Your tour starts early in Barcelona, where you’ll meet your local guide and hop into a comfortable, air-conditioned minibus. In just one hour, we’ll whisk you out of the city and up to the Montserrat monastery, which sits atop a mountain with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. Aside from its natural and architectural beauty, the monastery is home to the ‘Black Madonna,’ a 12th-century statue of the virgin that is one of the most venerated Catholic icons in Europe. Needless to say, this lady is in hot demand but, because of the crowds that visit and irregular opening hours, many visitors never get to see her up close. On this early morning tour, you’ll arrive just as the monastery opens, guaranteeing you a close look, and if you are visiting on pilgrimage, the opportunity to touch her.
Then, your guide will give you a full tour of the beautiful church, along with its side chapels, telling you about the rich history of the building, which survived both Napoleon’s army and the Spanish Civil War.
Back in the parking lot (just as the crowds are starting to arrive) you’ll have 1.5 hours of free time to explore. You can take the cable car to the top of the mountain for jaw-dropping views over the rolling hills below; explore the engrossing monastery art museum which features works by El Greco, Caravaggio, and Monet; peruse the local food market, or just sit in the cafe and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee.
You’ll hop on the bus again at midday and drive an hour to the Penedès region, famous for its Cava sparkling wine. Vineyards here follow the same production process used in the more famous region of Champagne; the difference is in the grapes. As vineyards start to appear on either side of the road, your guide, a local wine lover, will explain what makes cava so special and how it stacks up against its more famous cousins, champagne and prosecco.
When you arrive at the vineyard, the owner, a fourth generation winemaker, whose family has run the vineyard for over 100 years, will greet you and serve you a lunch of fresh, local bread, cold cuts and produce. Sitting down to eat, you’ll also enjoy the first of numerous cava tastings, with animated commentary from your host who is passionate about her work.
After lunch, she will show you around the property, while giving you an in-depth explanation of how cava is actually made and how their processes have changed (or, in some cases, not changed at all) over four generations. You’ll even get a chance to ‘riddle’ a few bottles; a process of turning the bottles about one-eighth of a turn every day, to help consolidate sediment. Today it’s usually done by machine, but on this traditional farm, the 70-year old father of the family still does it by hand every day.
Now that you appreciate how its made, it’s time for another tasting of the three finest vintages, culminating in a 10-year cava reserve that would give Dom Perignon a run for his money.
Fed, wined, and by this point, perfectly relaxed, you’ll hop back in your comfortable minibus and drive an hour back to the city. You’ll arrive at 4.00pm, just in time for a quick siesta before enjoying your evening in Barcelona.