Catalunya Experience: Secret Travel Diary Day 2

Catalunya Experience Montserrat

In the morning my face is still tingling. My nose in particular is feeling the effects of the most rigorous cleansing/spot squeezing session it’s ever endured.

With annoying regularity I wake at 4.30am. I am not on Catalan time.

My mind immediately starts churning, rehashing how I came to be here for my amazing Catalunya Experience, the journey and my first day in Barcelona then wondering what today will hold. Feeling inspired and knowing I won’t get back to sleep otherwise, I write my travel diary for an hour then doze again until 7.30am.

See Secret Travel Diary Day 1 in case you missed it.

My Fitbit records a paltry 5.5 hours sleep but I leapt into action because there’s no time to spare. Still, I’ve underestimated how long it will take me to wash, blow dry hair and apply makeup (two steps I normally skip) not to mention pack, eat and get out of the hotel room without forgetting anything. There is no time to call home but I feel guilty as I know my daughter would like to hear from me every day.

A taxi has been ordered but there are ten taxis outside. I don’t know which one is mine, so I head towards the most likely candidate but the taxi driver just ignores me. I wait on the pavement accompanied by my hand luggage, a large duffel bag, my handbag and a carrier bag with water and apples, hoping a driver will claim me.

I’m obviously waiting to go somewhere. But no one wants me. I go back to the first taxi driver and ask if he’s waiting for someone.

“Si,” he consults a piece of paper, “Annabel”.

Relived I hop in. We’re only five minutes late. Barcelona whizzes by outside, a whirl of traffic, fine buildings and Catalonian faces.

It’s rush hour so traffic is heavy and when we wait at traffic lights The taxi driver checks his phone and click through it.

“In Australia it’s illegal to use your mobile phone in the car,” I comment conversationally, always keen to practice my bad Spanish and learn about local ways.

“Si. In Barcelona too. When you’re driving.”

“Ah, but it’s okay when you’re stopped at the traffic lights?” I ask.

“No,” he admits. Glancing back down at his screen and putting the phone down as the traffic starts moving again.

15 minutes later, we pull up outside the TV3 building. My old film crew friends from the airport are there and many new more. I kiss them all on both cheeks knowing I will have trouble remembering their names later.

This is a big TV production with a team of 12 people:

  1. Producer
  2. Director
  3. Screenwriter
  4. Cameraman
  5. Cameraman
  6. Sound technician
  7. Production assistant
  8. Director’s assistant
  9. Director’s assistant
  10. Presenter (Ivana!)
  11. Drone men
  12. Me!

Back at TV3 offices four more people are researching and planning the Catalunya Experience show.

We throw my bags in the car and hit the road straightaway.

Some distance outside the city, a mountain appears on our left, light grey against the blue sky and covered in giant rocky fingers reaching to the heavens. I immediately want to there.

What I most want to visit in Catalonia is a mountain called Monseratt but it didn’t look anything like that in the pictures I saw on the Internet. Ivana tells me we are heading inland and I feel disappointed. I’d prefer to go to that mountain.

Then I see a road sign for Montseratt. I feel excited again, and when is Ivana asks if I can guess where we’re going I tentatively reply “Monseratt?”

“That’s right,” she says.

We soon pull up at the cable car and immediately have to run because they’re holding other passengers back so we can get on. Ivana and I stand at the front while the film crew crouches at the back. I’m overwhelmed by the cold morning air, my every moment and sound  being caught on camera and the views as we rise slowly to 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above sea-level.


monserrat cable car

The craggy mountain, with it’s multiple peaks, is breathtaking but the outside of the basilica looks dull and forbidding.

monserrat monastery

Only once you get inside, can you appreciate the intricacy and beauty of this historical building and its testament to the passion for God, or in this case the Virgin Mary, who is honoured here.

Giant carved wood panelled doors, marbled floors and fonts, golden statues of saints and soaring ceilings catch my eye. I drink it in, fingers lingering on smooth surfaces, my mind thinking about the vast team of people who created it, the passion that drew them to build this monument in this place and the many millions of visitors who’ve journeyed here for thousands of years.

monserrat monastery inside

monserrat monastery inside 2

monserrat monastery inside 3

We film from 9am until 8pm. We repeat the same walk, conversation and actions again and again to make sure they are captured on camera. We touch the Virgin Mary and say a prayer.


We light a candle in the Ave Maria walk. The choirboys sing, our hearts humming too as their sweet voices fill the cavernous space.

monserrat candle

Finally we break for lunch at 1:30pm. The all-man film crew have been so kind, getting my microphone in place, holding my bag, bringing me tea.

