This week’s photo challenge was a little difficult for me, because I had a hard time choosing one to share. After about an hour of trying to cull, I gave up and decided to post them all – well, SOME.

Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
Less than two hours outside of Barcelona by train, Montserrat Abbey is an impressive place – and not just because construction began in the 9th century on a mountain towering over 4,000 feet “above the valley floor…of the Catalan lowlands.” The monastery also boasts a museum which features works from El Greco to Dali. Many tourists, however, queue for the Black Madonna (sorry, no photographs allowed of Her).

We visited in January, when the crowds were thinner and the fog thicker. Though the monastery needs no help with ambiance, the swirling mist just made the place more otherworldly…and dare I say spooky? The following photographs were taken when the fog thinned enough for clear images.

Loch An Eilein
With over a thousand square miles of protected land, Cairngorms National Park is HUGE and a must-see when visiting Scotland. To make it easy on ourselves, we chose to visit the first village we had to drive through as we wended our way from Inverness to Perth: Aviemore. And apparently, we lucked upon one of the more popular places to hike in Scotland.

The trail hugging Loch An Eilein was muddy but relatively easy. I suggest, however, that you get hold of a good map. Buy one at the visitor center or visit The Walking Englishman. The one we were using was a general (cheapo) map from the car rental place (I know…I know), and it wasn’t very clear about the optional Loch Gramhna loop. So, we probably added a couple miles to the trek and another hour what with the mud.

Despite this, I’d do it again, especially because of the serendipitous, sweet reward post-walk. A few miles after we were back on the highway, we saw a sign announcing cream cakes. Dessert after a hike? Yes, please! The Potting Shed is a working nursery, but holy cannoli, they had awesome cakes – which you can eat while watching red squirrels scamper around the canopy of trees. I have no photos for this, though. I was too busy stuffing my face!

Posted for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry
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