Unqualified thumbs up for Bilbao!
Opening the blind this morning, a wet city greeted us. All the guidebooks had described Bilbao as “gritty”, “industrial” and the black and white view seemed only to confirm that. Yet I liked what I saw. I loved the monochrome view with those powerful shapes and stark contrasts. We weren’t looking for a chocolate box village or cosy medieval town.
But setting out after breakfast to go and collect our hire car, the skies had cleared and the city was beginning to sparkle. My hero and I walked over the bridge and spotted the familiar titanium curves of the Guggenheim a little further along the river. This was going to be a good day!
We had to wait a while for the office to open and found ourselves in a small queue. Eventually, the shutters rolled up and half an hour later, we made our way around the back of the building to collect the car.
I followed my usual routine and took a photograph of the license plate – it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had difficulty recalling the type and colour of a rental car so I try to think ahead.
On this occasion I spotted something worthy of a close-up on the offside rear bumper. In fact, I took five more photos of small and medium sized dings here and there just to be sure, though the rental agreement already had several crosses here and there showing signs of wear and tear.
Off we went then, back to the hotel to leave it in the car park today. In the meantime, Edward and Amy had gone off exploring and we followed the riverside walk along to the Guggenheim where we were to meet them at noon.
By now, the sun had come out and the city looked beautiful. Gritty? I don’t think so.
Just five minutes after leaving the hotel, we were there at the Guggenheim Museum, where Jeff Koons’ flower-filled puppy was as spectacular as we’d imagined even if the winter flowering pansies weren’t quite in full bloom. We didn’t quite get to pat him for you, Linda, but we said hello from you and Lesley, of course!
Edward and Amy found us by the riverside taking photographs and ooohing and aaahing at the structure. They were already buzzing with excitement too and so the four of us made our way inside straight away, not waiting for our two-o’clock time slot.
We couldn’t resist peering into the installation of mirror balls first, though, just to see if we could see ourselves.
There we are in every one of those balls!
Inside, there are “no photographs” signs in the galleries. People don’t always take note of them, as you can see, but we did our best to obey.
But we couldn’t resist taking photographs of the architecture; of the curves and reflective surfaces which really rival the art which hangs on the walls.
Mind you, occasionally there’s a glimpse of something outdoors which catches the eye too – here, one of Louise Bourgeois’ Spiders, possibly one we’ve seen before?
So though we enjoyed the work of Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer and Cy Twombly, it’s the building itself which I have on record.
And though I can’t speak for the others, I’d have been happy to have wandered around an empty building. The art was merely incidental for me on this occasion though yes, it was a bonus!
One last look before we exit through the gift shop, still buzzing with enthusiasm for the man and his work!
The mid-afternoon sunshine was now falling on the puppy’s face, making photographs a little easier!
We went in search of something to eat and with Edward leading the way, map in hand, we soon found a bottle of Rioja and a couple of plates of pinxtos!
The invigorating and re-energising properties of Rioja have, I’m sure, been reported elsewhere, so suffice to say we continued our explorations with a spring in our step and enjoyed an afternoon strolling around the streets of central Bilbao.
We looked hard for the gritty bits but failed to spot them.
We got as far as the cathedral in the old town before one of us admitted to feeling a little weary.
We were about as far from our hotel as possible within the city centre, so perhaps it was indeed a good idea to turn round and begin to head back.
Walking through the old streets, we noted the “slow” movement is alive and well here – slow food, slow fashion…and yes, slow feet!
Just around the corner, then, standing admiring these colourful apartment buildings with a tram running past them, the public transport professionals soon worked out the quickest route to the hotel.
Bilbao: we love it!