Archive for September, 2008

Puente Colgante

Day two in Bilbao started with a stroll through the university where Jorge has been doing his masters: la Universidad de Deusto. Crossing the river we had a whistle-stop tour of the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao which merits a much longer look, but at least is free on Wednesdays.

We caught the metro out to Portugalete and popped in to the impressive Basílica de Santa María before descending to river level to our target: the industrial age’s first transporter bridge.

Puente Colgante

We explored this amazing structure from above via the high-level walkways before crossing on the transporter. The bridge was designed to allow tall ships to pass unimpeded and is still the only crossing between the city and the sea.

Puente Colgante from above

Ending up in the posh seaside suburb of Getxo, we lunched in a smart little bar full of locals having a glass of something, and then we slept it off on Getxo’s lovely beach. I was a little sparing with the suncream and ended up with a strip of sunburn as a result. Some people never learn…

On the way home we picked up some extra supplies in the Eroski supermarket in Deusto. After a little snack to keep us going we headed back out onto the streets, taking the Funicular de Artxanda up the side of the hill to get a view of the city from above. Bilbao is surrounded by hills which have limited its growth and lend it some of its charm.

We returned to river level briefly, waling to the Casco Viejo to take a lift up to the Parque Etxebarria, site of a former steel foundry but now an open space and today the site of a funfair. We declined to try any of the rides but it was fun watching the crowds of families and teenagers.

Descending by foot once more to river level we watched some excellent street theatre in the Plaza Arriega: a French circus group, Cirque Hirsute, staged a mini-drama full of humour and invention – Bal Caustique. Time for a wee drink, although as the week progressed the streets got busier and busier every evening (look in the background):

This evening’s fireworks were part of the annual Bilbao firework competition and were 20 minutes of simply stunning (and deafening) spectacle.

Jorge brought the day to a nourishing close with his excellent baked chicken, washed down with a bottle of lovely Albariño from the supermarket.

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A nastily early start to catch the 05:10 bus to Stansted, which was already busy. The flight was delayed by the crowds at the airport, but arrived into Bilbao only fifteen minutes late. It’s only a ten minute bus ride into the city, where Jorge met me at the first stop after the impressive puente Príncipes de España from which I’d had my first of many glimpses of the Guggenheim.
Puente Príncipes de España & Guggenheim
To reach Jorge’s apartment we had only to re-cross the bridge on foot and take the lift down to street level, and walk half a block up the hill. Excellent location!

Having left my not-very-big bag, Jorge proceeded to give me a whistle-stop tour of the very walkable city on foot: el museo Guggenheim, la Plaza de Moyúa, la Gran Vía, el Parque Doña Casilda and la Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. We stopped for lunch in a typical local bar serving pinchos or little bites on a skewer or cocktail stick. We shared rabas (squid) and picos de carne (lovely little meat skewers).

The tour continued after lunch, taking in a bus ride to la Plaza Circular, a stroll through the Casco Viejo (old town) and a look at the temporary bars set up along the banks of Bilbao’s defining river (known both as El Nervión or La Ría de Bilbao). The bars were part of Bilbao’s annual fiesta: Aste Nagusia which is Euskera for Big Week. In fact nine days of celebrations, fireworks, free concerts and theatre.

After a well-needed siesta we headed back into town for a drink before finding our spot for the excellent nightly fireworks viewed above the river. Then a mad dash along the river to the temporary stage next to the Guggenheim to enjoy a simply excellent – and entirely free – concert from Rosario and her superb band. The trumpeter and bassist were especially good. She performed from 11:30pm through to 12:45am, what stamina!

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