Lunch includes goat cheese salad, spinach and chicken, bread and olive oil accompanied by red wine or beer. It’s good stuff. Ivana and I are the only women on the table with 12 men. I’ve never travelled with so many guys before.

monserrat lunch

Two more men with a drone arrive to film us from above. The square outside the Basilica is closed for us and a small army of men in neon jackets blow whistles at anyone who tries to pass through.

We’re not supposed to look up at the drone as it buzzes around our heads, but it’s hard not to. I think about my son crashing his toy remote control helicopter into walls and tables and hope these guys have better control of their toy. In any case, the shots will be spectacular. I wish I could jump on board the drone for a birds eye view.

After lunch I’m told to sit on a step while the cameras train themselves on me. Ivana is deep in conversation with someone and, all alone, I feel suddenly self-conscious.


Someone calls action and claps hands then suddenly Ivana sits next to me with two small pots of what looks like icecream.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Annabel”, she says “I’ve just been to the farmers market to buy some mató for us.

melo 2

“Really?” I say, surprised and laughing about her brazen fib.

“Yes. It’s a local speciality of soft cheese which we eat with rosemary honey. It’s delicious.” That much is true and we tuck in. Yum! I’d eat melo for breakfast every day if I could.

But the best is yet to come; a private tour with Prior Ignacie to areas of the monastery gardens which are usually out of bounds to the public.

priory garden

The cloisters and library with its 350,000 ancient books are sublime and I feel privileged to be there.

monserrat books

monserrat globe

monserrat prior

The Prior is funny, kind and intelligent. I pick his brains about Internet addiction, modern problems and the importance of silence. He explains that:

“Without silence you cannot find your inner.”

His English is imperfect but I know exactly what he means. It’s a great quote.

“Do you think we are afraid of silence? Of Stillness?” I ask because I’m addicted to busy-ness, yet constantly trying to slow down.

“When you are still you find your inner self. In silence you find the best of yourself, but also the worst of yourself. And that is hard.”

We take a moment to practice being silent, listening to the sound of snow melt dripping from the roof and the quiet beating of our perfectly flawed hearts.

As darkness falls, I add extra layers of clothing and go back into the Basilica to hear the monks chant and the choir sing. We are spending the night in a hotel on Montserrat.

monserrat hotel

The sunset view is divine.

monserrat arches

monserrat arches 2

We film a final interview segment at 7.30pm and eat at eight. I’m over-tired. My feet, back and head all ache but as I fall asleep to the sound of deep mountain silence I feel content. Compete.

I wonder what awaits me tomorrow…

montserrat cable car outside

Don’t miss more secret travel diary posts about my Catalunya Experience!

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In the meantime check out my Secret Travel Diary Day 1 in case you missed it.


My Catalunya Experience episode is now live. Watch it here now.

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  1. Linda ~ Journey Jottings October 27, 2015 at 9:31 am - Reply

    What an absolutely fantastic adventure Annabel –
    Loving following along on your Catalunya experience and dreaming of when I can get there :)

    • Annabel Candy October 27, 2015 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda,

      Oh you would love Catalonia! I hope you get there soon.

    • Josep October 28, 2015 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Good Morning. I am Catalan and I welcome people from other countries who want to visit us. A hug from my land Catalunya.

      • Annabel Candy October 29, 2015 at 6:18 am

        Bon dia Josep,

        Thanks you!

        One of the best things about this trip was being able to spend a week with such a beautiful group of people. Everyone I met in Catalan was so kind, welcoming and fun which makes it a great travel experience.

  2. lena October 27, 2015 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel! How nice to see you enjoying Catalonia! I live here so it’s great to see how others see what I’ve known for a long time. Hope you keep enjoying Catalunya!
    Ps. I think you meant “mató” instead of meló? (This last one means melon)

    • Annabel Candy October 27, 2015 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Lena,

      Bon dia! Great to see you here. I’m still enjoying the happy memories of Catalunya and thank you for spotting that error. I’ve fixed it now – please don’t tell Ivana I got it wrong ;)

  3. Monique@The Urban Mum October 28, 2015 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Love your writing, transporting me straight to enjoying your journey with you! What a fabulous experience – did I miss when we can view your show? xx

    • Annabel Candy October 29, 2015 at 6:16 am - Reply

      Hi Monique,

      The show is airing today 29th Oct in Catalonia. I’ll post a link when they share it online :) Can’t wait to see it myself!

      • Carme October 29, 2015 at 8:57 am

        I just saw the programme! Hope you enjoyed our little country ?

