Friday, December 4, 2009

Basque counry

Arrived in Bilbao late yesterday after a long day hanging around the Stansted airport during a boring 7-hour layover. The flight from A'dam lasted 40 minutes and the flight to Spain was an hour and 40 minutes, so it was a strange way to spend a day. I struggled with the pay phones at the Bilbao Airport, finally giving up, and went ahead and jumped on the next bus into Moyua Plaza, which is the center of town. I eventually was able to contact my host, Naroa, and she generously offered to walk downtown to meet me and guide me back to her place. She has a real nice apartment and a very comfortable couch. Her flatmate Marta is very sweet also and she welcomed me into their place warmly. We had a nice visit, I had a shower, then they made some dinner, we talked some more and I finally got to sleep at about 1 am -- since I had been up since 6 am the day was a fairly long one for this old geezer.

Today Naroa took me around showing me her hometown. We walked for a couple of hours until finally she asked, are you hungry? Yep, I said, I'm starving! So for my very first Basque food she took me to a cafe called the K2 in the old town of Bilbao where I ate some pintxos (pinchos). These lovely little treats are called tapas in the rest of Spain but this is definitely Basque country so here they're pintxos. It was sort of like eating several different appetizers that ended up being a meal in itself. Very enjoyable.

Then I visited the Guggenheim Museum on the river. What an impressive piece of architecture it is! A modern art palace of titanium, glass and stone. It contains a large installation of a series of metal sculptures by Richard Serra, The matter of time, that is hard to describe in mere words. I had seen some of his work in magazines but when confronted with the real thing, huge plates of steel formed into graceful curves arranged so that one can walk inside of them, one wonders how in the world he ever managed to bend these massive plates into such perfectly curved shapes. As no photos are allowed inside this museum, I provide this link which also shows the space within which it's situated at the museum in Bilao: Serra Sculptures. You shoud realize that what appears in the photos to be thin sheets of metal are actually steel plates that are about 2 inches thick!

There were also paintings by Chagall, Picasso, Kandinsky and they're currently featuring the works and life of Frank Lloyd Wright. Even the local residents don't know how it happened that Bilbao was chosen to be the site of a lavish Guggenheim Museum  when the only others are located in much larger centers of population and culture, New York and Venice.

Not sure where I'm off to next. Naroa and I will do some research and depending on what we learn I will probably go to either Lisbon or Barcelona for a while before returning to Paris. Barcelona, while expensive, is Naroa's favorite place in Spain and I'm sure I'll be able to get a flight from there back to Paris easily. Jana and I had talked about Algarve, Portugal, and that's still an option. And as I was writing this entry I received an invitation from a Couchsurfing host to come stay with them in Valencia which is, like Barcelona, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Ah, decisions, decisions.