#3 Spain/Italy, June 28, 2005

Dear Everybody,

Bilbao is a wonderful small city. My first day here I walked all around the Old Town with its many beautiful buildings and the Rio de Bilbao—river—that runs through town. This was clearly a rich port city in the 19th century.

The second day I got what I came for—a look at the new Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. The Frank Gehry-designed building is a fantasy—they really went all out on design and expense. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more attractive building. It is reminescent of a ‘fish’ and a ‘boat’—both important themes for the city of Bilbao as well as for Frank Gehry. His glass fish that is in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is clearly a forerunner to his soaring glass walls in this building with their overlapping glass ‘scales’. The exterior is limestone and titanium like the Weissman in Minneapolis.

The permanent art collection is very small but includes some well known names such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer, Rauchenberg, etc. Val, no, the Thyssen collection did not come here—I think they got some canvasses from the Guggenheims in the USA.

The huge gallery on the first floor was totally taken up by an enormous Richard Serra display of huge rusty iron plates which was a whole lot more interesting than I’m making it sound. The second itinerant display was from Mexico, called ”Aztec something” although it included many other Mexican cultures besides Aztec. This was Gigantic! There must have been 500 – 1000 pieces, and many of them were life sized statues. I’m surprised that the Mexican Museum of Anthropology would send that many pieces, but I suppose they’re bursting at the seams. I recognized three pieces that I had seen in Mexico many years ago.

I ate lunch at the museum which I enjoyed very much, especially the bottle of wine that came with it (no, I didn’t, not the WHOLE bottle!) And yes, Jim Rice, I also enjoyed the 40 foot high flower- covered wire sculpture of the dog in front of the museum—I’ll send you a picture of it when I get home.

My third day here I again enjoyed walking the city. It has a population of about 350,000 which my friend says increases to about 750,000 when one includes the bedroom communities. What a lovely city to visit. Traffic is not at all oppressive—in fact cars are not allowed in much of Old Town. Of course there the streets are very narrow.

The sun was shining beautifully that day, so I took many photos. There are three train stations right in the heart of the city next to the river that have lots of 19th century stained glass windows. There are many cafes\bars from those times too, with elaborate wood carved bars, gorgeous tiled walls, and beautiful ceramic murals. They display 50 kinds of tapas (snacks) to go with a coffee or a glass of wine.

In the afternoon I took the metro and for 1.20 euros I rode for 40 minutes and 22 stops to the end of the line to arrive at the beaches north of the city.






I walked about two miles to Gorliz beach, went wading, took some photos and returned to the city.

The next day was one of those ‘uphill all the way’ days. I hadn’t slept well, probably anticipating a 5 oçlock wake up alarm to get an early flight to Barcelona. I had trouble finding my hostel; it was very hot and muggy and polluted, but finally I found it and readied myself for sightseeing.

The Gaudi Temple is Superlative! When I came up out of the subway and turned around—well I laughed out loud! Nobody else has ever had this kind of imaginative moxy! Gaudi started designing it in 1884.  Work on the building began early in the 1900’s and it probably won’t be finished until 2020. It is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and the scale is nearly overwhelming. This was the reason I stopped in Barcelona and it was worth it. I also visited two other Gaudi buildings—again they were outstanding. These were built around 1905 and still amaze and delight!

Unfortunately because of time, weather, and crabbiness, the rest of the Barcelona sights got short shrift. I’ll have to see them another time.

After I went back to my hostel and cooled off and rested, I did manage a walk around and through the cathedral. This one was outstanding for its beautiful 14th century choir. Later I had ‘dinner’ of tapas (cockles, bread with tomato and oil—I miss the Italian garlic—and good Spanish red wine.) These, of course, are just snacks for the Spaniards, who eat a real dinner at about 9 or 10 o’clock.

I’ll be sleeping tonight with 13 roommates, but I have my own light in this hostel as well as privacy curtains. Again it’s right by the metro so very convenient for getting around.

I hope you’re all well and happy,


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