Before we get to Bilbao, I have to mention the gorgeous drive along the coast road from Donostia. We stopped in a few places for photos, but really felt like there was a painting around every bend. This is just one example of the views along that wonderful drive.
We had fun for a few days in Bilbao. The highlight, of course, was the incredible Guggenheim museum. It’s amazing how the genius of Frank Gehry united the river and the city so perfectly. We saw lots of tourists like us and even wedding parties taking their photos with the museum as background.
As for the art—well—apologies to contemporary art fans—but a lot of it left me cold. We enjoyed Richard Serra’s work The Matter of Time, part of the permanent collection, with the enormous scale working so beautifully with the building. The “baroque” installation was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, though maybe a bit contrived. But the featured exhibition by the late Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies: From Object to Sculpture (1964–2009) seemed to me like an excuse for art historians to write thousands of words of nonsense. I’m sure I’ll be accused of being anti-intellectual for that statement. Oh well, for me, sometimes a pile of plates is just a pile of plates. Sorry!
Aside from that, you may have seen our facebook post on the Txikiteo in Bilbao. We were delighted to see the lively crowd in the old town, where it was PACKED both night and day for a tapas crawl. People of every age and demographic gathering in the bars, spilling out into the streets, singing, eating, talking. At Kasko, where they had one of the best pintxos selections, including carpaccio of octopus with potatoes and foie gras with sour apple puree, and others, made it hard to leave, even though we tried to sample just two pintxos at each place.
Then we got caught up—at least I did—with a group of men singing scores from American musical comedies. When they realized I knew the words in English, I became very popular. Nothing like singing, loudly and badly, with a group of cute drunken Bilbaoinos.
It was a great time in Bilbao, and it did my heart good to see that the city was clean and safe and being reinvented a little each day. So different from the depressing city, under the fascist Franco, that I remembered from years ago. Public transportation was excellent. We took a bus from the airport to the city center for about 3 euros, and the tram circling the city is inexpensive, quiet, and clean. Ray managed to pick up a pretty girl on the tram—typical of him! Here is her photo, but I don’t think he got her number.
When we got off the tram at the stop nearest our hotel, we ended up in an enormous demonstration for amnesty of Basque political prisoners. There were tens of thousands gathered, with helicopters above, bands, people chanting and handing out flyers. Funny, though, the mood was more like that of a street festival than a political rally. We enjoyed being there–and really got to see the passion of the Basque people demonstrated once again.
We’ve been so busy this week in the Veneto, and I promise to post more soon. We’ve been staying in B&B’s – a new category of lodging for Italy since 2000. Each place is better than the last—and the costs have been super-low. Who knew you could stay in Venice for about 70 Euros a night? We expected very little and got a great room and private bath in a fantastic location But we’ll do some more posts about the Veneto later this week. Not that there’s much we can say about the beauty and magic of this region—but we’ll check in nevertheless.