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Posts Tagged ‘ Catalonia ’

Spanish Basketball Coach Set For Irish Coaching Clinic

ponsarnau

Basketball Ireland revealed some good news during the week when it was revealed that Spanish Assistant Coach Jaume Ponsarnau, is coming to Ireland on December the 15th to host a coaching clinic in Galway. Ponsarnau has just returned from the European Championships with the Spanish National Men’s team in Slovenia.

Ponsarnau won Catalan coach of the year in 2007 and 2012 during his time as Head Coach of Basquet Manresa in the Spanish First Division, a position he held from 2006 until earlier this year. Having coached players such as Ricky Rubio and  Marc Gasol, Coach Ponsarnau will be hoping to pass on some of his knowledge to the coaches and players that are present next Sunday. Continue reading

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The Magic Of Montserrat

Arriving in Barcelona at 11pm we were delighted to see our Catalonian friends at the airport. Only the shadow of the city and then mountain range we were passing could be seen on the hour long drive north of Barcelona to the Montserrat Mountains in Catalonia. The town of Esparreguera in the mountains was our destination.

Montserrat which means ‘jagged mountain’ in Catalan is a multi-peaked mountain which is part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range. Declared a national park in 1987, it is well-known as the site of the Benedictine Abbey; Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the virgin of Montserrat ‘la Moreneta’ (Black Madonna), Montserrat is also known as the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth.  Historically Montserrat is of great interest to pilgrims from all over the world. The story of the discovery of ‘la Moreneta’ dates to 880 and tells of a group of shepherd children witnessing a bright light descending from the sky and angels singing at a cave in the Montserrat mountain exists . The children then brought their parents to the spot who also witnessed the same. A local vicar was then brought to the spot and witnessed the same. The cave was then explored by a group of religious elders who found the Virgin’s image. The site of the visions has been marked by a Holy Grotto on the mountain. The Holy Grotto has been ordained a holy place.

In the morning we headed for the hills. About a twenty minute drive and we were on our way up the mountains to visit the abbey and see the black virgin in a cable car type lift. The steep ascent (up to 4000 feet) made it difficult to look down; at times it felt almost like we were going to crash into the   mountains. At the same time the spectacular view was too good to miss out on.

A tangible feeling of peace seemed to permeate the air around us as we got closer to the top and was at its strongest when we reached the top and wandered around taking in the views.  We all agreed that the feeling was wonderful in this breathtakingly beautiful area.  We then visited the monastery, which contains a statue of the virgin.

In the courtyard just before we entered the cathedral itself a boy of about ten years of age walked into the middle of the courtyard and sang a hauntingly beautiful song with immense precision. The type of poise and perfection in his voice seemed to be incredibly advanced for a child of his age and I asked my friend how this could be. Apparently there is an elite boy’s school inside the monastery. Spanish, Catalonian and possibly other Europeans send their children to the school which is very strict and offers compulsory daily music training. The Basilica boy’s choir is world famous and can be heard at 1pm daily excluding Christmas and other festive periods. Masters of their musical abilities are the result of the training that is provided by the school.

At the same level of the monastery exists a hotel and cheaper hostel type accommodation as well as a few restaurants and cafes. If we hadn’t been visiting friends I would have been delighted to have stayed in the area for a night or two to soak up the blissfully peaceful atmosphere.

Numerous walks in the mountains exist for all levels and of varying degrees of difficulty. This would be a great spot for mountain walkers of all skill levels, a perfect location for a one week walking/climbing holiday.

Getting back to our friends house a few hours later we were treated to some gorgeous October sun as we sat outside munching on a typically Catalonian spread of olives, cheese, ham and nuts.

As the sun went down we decided to head out again for a short local walk in the area. During our walk we passed a gorgeous old style chapel. One of many that can be found within the Montserrat mountain range.

A perfect weekend trip I want to go back and explore Montserrat some more. Highly recommended for a week long stay also.

By Leeanne Timony

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