      • Alex October 30, 2015 at 4:08 am

        Hi Annabel,

  4. Oscar Grau October 29, 2015 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Great Post!!! Great Annabel!!!
    Thank’s for your visit to our country, your country.

  5. Imma October 29, 2015 at 8:00 am - Reply

    I’m watching to you now on TV3 ….. :) :) :) Montserrat ummmm lovely.

    Des de Catalunya, Molt Bona nit!! ;)

  6. Victor October 29, 2015 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel! Just watching the report on TV of Catalonia TV3. Nice to see how you enjoy with our little country. Hope to see you again in our country!

  7. Anna Bigordà October 29, 2015 at 8:16 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel!!!! I’m from Catalonia and I really like seeing how other people enjoy our country!
    I love mató and I love Vall de Núria!!!
    I’ll carry on your blog!!!

  8. Judit B. October 29, 2015 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Writing this comment from Catalonia, while watching the program that’s on air now! I hope you enjoyed our country very much! Your blog is very interesting!

  9. Marta Manubens October 29, 2015 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Hello Annabel!
    I’m from Catalunya, and I’ve just watched the TV show!!! I hope you enjoyed the time here!
    Can’t wait to read the other days of your trip! :)

  10. Pere October 29, 2015 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Hello Annabel

    I hope this and another videos help people to understand our country.
    All you are welcomed.

    Thank you Annabel

    • Annabel Candy November 5, 2015 at 10:19 am - Reply

      Hi Pere,

      I think so! It’s a brilliant way for everyone to learn more about Catalonia.

  11. Rocío de Sardi October 29, 2015 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Hello Annabel, I just finished to watch your “Catalunya Experience” on TV.
    It was really great and amazing. Watching it I remembered my stays at Montserrat when I was young. With my school every year we went a week to live and talk with monks in the monastery and the peace I was feeling those days it’s still in my heart. Then, watching you at Núria, I know these mountains because I live near there!
    I realise that I want come back soon to these places and discover the carnaval of Vilanova.
    Each week “Catalunya Experience” show us a part of Catalonia with a foreign visitor, and it is interesting and an excellent programme.
    I hope you enjoy the experience and want to come back soon.

  12. Enric October 29, 2015 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel

    Glad you enjoyed Catalunya so much… yet don’t you go thinking we’re always partying around like you did on your last day, huh? :)) Yes, you know what I mean, your experience at the Comparses at the Vilanova’s Carnival, lol! Today the chapter of the TV program Catalunya Experience in which you were featured has been finally broadcast and we’ve all been able to see your adventures in our little country.

    In case you, or any one reading, is interested in viewing this and other chapters –which btw, are (partially) available in English are on the TV3 website/ Also, there’s another site (where I am a volunteer) at which features lots of videos displaying numerous aspects of Catalan culture, tourist attractions and other places worth visiting for those willing to visit Catalonia in the future.


    Warm regards

    • Annabel Candy November 5, 2015 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Thanks Enric,

      That was one hell of a party. I laughed so much.

      Have shared the link to the video at the end of the post now thank you :)

  13. Marta Navarro October 29, 2015 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    I’m a Catalan living in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. This morning I saw your Catalonia Experience in TV3’s website. Congratulations!
    Has been very interesting for me your comments about the sense of community you feel in there.


    • Annabel Candy October 29, 2015 at 4:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you all for your beautiful comments and for sharing the link. I’ve added it to the blog post now :) Sending big hugs to you all in Catalunya!

      And yes, I do think you party like that all the time :) It’s a beautiful dream!

  14. Montse October 29, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Dear Annabel,
    It was very exciting to relive parts of my country with your eyes. Thank you for coming to know Catalonia and find you so well.
    See you soon!!!

  15. Claudia November 4, 2015 at 1:22 am - Reply

    Love the personal, behind the scenes account you are giving us. Makes the whole experience so much more relatable (even for those of us not being filmed for a TV show!). Nice.

    • Annabel Candy November 5, 2015 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hi Claudia,

      Glad you’re enjoying the behind the scenes stories and photos too :)

  16. komal December 8, 2015 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Wow…This is a beautiful travel blog. Glad that I found you here. Love the pictures.

  17. nil January 7, 2016 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Hi annabel,
    when i saw the progame i loved so much them but i have only one question.
    When me and the catalonia habitants saw the programe we heard them in catalan but you understand all of things that ivana explains you?

  18. Oscar April 12, 2017 at 6:35 am - Reply

    Catalonia is waiting for you this summer 2017!

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