that this was the cable car stop, not the rack train stop, I turned in slow-motion panic to jump back on, the doors slammed shut and the train left. I was standing with the crowd of tourists who had willingly chosen the dreaded cable car.
Lord, please don’t let the cable car crash. Please take away those visions of cable cars hanging akilter from their stupid cables. Please dear lord, I’ll never follow the crowd again.
After having to pony up more euros before even being allowed on the thing, somehow I was pushed to the front, right by the windows, for the best view in the house. I don’t know what this means, but I do know I didn’t scream, faint, or have a panic attack induced by claustrophobia. We reached the top alive, where I didn’t fall to my knees and kiss the ground although I wanted to…and the day proceeded.
Where one minute later it seems I came upon a very important looking line. It was important looking because it was very very long. It was snaking its way towards the basilica, although there were people also going into the basilca without standing in this line. But I stood there, reluctant now to leave it as there were now people behind me and god forbid I lose my place for–
That was just it, though. I didn’t know for what. I was standing in a line only because these other people were, and they didn’t look disconcerted by the line. They looked purposeful. Didn’t I want the same thing they wanted? A touch of panic touched the very edge of my consciousness. ‘Lemming’ floated in. I was actually standing in a giant line and I didn’t have a clue what the line was for?
I leapt out of that line. And immediately was a free woman. Maybe I didn’t have someone leading me around. Maybe on this kind of outing I would prefer to have someone leading me around. But such was not the case, and so I got down to the job at hand which was exploring Montserrat to see what I would see.
I saw the Boys Choir, which sang like heaven…for all of ten minutes. But what the hell. It was ten minutes of heaven.
Montserrat is the home La Moreneta (the Black Madonna), and one can touch the statue. That is what the line turned out to be for! I watched them touch her up behind the knave as I waited for the Boys Choir, so I felt part of!
And then I strolled, browsed through their extensive gift shop, and then, yet one more time, I joined a group of tourists waiting for what I was sure was the correct train this time.
And it was.