International Visit 2016 to Bilbao

Thu 12th May 2016 at 06.30 - Sun 15th May 2016 - 21.00

Our annual visit to a European city of interest

Bilbao was the destination for our International trip this year. "It's just a port in northern Spain isn’t it?" I thought, "Just somewhere you travel through on your way to Madrid". Very surprised by drive through from the airport, past pretty green hills that would have been at home in the Austrian Alps. Mmm, very nice hotel at the end of the main avenue with Jesus looking over us from the top of Nelson’s Column.

Quick unpack and then it’s out on to the main street taking an umbrella just in case, the weather looked a bit threatening. The first thing we did was get on the tram which whizzed along the streets, past the shimmering titanium Guggenheim museum and along to the Eastern side of town. At this point our priorities changed from art and culture seeking tourist to foreigner on holiday looking for sustenance. We found ourselves a nice little bar serving excellent Pintxos and lovely cold Cervesas and forgot to leave for several hours. Walking back along the fabulous Boulevard and through superb gardens, we were truly struck by the quirky architecture that had obviously been bred in so many different eras, but fitted together so perfectly. Awesome views across from every angle, every building along the avenue no more than six storeys high and all with oblique angles on the corners, balconies and colonnades, and then between the buildings a perfect view across to the Iberdrola Tower, tri-angular modern steel and glass. 

A coach to the seaside brought us to San Sebastian the next day, with stunning bay on one side and the river on the other. The Area Romantica in the Old Town was filled with narrow pedestrian streets lined with quaint tiny shops and bars leading up to the beautiful old church, with the leafy hill towering behind.

Back in Bilbao, the Casco Viejo (old quarter) with its little pedestrian lanes was more modern and commercial than San Sebastian, having recovered and been rebuilt after terrible flooding in 1983. The old market was brimming with fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and the tables of the outdoor cafes were brimming with locals enjoying lunch together and tourists like us.

On our final morning we toured the Guggenheim where each of us was taken in by different pieces. I loved Andy Warhol’s Shadows and The Matter of Time which was huge, sensational and atmospheric.

Bilbao won me over. It’s a vibrant hard working city with real character, a dream of well designed well planned architecture topped off by a horde of culture. Thank you Mansoor and Charles for introducing me to this gem of northern Spain.