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13th July, 2015


Our berth was 40 meters too short, so all the normal well practised ways of securing the ship alongside had to be ‘adapted’. It wasn’t an issue and the weather, although very hot, was benign, just a few gentle zephyrs stirred the air. Being a Sunday, and email traffic from ashore somewhat depleted, we took the opportunity to take a tour to Montserrat, the ‘Sawn Mountain’. It is believed there was an apparition of the Virgin seen here in 1025 and these days many visitors come up the mountain to see the 16th century Basilica. We took the journey by rack railway, a quick and comfortable ride that placed us opposite the main entrance and a short walk to the main square where hundreds of tourists were already gathered. Being a Sunday religious services were taking place within this very grand church.

The top of the mountain, over 4000 feet high, can be reached by an impressive funicular which rises very steeply from another station above the rack railway terminus. From the top the views are spectacular and there are a number of walks for the more energetic folks who had more time to spare than us. The mountains are unusual in that they are ‘rounded’ and their composition is made from smaller rounded stones and soil pushed up from the sea bed millions of years ago. By the time we returned there were long queues waiting to walk past the Black Madonna, a small statue that is in a separate room overlooking the altar in the Basilica, and which is believed to have been carved in Jerusalem at the time of the berth of Christianity.

Our entrance ticket also allowed us to see an audio visual presentation and partake in a tasting of the local Aromas de Montserrat liquor, an acquired taste I would suggest. A light lunch followed and then the return journey was by coach. Not quite as calm and comfortable as the railway coming up, as the driver took us round the mountain, several times I believe, and at a speed he obviously thought was suitable for the constantly twisting road that we had to descend before arriving back onto the coastal plane. A most interesting tour and to be recommended.

Captain Philip Rentell

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