Barcelona, Montserrat, and Home Safe

After a whirlwind of a week, it was finally time to visit our last city, Barcelona. It was clear when we first arrived that Barcelona was worth the wait. An incredibly vibrant, historic, and happening city. There was so much to see and do and, sadly, we only had two days to get it all in!

Our first stop was to the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia. Like the Alhambra in Granada, La Sagrada Familia was something just about everyone was quite eager to see and experience. This Roman Catholic church (not cathedral!) is unlike anything that anyone has ever seen before. Begun in 1883 by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, it has been a work in progress ever since. It is a peculiar building in every way. If there ever was an "iconic" church identifying an artist or a geographical region, this is it. In fact, peculiar may be an understatement. Seeing it in person was truly an extraordinary experience. As you can imagine, being so popular, there were droves of people in every direction peering up to the "ice cream cone" towers designed by Gaudi, both finished and being built as we speak. The inside was just as tumultous and noisy, but there was still something about the place that left us all in awe. There is hope that it will be finished by 2026 (the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death). If that is to happen, they better get a move on! If you want to get a sense of what it looks like today and what it will look like the future (again, it's a work in progress), I recommend visiting the following website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcDmloG3tXU

After our visit to La Sagrada Familia, we headed back to the hotel for some pool time (on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the entire city!) and a bit of relaxation before our concert. Our concert that evening was in the historic Basilica Santa Maria del Pi. A lovely space with a fantastic audience. In fact, all of our audiences were warm and appreciative - a tribute to the importance of the arts across Spain. Also, speaking of warmth (!) it was exceptionally warm during the concert and we lost a few choristers to overheating along the way (don't worry - we had lots of parents ready with water bottles!). The choir rose to the occasion and we pulled through. The choir has really grown over the course of the 10 days and I couldn't be happier with the way they sounded. Despite being exhausted and hot!! I'm going to miss hearing them every day! We had a nice dinner together and then it was off to bed.

It's hard to believe, but the final day of our trip had come. Because the choristers had worked so hard and the weather was going to be nice, we shifted things around a bit so that we could at least dip our toes into the Mediterranean. So, we spent the morning in Sitges, a lovely resort town with a beautiful beach and easy access to the water. Even I, the reluctant swimmer put my feet in! The choristers had a great time and I was pleased we were able to fit in some time at the Sea!

We then headed up the mountain to visit the famous Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. We were allowed to sing three pieces (the last again to the Virgin Mary) in the stunning basilica there. The church houses a famous statue in the Apse known as "The Black Virgin Mary" and some of use took some time to get a close up look (I found it amazing that we could get access). Also of note, the monastery boasts one of the oldest boy choirs in Europe. After our performance, we had just a bit of time to wander around the monastery (having given up a bit of time to visit Sitges), and I think it was a wonderfully fitting way to end our time together. A literal mountain-top experience!

It was now time for our final dinner together, some presentations to our hard-working chaperones, bus driver, and tour manager - and then packing. We had an early flight which meant a 3:30 am departure. After a short layover in Amsterdam - just enough to go through the various passport controls - we were on a plane back to Detroit.

So, it is with this entry that we sign off. As always, I wish I had more time to share more of our experiences and those of the other travelers. We filled every day to the brim and getting even a few moments to write was a blessing. Stay tuned, however, for the Fall edition of Crossings where I will write more about the trip and how it molded and shaped us all. It was life-changing in many ways and it was a pleasure to be able to share even a piece of it with you all. A special thanks to Rev. Areeta who also wrote for the blog. It was wonderful reading about her experiences as we traveled together.

Scott