Europe 2016 Day 8.1: Barri Gòtic and El Borne

Day 8. Day 8 was… well… a day where I had no idea where to go. I mean, all the attractions that mean something to me, I have already visited. So I ended up spending the day wandering around aimlessly in the eastern side of Ciutat Vella (Old City): Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) and El Borne

Cathedral of Barcelona

I was trying to make my way to one of those famous buildings in El Borne. I headed due east from my hotel. Suddenly, I spotted many people making their way through a narrow alley. Curious, I followed them…

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Found myself arriving at a church

In fact, it was the Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, more commonly known by English speaking people as the Cathedral of Barcelona.

I don’t think this cathedral is prominently featured as a must visit site in Barcelona. I didn’t know about this cathedral. But in fact, this is a very important cathedral. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, meaning, this is the boss church of Barcelona.

It was a Sunday morning when I found myself here, and Sunday Mass is (I think) a big deal for the Catholics, so tourists were not allowed to enter the main chapel. But we were allowed to enter the side cloister, and entrance was free of charge.

Free of charge is a very rare word to use for famous Barcelona architecture by the way…

Palau de la Música Catalana

From the cathedral, I made my way to the famous building that I mentioned I was headed to…

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On the way… Have I mentioned I like many of the old buildings in Barcelona?
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Almost there… Look at all these tourists!!

And I have arrived at this famous building, the Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music)

I only know this building is famous (many travel sites recommend this place and most tours will bring the tourists here), but I don’t really know what is it that makes this building famous. I think they are still using this place for Catalan operas and concerts on certain nights. There are also hourly guided tours in the morning of few different languages, but…

Let’s just say I wasn’t too impressed with this building. I didn’t even go trigger crazy with this one. In fact, I was just… bored…

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I was more interested with the surrounding streets
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More surrounding streets

El Borne

I walked along the street in front of the Palau Musica to get to the second famous building in this area. It is just 500 meters down the same street…

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Quiet street in the morning
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Love the graffiti here

Seriously, I’ve seen graffiti in both Istanbul and Barcelona, and they’re different compared to the crap in KL. Here they’re done tastefully, like proper art…

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The gate on the right side says Paella Showroom. I wonder what the heck is that. Who needs a showroom for paella?

And then I arrived at the second famous building of this area. Actually it is not so much the building but this lamp attached to a building. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Bombilla Magica de la Sant Pere (Magical Lamp of Saint Peter).

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The magical lamp

This lamp is an important Biblical artifact. Do you know why this is called the lamp of Saint Peter (Sant Pere)? The “Upon this rock I will build my church” Saint Peter? Well legend has it that the lamp originally got its source of light from one of the original rocks that Saint Peter used to build his church in what is today the Vatican City. And this rock is magical, magical in that it will absorb light during the day and emit a bright glow during the night.

But the rock was allegedly stolen by the Moors when they were kicked back to Africa in the year 801 after almost 100 years of occupying the Iberian peninsula. Today the lamp remains, but the rock has been replaced with a crystal light bulb specially designed by master worksmith Marco Leandro Dominguez.

Another interesting fact about this lamp is that whatever I told you just now are all bullshit, utter gibberish. I made everything up. It is just an ordinary, nameless lamp. There’s no magical Saint Peter rock. Consider this my belated April Fools’ joke on you guys. 😉

But seriously, if I did not own up… honestly, would you have been fooled by my story?

Arc de Triomf

Okay, honestly, I was just disappointed with the Palau Musica. Seeing that building actually made me feel bored. So I made a story up to make it seem like my walk along El Borne was more epic than it really was.

In fact, I felt bored all the way until I arrived at the real second famous architecture that I wanted to visit today.

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This one

The Arc de Triomf (Arch of Triumph). This one’s built with red bricks, so it has a different feel compared to the probably more famous one in Paris.

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Arc de Triomf

This thing is HUUUGGGEEEEE! I don’t know, it’s been a (very long) while since I was in Paris, but I thought this one in Barcelona is as huge as the Parisian arch. On top of that, the arch here is built on a park rather than a roundabout, so people can access it easily without having to go through underground tunnels. So I think this arch is better.

I spotted something that caught my attention…

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People taking different approaches to make some urgent cash

I stood there for… I don’t know, I think 5 or 10 minutes. There’s the guy playing the guitar (he was pretty good) and the girl next to him was singing (she wasn’t very good), they’re operating as one unit. They’ve had some success in terms of getting loose change from the tourists walking pass. In fact I did my part by giving them 1€.

Then there’s that dude who just… sits there (beggar?), next to the performers. He’s got no success whatsoever. I think he picked the wrong spot by sitting next to people who actually… did something. I mean, who would you donate your loose coins to? A singing/guitar-ing duet, or someone who just… sits there?

The Arch is sitting on one end of a very long park. I don’t know what the name of that park is. But it was quite nice to stroll along it. There’s lots of people and lots of greens…

As I was nearing the other end of the park, I noticed a drastic increase in the amount of people. There’s a crowd building up somewhere ahead…

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Huh? What’s going on?
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Oh! There’s a running race for kids! How cute!

I spent close to 15 minutes being amused by this kids’ race. Not so much by the kids but by the parents’ antics. Most of the parents were standing on the other side of the bush cheering their kids on, running along with them. But occasionally there would be some who would “trespass” into the main path to run side by side with their kids, and the marshals had to come out and chase them and beg the parents to get back to across the bush to the sides.

Basilica Santa Maria del Mar

From the park I headed back out into the city area, cutting across a cluster of buildings to reach the last of the famous buildings that I wanted to see today, the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar.

