Bilbao, Spain is now known for one thing, and one thing only. That may not be fair to this city, but it’s true. The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, changed this port city.
It was a misty day today, but the museum put on a show anyway. The building bends and flows rather like the river next to it.
The architecture here is the star. The modern art inside it is, well, modern art. It ranged from interesting to heavens, no.
The highway between San Sebastian and Bilbao reveals why the Basque don’t feel terribly connected to Spain. The mountains and hills kept the Basque people to themselves for a very long time. They have their own language, their own traditions, and their own food. Many signs are in four languages — Basque, Spanish, French, and English. There are more Basque flags on display than Spanish flags. Many Catalonian flags are also being flown in solidarity, as Catalonia prepares to announce its independence from Spain on Monday. The Basque region may eventually follow Catalonia’s lead.
We’re back in San Sebastian for the night and decided to try pintxo spots on our own. The displays of offerings range from a dozen types in small bars to several dozen in larger establishments. The locals know the specialties of each place. That seems like a fun hobby. We wandered around for several hours.
We watched the sunset over the Bay of Biscay and were serenaded with “I Wish You Love” played on the saw. Yep. The saw. It was perfect in an odd way.
We sat for a bit as it turned dark and watched the families play together in a square in one of the neighborhoods. San Sebastian has won us over with its very warm and friendly people, the beauty of the architecture, the river, the sea, and the food. This place is a winner!
Before we take these trips, we read books, we read blogs, we watch videos, we study maps, and we think we are ready. We were not prepared for San Sebastian, Spain. All the guide books and videos focus on the old town, the pintxos bars, and the lovely walk by the water. It looks quaint and charming. That’s true as far as it goes, but San Sebastian is a very big city! The shops aren’t selling trinkets, they are selling high-end clothing and jewelry. The apartment buildings are luxurious with balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows. There is money here.
We got a bit lost trying to find our accommodations once we parked in the parking garage the owner had recommended. We stepped into a corner shop to ask directions. They looked on their phones and then called the owner to talk to him and let him know we were on our way.
We then got a touch lost again and stepped into another shop. The fellow walked out of his shop to show us the way. We are very grateful for the kindness of strangers.
We went to our first pintxos restaurant once we had dropped of our bags. It was even better than expected. Pintxos are individual servings of savory foods. (Don’t call them tapas unless you want to offend the people here.) We had squid fritters, potatoes with three sauces, and Iberico ham on toasted bread that was covered with shredded tomatoes. Super! It was a fine introduction.
We then tried to walk off some of pintxos by strolling around the old part of town and over by the water. The town is garden-filled and many of the streets are tree-lined.
This evening we took an organized pintxo tour that was a Christmas gift for Jim. We went to six pintxo bars and had two or three types of pintxos at each place. If you are interested, we can send you the names of the places and would recommend them all. Rather than list all 15-20 dishes we tried, we’ll spend a few calories telling you about a few of our favorites or the most interesting ones.
I guess I listed most everything. It was a perfect evening, with lovely people from around the world who laughed and enjoyed the setting and the company of fellow travelers. What a stellar night!