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Published: September 15th 2015
Blonde with the Running of the bulls
Prominent Statue off Carlos V Avenue near the Plaza de Torros in Pamplona
26 August 2015, Wednesday.
This is our last day in Pamplona and the biggest festival day of the year in Bilbao, so Ines and Inigo want to take us to Bilbao. They are both up fixing breakfast for us while we walk first to the statue off Avenida Carlos V of the running of the bulls. Our mission is to get a good photo of 'Blonde' in Pamplona next to this iconic statute. Next we walk around the Plaza del Torros and note the detailed description of the charitable organization that operates the Festival of San Fermin and the running of the bulls as well as the bullfight in the area at this plaza. This organization, more than 80 years in existence, supports older individuals with no homes or incomes. We walk along the route of the running of the bulls to the Plaza Castillo. On the Plaza del Castillo we visit Cafe Iruna and Harlan visits his buddy, Ernest. Hemingway's Corner is off the main room of the cafe and in addition to the bust of the author has many black and white photos if the author. The cafe is cavernous and there is only one girl at the
counter. In a few hours the space will be bustling with patrons having their coffee.
Back at the apartment we are treated to a great breakfast and then are off on the drive to Bilbao. It is more than two hours of freeway driving with numerous tolls. We take a break and drive through the small village where Inez was raised. The inhabitants of the village have a contest each year as to who has the most beautiful flower display in the front of their room. The Calle Mayor is riotous with color. Particularly featured are geraniums and petunias. Colors certainly not compatible on the color wheel squeeze themselves into unbelievable 3-D displays. The house of Inez's parents won one of the awards this year. We have an interesting conversation about being Basque. Both sets of parents were brought up during the General Franco years. The Basque language was not be used in the schools during his regime of 1936-1975. Inés says her mother speaks Basque but many of her friends, growing up, did not learn the language. I asked what what she thought might determine that situation. Ines thoughtfully says she thinks if the local village priest at
Hemingway and Blonde
Statue at entrance to Bull Ring past which all the bulls run during San Fermin
the time promoted his parishioners to continue speaking the language at home and himself used it in services, the children in that family might maintain the language.
Ah--the Basque culture is so complex. Inés and Inigo have a book on all the aspects of 'being Basque' out for us to dip into when we have a minute. There is not a land legally recognized as being Basque. Instead there are the Autonomous Communities
of the Basque Country
(three autonomous areas) and Navarra in Spain (a separate autonomous unit) and the Northern Basque Country
in France where there are four areas. These units are contiguous and cross the border Between France and Spain. The book finally states that mainly Basque Country is where that language is predominantly spoken. It is a tough language to learn and does not have a common root with most other languages.
In Bilbao we park very close to Frank Gehry's Guggenheim museum Bilbao. We take a photo of the spider and see the tulips on the back patio. Around in front is the tourist office and the huge floral statute of the cat. We are satisfied to see the titanium exterior of the building and decide to see
Off this cafe is the El Rincon de Hemingway Cafe and Bar. Shown yesterday.
and do other things. Armed with literature from the tourist office that is located in front of the museum we head for the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
We spend an hour with everyone going to their area of interest in the Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa (the name for the museum in Basque) Harlan visits an area of Basque artists, Inés and Inigo cool their heels at various exhibits while I visit a special exhibit which is curated splendidly. The Fifties: French Fashion from 1947-1957 is on exhibit throughout the galleries. Mannequins display beautifully constructed clothing from the fashion houses such as Dior and Chanel. These were the years after the war and high fashion, custom made clothing was in vogue. Just think of a Grace Kelly sophistication. These garments are works of art and I have always admired the artistry in them. One of my favorite departments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the Costume Institute that would create one block-buster show after another, so this special exhibit was a real treat for me.
We need copies of our travel documents and luggage transfer tags since the bag which arrived in St. Jean was Karen's and the
San Fermin Poster on Calle Estefata
This is the main narrow street through which the bulls run.
tags are all in Harlan's bag. We go to an old winery warehouse which now has been converted to a great plaza and mall with a three story pubic library. While Harlan gets the details on the computer and how to open the e-mail folders, Inigo determines how we can print. The downloading and printing of the labels result in more than twenty pages.
We have lunch at La Granja on a big plaza. Again, this is a very a Old World cafe. They are busy changing the table size from coffee and lunch and preparing for dinner. They do this by taking a larger table top and placing it over the smaller, more intimate size. Fortunately they have some pinxtis and with a coffee we are ready to continue.
We have had some trouble locating the cafe and traveled past the beautiful F-C de Santander a Bilbao train station, built in 1898-1902.
We see the Mercado de la Ribera. It is a triple-decker ocean liner with its prow headed down the estuary toward the open sea. One of the best markets of its kind in Europe with over 400 retail stands. Farmer's market is on top
Bilboa and the Guggenheim
Under the spider art form in back of museum showing the Frank Gehry styling.
floor. We walk under the stunning stain glass entry way but there is little activity--everyone is concentrating on the festival! It is located in the Old Town.
We continue to wander through the Old Town section, stopping in at a pharmacy for some items. Pharmacists are pilgrims best friends.
It is now decision time. One of the Bilbao sights I have wanted to see is the Bizkaia Bridge, also known as the Puente Colgante. It is the world's first transporter bridge, built at the same time as the Eiffel Tower. But, it is early evening and we still have to pack for departure tomorrow with Inigo, and so reluctantly I agree that heading home makes sense.
We enjoy the countryside views as we head south, leaving the water behind us. Inés is on the phone intermittently and then tells us that Inigo's parents would like to meet us and they have fixed a little repast. Ines and Inigo say they know it is late but how often do you have an opportunity to have a little snack, it is now about 10:30, in a Basque home. Inigo's parents have about one acre with a huge garden, chickens,
The floral dog/cat
Out in front we are not sure after several looks which this is.
pigs and sheep with the requisite dogs. We enter their home and are immediately enveloped with good vibes. Two nephews rough-house with Inigo. They are the children of one of his older sisters. Their grandparents look after them until their mother picks them up. The sister arrives in a whirlwind. She is at least twelve years older than Inigo and also a forester. She retrieves the children and we sit down to the little snack. There are the most delicately sautéed sardines, hake, and--best of all, huge tomatoes right from the garden smothered with sweet onions and much garlic.
Inigo's mother and I immediately relate--makes no difference if neither one of understands a word the other says. I have not laughed so much for such a long time. His father keeps urging us to eat. It is now approaching 11;00--the night is young! Upon leaving his mother presents me four cloth coasters finished in the most beautiful handwork that she has done. I have left a little cloth bag made from a vintage handkerchief for her. Inside is a bar of Ethel M's chocolate. Needless to say I did not do the handwork but I know she will love
Wine warehouse and great location of library
This is another gem of architecture in Bilboa. The old facade.
it. She kisses me good-by and tells me to go to Santiago and then return to their home.
We finally reach home shortly before the new day starts and work into the wee hours getting our things organized.
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