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The big map o the Caminos de Santiago

Route from Montserrat to Santiago

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
#1
Hello, oursonpolaire,
I'd be very interested in hearing about your pilgrimage from Montserrat to Santiago. Perhaps it would be more suited to VT's "Varied Experiences on the Camino" thread. This year on my annual trip abroad with my students, we are doing the Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona circuit. Our last day is in Monsterrat (which as we are a Jesuit High School, has of course particular significance for us). Monserrat is a moving and spiritual site - and I wondered if there was a route beginning there. Does it connect with the Camino Aragonés? And consequently end up joining the Francés at Puente la Reina?
Buen Camino,
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
#2
Re: Advice For Non Spanish Speakers

First, let me tell you that you will love Montserrat, which is spectacular and astonishing and extraterrestrial. While not quite San Juan de la P in impact, it is very much worth the trip and your students will quite be taken by it. There is a choral school there and, if I may so, Vespers was almost at Anglican cathedral standard. Looking over the plain to Manresa through the morning mist is a rememberance I will keep with me until I no longer have memory.

I cannot recall what insanity drove me to this idea of walking out of Montserrat. I was much taken by my visit to San Juan de la Peña (discussed in the Aragonese thread) and wanted to see it again. As well, I had told my office that I would be gone for 7 weeks and they would need to adjust themselves, as I found that the 30-35 days of the Camino Francese insufficient to unwind and, for personal reasons likely too boring for most readers, I wanted a serious break. Montserrat was one of the traditional starting points to Santiago, being a pilgrimage site of the BVM -- the Black Madonna. So I booked my ticket.

There are two Catalan routes-- the more frequently travelled follows the Ebro up through Saragossa and joins the Camino Francese at Logroño. The other, which I took, splits out of Tarrega and goes up through Balaguer and Huesca, and then joins on to the Camino Aragonese. I went through Tarrega, to Linyola, Balaguer, Monzon, Huesca, then to Loarre, and over the Sierra de Loarre to Santa Maria de la Peña. There I realized that, however spectacular crossing sierras might be, my original plan to cross up over to San Juan de la Peña would be too much for me, so I took the local train to Jaca, and then joined on to the Camino Aragonese there.

I had a great deal of trouble in researching the route (but have found some useful information since) and the Barcelona association sent me a useful (if not enough) guide which they published. It would really have helped if I had packed this guide. Really, it would have. As it was, much of the route was unmarked, and I could easily count on being lost each day. In several locations, it was clear that volunteers had been devoted to marking, in others.... they had not yet made an impact. Given the distances between stops and the heat of Catalonia and central Aragon in September, this was often troublesome. Indeed, I was twice picked up by the police, with imprecations that it was mucho calor in despues media, senor; en el coche! I was always able to cause much amusement among Spanish friends by detailling how the Guardia Civil made me hand-squeezed orange juice and telephoned around to find me acommodation when Tamareite de Litera was in the midst of its fiesta. Turismos, surprisingly enough, were a terrible source of information on the Camino-- in Balaguer they had to telephone around to the police to find out where the path went.

Villages and fuentes were often far apart and I will always be grateful to the African farmworkers who generously shared their water (and their employers' fruit) with me on the long walks through huge orchards of apples, pears and figs. The walk was solitary-- in almost 14 days I met two Austrian cyclists. Otherwise, I was the only peregrino around. Locals knew of the Camino (with exceptions in tourist offices) and were very helpful and hospitable... I recall staggering into the bar/restaurant in Alfarres and receiving applause from the waiters, when they learned I had walked from Balaguer that day. Everywhere I encountered the legendary exquisite hospitality of Spain. Water and fruit was freely supplied; the mayor of Talladell (near Cervera) made me coffee and gave me a tasting session of the local fruit and cheese.

There are some pilgrims' albergues-- I mention the accommodations in Tamareite de Litera, established by the local Council-- as I arrived during the fiesta, it was full of non-peregrinos, but otherwise there were over a dozen spaces. Generally, I stayed in fondas or hostales. Accommodation in most places was limited to one or two facilities, but I suspect that a pilgrim would not go wanting. I can provide further details, if wanted.

Shirley MacLaine's legends of the peligrosos perros of the Camino are accurate in Catalonia and Aragon. Local guard dogs are working animals and very efficient and NOT used to peregrinos. I had three very frightening experiences, and was spared from negative consequences by a combination of Providence, common sense, and availing myself of local assistance. Aside from a Catalan provincial cop and a waitress (whose mother was from Vancouver) I met no-one who spoke English in 15 days. French was useful with clergy (who always poured me a generous glass of something local when I went to get my sello) and a few other people. On this route, you are seriously off the beaten path.

The end of 15 days solitude in Jaca was startling. I remember walking behind the first two pilgrims I had seen since the Austrian cyclists in Cervera, and wondering if I dare speak to them....

Arriving in Santiago, 49 days out of Montserrat, I presented my well-stamped credencial to the young women in the archdiocesan office and had a monumental ego boost when the officer exclaimed ¡De Montserrat!, rose to read my credencial, and called her colleagues over to look at these novel sellos. She told me that I should attend the Pilgrims' Mass that day; and did so, to hear the priest refer to the peregrino canadiense, de Monserrat. One of my Australian friends noted that he kindly omitted "loco." How could I argue with the truth?
 

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
#3
Re: Advice For Non Spanish Speakers

Outstanding narrative! I'm so glad I asked! I've been to Montserrat - so I know from whence you speak - and am very excited to return this year. La Negrita (The Black Madonna) is truly spectacular! And the arrival to Montserrat followed by the visit and walk around the Monastery, school and museum (art gallery) are all memeorable! And once again, those Benedictines... I must read over your description again... very impressive!
Buen Camino
 
#4
Re: Advice For Non Spanish Speakers

What a great posting. Thanks. I have the fondest memories of going up the mountain to the Montserrat in the cable car - spectacular - and the schola singing at lunchtime each day is wonderful.

But what a great pilgrimage - full of adventure and challenge.

Thanks
 

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
#6
Re: Advice For Non Spanish Speakers

Very nice, Margaret!
Wonderful descriptions.... spectacular photos. I too went by bus, in Feb. We were lucky as the mountain road had been closed due to ice and snow, but was opened the day we wanted to go. I only had a day there and it was spent mostly indoors (traveling with students!)but it was truly amazing - one of the most unusual natural sites I've ever seen. Thanks for the link!
Buen Camino,
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Catalan, (May-July 2012), Via Francigena (Barcelona to Rome - 2015), Via Francigena (Rome to Canterbury - 2016)
#7
Wonderful and informative post. Thank you very much. I'm wondering if anyone has similar information on the southern route from Montserrat. I'm planning on starting there, going through Zaragoza, and joining the Camino Frances at Logrono. I'll be starting in late May. Any advice on weather and clothing, lack or abundance of trail markings, hostels, etc would be welcome.
 

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