The Black Madonna of Montserrat

 THE Black Madonna of Montserrat

The Black Madonna of Montserrat perched high above the congregation. Hand outstretched, she rested on an ornate throne decorated with Venetian mosaics. From where I sat I could see people kissing her, with the queue of waiting pilgrims stretching back down the stairs, into the Santa Maria de Montserrat and out the door. The basilica is dark and spacious, filled with candles and gold, shadows and incense. The voices of the famed boys’ choir filled the air.

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A Love Affair with Barcelona


I fell in love with Barcelona as soon as I arrived. She is designed, it seems, for tourists: transport is easy (most of the cars on the road are taxis and the subway is excellent), the food is amazing, and there are simply too many sights to see. Barcelona is great for wandering and getting totally lost, while the Catalonians seem to have an Australian way of looking at the world. Perfect.

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Getting Lost in Barcelona



Somehow, in Barcelona, I lost a cathedral.

Admittedly I have no sense of direction (except in Hong Kong. For some reason I never get lost there.) I lack that bit of my brain. My children regularly ask me which way to go, then walk in the opposite direction.

Yet Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, is not that large. And cathedrals have spires stretching to the sky, which should be able to be seen.

The cause of the problem is also the delight of the Barri Gòtic: small, winding alleyways, buildings which reach out to one another across the cobblestones, almost touching overhead. Ancient walls bulge out into the street, and the street signs I found weren’t of any help. Even in a large square (which I never found on the map) I found no reference to centre me, and so I did what I always do: I set off at random. Something was bound to turn up. Hopefully a cathedral.

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The Castellers of Terrassa


Draining my cup of coffee, I stepped into the Middle Ages.

Giants passed by, and a king and queen danced with a peasant couple in a game of courtly love. The sound from hundreds of drums and whistles filled the air as smoking dragons shot flames over my head, while towers of men rose to the sky.

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