Edited and done May 19
Dear Friends and Families,
our three-day stay at Melissa's in the Dordogne, we headed to
Spain. Most of the four-hour drive was over flat plains with only
spindly pine trees to mark the distance. Eventually, however, we
started to see the shapes of the Pyrenees, the natural border between
France and Spain. We later learned that the locals really do not
say "Spain" however, only "The Basque Country", so we will follow local
first stop was a single overnight in San Sebastian, a charming seaside
town. We settled into the Pension Edorta in the heart of the old
center and searched out the necessities: food and wine. In the
evening, in Basque country, this means "pintxos" (pronounced
"pinch-os"). These small snacks would be called tapas elsewhere
and we fell prey to their calories right away.
We walked off a few of the calories looking at the two in-town surfing
beaches and admiring the Belle Epoch buildings. For old building
folks like us, the structures were fascinating and many were
beautifully restored. (There were also some "projects" waiting for
fools like us.)
hotel room at the Pension Edorta and pinxtos at a nearby bar. followed
the next day by a light breakfast, including churros and chocolate.
|San Sebastian is defined by the beaches and harbors
|San Sebastian is also
filled with wonderful old architecture and we worked in a church to
prove we were in Europe. Cute French school group singing on
church steps - more or less.
drive from San Sebastian ran through the hills above The Bay of
Biscay. The navigator said it would be a bit over an hour,
but as we approached downtown Bilbao, we managed a single mis-turn that
added a big swing to the west and an extra 20 minutes. Bilbao is
not easy to drive into!
We found the parking lot, several blocks from the Hotel Bilbao Jardines
where we were staying. It is a small 2-star hotel in the heart of
the old city, Casco Viejo, and we spent the rest of the evening
wandering around the tiny streets, surrounded by more wonderful Belle
Epoch buildings. Fortunately, we worked up enough of an appetite to
sample wine, pinxtos, and a sweet. I think we like Bilbao.
Much of what we like is just to wander among the old buildings and watch the active street life
I suppose a church is a necessity.
|This is the market, the largest indoor market in Europe. We will visit more on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday morning I managed to get up before the sun and see the
city from the twilight streets and from above, via the S. Ignacio
Later, we walked over to the Guggenheim Museum,
our main goal in Bilbao. Frank Gehry's limestone, glass, and
titanium-skinned building is unlike anything we have ever seen.
Inside, we managed only a small part of the displays since we were
getting tired and grumpy. A very nice lunch helped, but we still
had to make it back to the hotel. By then, we had each walked
over 12,000 steps, too much for us old timers.
|Walk over - a few old buildings, but mostly new.
On Thursday, we initially had just two goals: the (Fish)
Market and the Basque Museum. Thoughts of getting to the market
at 8 o'clock opening were delayed by a slow, simple breakfast at the
hotel, not a German-style full buffet, but enough for sure.
Mercado de la Ribero (River Market) started as the 19th century wholesale fish market for
Bilbao, but it has been restored and converted to a neighborhood
market, reportedly the largest in Europe (?) with meat, fruits,
vegetables and many, many fish stands. I swear the iced fish were
still alive, they were so clear-eyed. A fun place for photos and
I'm sure we would shop here if we could.
|The Euskal Museo,
the Basque Museum, was interesting, I think. The old building had
three floors of very nice displays of Basque life and tradition, but
very little information in a language we could understand. The displays
of folk dances were particularly bright and lively and reminded us of
European folk dances from Ireland to Hungary. Unfortunately, pictures
are not allowed inside so you will need to visit yourself to see Basque
traditional garb and decorations.
next stop had to be lunch. The lunch "hour" runs from about 1:30
to 3 or 4 pm and most of the shops are closed in this interval.
We chose the Prada a Tope, just around the corner from our hotel, and chose the
daily menu for 16 euros for three courses and a half-bottle of wine
(each). It's no wonder people go from lunch to a small nap.
our own rest, Marianne suggested we go out to visit the Bizkaia Zubia
or Transporter Bridge. The 120-year-old structure moves cars and
people by a sort of suspended ferry, or horizontal elevator. Both
the bridge-ride and the metro-ride out and back were fun and seemed to
give a view of normal Bilbao life.
We have to remark on how nice
the metro was, as clean and orderly as any we have ever see: no
graffiti, no stains, essentially no dirt even. It made us remark
about how clean Bilbao is overall, at least where we have been.
That was the end of our Bilbao stay, except for Friday morning's drive out. We'll see how that goes.
John and Marianne