Beautiful Bilbao

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Europe » Spain
May 16th 2017
Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 43.257, -2.92344

On Thursday morning we were up at 6am and got a taxi to take us to the Madrid Chamartin Railway Station. It was cool and raining as we travelled there. We were there by 6-45 and our train was due to leave at 8am so we had a coffee and a croissant while we waited. The train was very modern and our seats were comfortable. We left Madrid on time and were soon speeding through the Spanish countryside.

The trip took five and a half hours and stopped at several stations along the way. The landscape was mainly rural with very green fields and we climbed higher. On time, at 1-30pm we arrived at Bilbao. We found a taxi to take us to our home for the next four nights, the Ibis Centro which proved to be not that far away. While unpacking and trying to find a secure place to put the wallet containing our spare cash Fletcher accidently dropped it down behind the shelves which seemed to be very fixed to the wall. The staff at Reception were great. After surveying the scene and apprehending the problem one of the guys brought up a screwdriver, unscrewed a couple of bolts and with some pushing managed to get the shelves to move slightly away from the wall which was enough extract the wallet. Phew!!!

After that excitement we set out to explore the city. We soon found a small bar which served great Tapas, which in Basque are called Pintxos, and had a couple for a late lunch. Then our first foray started poorly as we realised we were going in the opposite direction to what we wanted but we soon found ourselves by the rather large river that divides the city. We went into a charming park with swans and a fountain and from there walked along the riverbank. We soon came upon the object of our visit here, the magnificent Guggenheim Museum. This has to be seen to be believed. Frank Gehry's amazing design dominates the surroundings. We walked around it, along the river. The sculptures outside are also impressive. A gigantic statue of a spider in metal stands poised on its 8 spindly legs and towers over the site. We also admired the tower of silver balls which stand in the water. Inside was for the next day.

We continued our walk along the river and came to a boat cruise station. They advertised a two hour cruise in the morning so we thought we would do that on Saturday. We then crossed the river by one of several bridges and headed into the old town. As with all the towns we have seen here in Spain the narrow streets of the old city were filled with small shops and bars and restaurants. As it was now about 6pm many families were out taking advantage of the lovely weather and promenading through the plazas. We meandered for a while, admiring the architecture, checking out the impressive cathedral and enjoying the sights. Th main square was ringed with restaurants and one or two looked very nice. We decided to return there later for dinner. We stopped for a drink in one of the bars and then , about 8pm we returned to a classy looking place called Victor Montes for dinner. This was nice but not as good as it promised. I had ordered duck pate but when it came it was orange and rubbery. However, my fish and Fletcher's steak were excellent and the wine a very tasty Albarino. After that we caught a cab back to the hotel and after a G & T nightcap it was bed after a long but interesting day.

The next morning we set out about 9am ans stopped at a small café for coffee, orange juice and a croissant for breakfast. Then it was on to the Guggenheim, the main reason for visiting this city. We had admired the exterior but inside was just as breathtaking. The Atrium soars to heights of three storeys and nowhere is there a straight line to be seen. The walls ar all curved, even the lift wells are gleaming tangles of metal and glass. Our modest 9 euro entrance fee included audio guides which gave us a commentary on the building and its design. Wewent outside to admire Jeff Koons work titled Tulips, a bouquet of brightly covered anodised flowers gleaming in the sun. I had been most taken with the gigantic dog, covered in flowers that greets visitors at the front of the building which is also one of his sculptures. Back inside and he first gallery we entered is the largest known as the fish gallery because of its design. This contains huge metal sculptures through which you can walk and experience the geometric shapes anad the way the towering walls curve in and out. The audio guide was helpful in explaining the ideas behind it. Later, it made more sense when we could view it from above. The other galleries on the ground floor contained some modern sculpture and photographs from some Basque artists as well as an installation of lights and words through which you can walk. I felt quite ill watching the way the letters ran up and down and couldn't stay for long. There is also a theatre showing film, a very interesting though weird Japanese creation which concerns a monkey, dressed in a Noh mask and long hair moving through an interior . It is to do with the Tsunami etc there. Strange but compelling.

We went up to the top floor. Here was a special exhibition focusing on the French artists of the late 19th Century, very much more my taste. From Monet, to Seurat, Signac, Pisarro to Toulose -Lautrec the exhibition traces the development of Post-Impressionism. Some fantastic art here. Again the views from the Atrium on this floor looking down gave new aspects to the architecture.Then down to the second floor which was devoted to Abstract Expressionism The movement originating in the USA following on from Andy Warhol and culminating in Jackson Pollock. The galleries themselves are works of art with huge spacious areas displaying the massive canvasses and complimenting them. One whole gallery was given over to Clyfford Still whose colours and works are very impressive .However, my favourite is Pollock. No randomness here, beautifully planned designs blending into colourful works with your eyes finding patterns and order amid the chaotic worlds he creates. We spent in total over four hours exploring, with the help of the commentary, this building and its treasures. What an experience.

About 2pm we went to the café, after exiting through the gift shop of course, and had some nice Tapas and wine for lunch. Surprisingly it was not expensive but very tasty and just enough to satisfy our needs. We were now galleried out so walked slowly back to the hotel for a rest. About 7pm we ventured down to the bar for a G & T and then thought about dinner. I googled restaurants near us and one called La Baraca was shown which was highly recommended and not far away. Armed with the map we followed directions and turned into a forbidding looking street running along the railway line. There was no one else around and we could not see any sign or indication that any place was there. We went onto the next doorway where there was a light and there it was. The door was locked but I pressed a button and a waiter soon answered my buzz. He showed us into a gorgeous looking restaurant, through one large room and into another. Sure enough there were some other customers. By this time it was 8-15 but still early for the Spanish. We proceeded to have an excellent meal, second only to the one in Lisbon. We shared a crab meat entrée which was delicious and the we both ordered steak. Mine was with foie gras while Fletcher had an Entrecote. Both were cooked to perfection and melted in our mouths. Wonderful! A gerwurtztraminer helped the food go down and then the red was also top shelf. We went the whole hog having desserts as well. I had a coconut icecream accompanied by a creamy custard while Fletcher tried the Meilles Fleurs . both were excellent. Well sated we headed back to the hotel, marvelling that such a place is down a dingy back street!.

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