Lost in Gothic Quarter
I traveled with my mother on my second visit to Barcelona (Spain). We decided not to join any guided tours to explore the Gothic Quarter as I was convinced it should be easy to rely on the GPS map in my mobile phone aside to our printed map. The nice thing about Barcelona, the city had numerous WiFi hotspots in its touristic areas. But someone (read: me, my mother is a retro phone user) forgot to re-charge her mobile phone’s battery before the walk. The exploration mission was ‘half-successful’ after we lost in the labyrinth of the Gothic Quarter. But we compromised our walk by seeing other landmarks outside of the quarter. Barcelona was fascinating that way…
We started from Plaça de Catalunya. It was a busy square and rather confusing to guess which direction to go to as there were multiple roads around the square. My mother and I were hopeless in reading a printed map. Luckily my GPS was still working and it directed us to the road next to Bank de Espana to reach our first destination…
It was a historical pub, famous as location where Picasso’s first works were exhibited. We thought to had drinks there, and maybe we could sense the ‘spirits’ of its famous frequent visitors in the past, Picasso and Gaudi. However we called it off after seeing the numbers of tourists flocked in front of the alley to the restaurant. We moved on to the next visit…..
I am a big fan of architecture photography and the churches in Europe are amazing for this. The results are often mixed of majestic design and spiritual feels. The Barcelona Cathedral is a Gothic building, built as dedication to the Barcelona’s saint patron, Santa Eulàlia. I loved the vaulted ceiling in a Gothic church, it was perfect for wide angle lens!
A popular medieval street was right next to the Cathedral, looked like a small alley than a regular street: Carrer del Bisbe. We passed a small square with beautiful statues, and if you walked to the direction of Plaça Sant Jaume, you would see the famous Barcelona’s Gothic bridge that connecting Palau de la Generalitat with Casa dels Canonges. It was built by one of Gaudi’s students, Rubio i Bellver.
Plaça Sant Jaume was at the end of the street. It was a busy square with Palau de la Generalitat (the Presidential Palace) and Casa de la Ciutat (the City Hall) were located. At that moment, I realized we could not use the GPS anymore. We continued walking to a narrowed alley that we thought was the way to the Maria del Pi…
We walked through several alleys to finally found a bigger street that was crowded by protested Movistar contract workers. We asked around and were told to return to the labyrinth alleys to find the Maria del Pi. The direction note from a friendly Spanish man in our printed map was confusing and the thought of walking in labyrinth alleys without GPS was not appealing. Thus we decided to cross the street..
Then we found Basílica Santa Maria del Mar. It was a Catalan Gothic style church with spacious naves and impressive sublime height. According to Fodors, the elements of the Basilica was based upon number eight and its multiples, the medieval numerological of the Virgin Mary. To be honest, I knew this after returning home and read about its history.
After a delicious tapas dining, we continued our walk to Ciutadella Park, the only green space in Barcelona. We went to the direction of Arc de Triomf, passing by a statue of Catalan’s general, Juan Prim and the beautiful Castle of the Three Dragons. This beautiful Castle was used as an art exhibition place. The Arc de Triomf was located at the end of Passeig de Lluís Companys, a promenade right in front of the Park.
We took subway near to Arc de Triomf to return to our hotel. This part of Barcelona was perfect for walking and if you planned to do the similar thing, just consider to use the GPS (unless if you were with a local guide or good in reading a printed map). The mobile GPS helped us when we were in Rome whenever doubting on the direction. And don’t forget to look up once a while because the architecture of Gothic buildings have always surprises.