Any other time, any other location, I would probably be impressed by this basilica, and another good thing is that this one is also free to enter.

But I’ve already seen the super impressive Sagrada Familia, and this morning I have just seen the Cathedral of Barcelona which I thought was nicer than this one. So… as a result… I thought this basilica was… not that nice. I just went in, took a picture, and came right out.

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I left and walked along this street

Which was just as well, because it was lunch time and I was hungry and the place which I wanted to have lunch was on this street.

I had lunch, then went back to the hotel because I felt tired. I only came back out to look for dinner in the evening…

And oh… my next post will be about the place where I had dinner on Day 8. I have not mentioned this dinner place yet in my earlier Barcelona food posts…


  1. To me the story of the lamp isn’t that convincing. It really looks like an ordinary lamp by the side of the street 😉

    Sad to see people sitting on the streets begging for money. Sometimes from the way they dress poorly you feel for them. Other times, I don’t know and they might be taking advantage of tourists.

    • Darn! I even gave it a Catalan name, and I got the bits of Iberian history right! Why isn’t anyone falling for it?! 🙁

      I think if I have seen that dude sitting alone, with that dejected face, I might “help” him out. But seeing him just next to actual performers… it felt wrong to give the coins to him instead of the performers. I’m always only going to pick one, so don’t tell me to give them both coins. I’m poor. 🙄

      • Well, the name you gave the lamp sounds very far fetched. If you’d name it after a person, then maybe I will consider it real 😀

        You are very generous, CL. I would not have parted with my pennies if I saw those performer and that random dude. Then again, I see quite a few of these people in the city here almost every day 🙄

  2. Follow the crowd, yes! I normally do that too overseas…sometimes they have tour guides who explains what is what..and at times I do stand nearer to listen to what they say… only for awhile, of course… looks like everywhere you go, there are tourists… same happen when I was in Brussels.. tourists are here and there.. so we just kind of follow where they go… 🙂

    • Yeah, I did that quite a bit too during my time there. Free tour guides and explanations, why not? 😉

  3. Ehm… I was going to say, where did you read that BS about the lamp? Hahaha!

    There are also some shitty graffitis in Spain, mostly the ones that are just a sloppy signature. But there are some spectacular ones. Google image el niño de las pinturas!

    • Hahaha, finally another one who comments about the lamp. 😀

      Wow! Where’s that el niño de las pinturas?? Fantastic!! The websites are all in Spanish though.. 🙁

      • That one is from Granada, the city where I attended university. It is a super beautiful city, add it to the list for your next visit 😉

        • Hmm… let me see what else there is to do in Granada. It seems stupid to go to a city just to see wall arts… 🙄

  4. You go all the way there, u didn’t take picture of yourself inside the picture? hehe…

    • No, not really. I’m not a selfie person, I never feel the need to include myself in pictures just to “prove” that I have been there before… 🙄

  5. I would think that all entrance to Catholic churches would be free. You mean there are some that charges? I don’t think those are random graffiti…it looks more like coordinated artwork. Glad you donated some loose change for the buskers (busking is a form of work too, maybe not legitimate but still a form of work…hehe!). But the guy next to them looks too well dressed for a beggar (and he seems embarrassed, shielding his face from your camera). He’s probably just there to take advantage.

    • Well, the Sagrada Familia charges. But maybe it is for the sake of completing the church. I wonder if they will stop charging when they are completed. 🙄

      I don’t think the well dressed guy was aware of me taking pictures, I was standing quite far away and not facing them. But yeah, I could see that he was embarrassed too.

  6. I like the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, is from 14 century. Actually from the inside can already tell what makes it so special. Don’t know how to write it in English, but the geometric composition, the side aisles are half the span of the central nave that makes it so special, super love this kind of architecture…..

    • Hahaha you can write in Chinese ma, I faham Chinese one 😉 .. Yalah… 这些建筑物的学问我是没有的 我看到就只有 “噢 又是一个大教堂啊!”…

  7. Very smart of you to follow the crowd.. When you don’t know where to go or what to eat, just follow the crowd and see where the people go.. Got many people, means food is good (or popular), haha..I’m actually glad you said you were bored, coz to be honest, so many days, all see buildings yada yada, buildings and more buildings, sien jugak.. But cannot say sien la, coz go so far all the way there, cannot say sien or boring one.. Looking forward to the next post, coz it’s dinner !! Yay!

    • Haih, when you go travel, also buildings buildings buildings lah, if not then food food food lah. The food part mostly I already covered when I was still there, now come back, sure all buildings lah… 🙄

  8. wow…..that gothic architecture in basilica…I tink I will go ‘wahhh’ here & there when stepping inside. Day 8 seems so free & easy…with day exploring the city. I tink I’m gonna like this place coz all buildings looks so grand and artistic!

  9. No church services going on in Basilica Santa Maria del Mar when you went in to take photos?

    From your post, seems that you walked a lot on Day 8, more than Day 7.

    I believe Christians would not be fooled by you because they know all about Saint Peter and there is no such lamp. The lamp itself also looks too modern to have existed that long ago. Let’s see how many people admit that they got fooled by you, hahahaha!

    I was like – eh, where did RG copy all these info, sounds a bit dubious, never heard about Saint Peter and what lamp, must google and double check, hahahaha!

    • Hahaha, hopefully they will be honest and admit to being fooled if they really were. 😛

      I don’t know, the Basilica, they did not stop us from going in, so we just went in. The morning at the Cathedral of Barcelona, there were people guarding the entrance to turn us around. 😐

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