Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Monasterio de Piedra

Sandwiched between back-to-back weeks up in Dublin, Diana and I headed out of town on a bus trip a couple of weeks ago. Our destination was the Monasterio de Piedra but staying at the medieval-castle-themed Castillo Bonavia promised to be fun too:

The Monasterio de Piedra is a monastery named for the nearby Piedra river as opposed to what I would have expected (Stone Monastery). Surrounding the monastery is a nature preserve and park filled with amazing views, lots open space, and waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls.

Diana happy to find her own bath(room) at the base of one of those waterfalls:

A curious, stepped-rock waterfall in the park:

Like I said, some amazing views. Check out this lake-like setting on the Piedra river and its surrounding cliffs about a 15-minute walk from the monastery:

The monastery and park are about 30 minutes outside the city of Zaragoza, which itself is about a three-hour ride (via tour bus) west (and maybe a little north) of Barcelona in the Aragon region of Spain. Like Catalunya, it's a semi-autonomous region of Spain with its own traditions and language (just how many damned languages are there in Europe???).

Anyway, the best part of the park was this waterfall where you can walk up/down stairs carved inside the rock to the left of the falls (as seen in the photo below) as well as go behind it near the base:

A view from the one of the cut outs about three-quarters of the way down the stairs:

Pretty amazing, actually. Who'da known? Here's a quick video taken from behind the base of the waterfall:

As usual, I had no idea what to expect of the park and monastery. The park itself blew me away because I never expected the overall beauty and the crazy assortment of waterfalls. Diana and I doing one of our (now known as) selfies:

Oh, yeah. There's a monastery to visit too. Well, actually the monastery's not nearly as cool as the park but it is definitely worth seeing. There's an old, semi-collapsed church:

...but what was another total surprise was that there's a wine museum on site. Leave it to those crazy monks to do a display on one of my favorite topics, wine, oh, and wine making. The museum looks like it's been there for a quite a while but, again, it's worth taking in. There's no sample room and Santa Barbara, or even Stuttgart, it's not, but checking out the (heavily-dust-covered) displays on wine making is pretty fun.

All in all, a fun-filled weekend that went by way too quickly. If you're in the area, definitely check out the park.

Random photo. My sister says I look like a college professor with my beard. All I keep thinking every time I look in the mirror is "who's the old guy?". Actually, my dad always says that we never feel older, there's just some slightly-older person looking back at us in the mirror every morning. But don't worry, the beard's not long for this world...