Bilbao, Spain

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End May 30, 2008

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Flag of Spain  , Basque,
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Itīs hard to wrap my head around the fact that Iīm so many miles away from home, and so quickly.  I feel a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, like I can tap my heels three times and transport myself back home.....

Anyway, here we are in Bilbao, Spain, in Basque Country.  I didnīt really know what that meant until I got here....the Basques have their own flag and language, and there are no Spanish flags in sight! 

Our journey here was pretty uneventful.  Travelling in a squishy airplane seat is one of the very rare times when I appreciate being short.  We landed at Heathrow, in London, half an hour late, but our bags were waiting for us by the time we got through Customs.  We beetled it over to the Central Bus Station, a brisk 5 minute walk, where we caught the National Express bus to Stansted airport - a 75 minute drive away.  Once there, we had an hour to wait before boarding our Easyjet flight to Bilbao.  By the time we landed here, I was so excited to finally get to use the Spanish that I had been practicing in my head all the way here!  We hailed a taxi and I cheerily said "Buenos noches!  Como esta usted?Ļ The driver looked at me strangely and said "I speak English".  I couldnīt help but feel sorry for myself!

We spent our first day, yesterday, walking about a thousand miles (seriously, thatīs what it felt like!  But itīs good practice for the upcoming hike on the Camino de Santiago which starts next Wednesday).  Anyway, I digress.  We walked to the business district to find the Tourist Information office, where we picked up some maps.  Then we made our way to "Old Town Bilbao" which reminded me a lot of Venice - narrow streets lined with shops on the lower floor and living quarters above.  We found the market where all the locals buy their fresh meat and produce daily, but we held back from splurging on cow tongue, the lining of a sheepīs stomach, pigīs feet and, believe it or not, entire pigīs heads!  Yes, I took a picture to prove it.  There was even a baby oinker in itsī entirety - I guess youīd buy that for a special occasion?

We had a bite to eat at a cafeteria/bar (where most people eat) and tried to down our food while inhaling our neighbouring dinerīs cigarette smoke.  We are SO spoiled in Vancouver!  Jim ordered what looked like an egg sandwich, but when he went to take a bite he realized there was also herring in it so his stomach did a flip and he put it back down.  And here I thought my Jim would eat anything!

We then went for a ride on the funicular, which took us up to a park overlooking Bilbao.  The Guggenheim looked so small from up there!  It was a great view and worth the 1.70 round trip fare.

Nancy and Lynne arrived around 3:00 (they had spent the night in London, not being foolhardy enough to attempt to get all the way to Bilbao in one day) so we met them at our hotel and then we all walked over to the Guggenheim.  What an interesting place!  Thereīs a massive dog made entirely of begonias in front, created for a special festival and supposedly put there temporarily, but the Bilbonians (or whatever they call themselves) fell in love with their puppy so they decided to build it a kennel....and thatīs how we got the Guggenheim....or so the story goes....

Ya, so anyway....the Gug is a massive structure of titanium, metal and glass.  We took some pictures, while holding the North Shore News (of course itīs the one with Connorīs picture on the front page!), and spent the next two hours exploring the exhibits.  I was suitably impressed and actually enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, as did Jim.

The 5th member of our pilgrim team, Sandi Heath, arrived around 6:00 so we wandered back to Old Town for dinner and managed to find a restaurant at 8:30 that was empty - only because it hadnīt opened yet!  These Spaniards have a siesta from about 1:00-5:00 every day, and nearly everything closes.  They only get going again around 9-10:00 at night!  Fortunately for us, somebody banged on the door and we were allowed in, and we pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves for the entire time.  It was fun practicing our Spanish with the hostess.  And dad, you wonīt believe it, but I LIKED THE RED WINE!  It was a bottle of 2003 Solar Viejo from the Rioja region of Spain.  I wonder if itīs sold in Canada?

Jim couldnīt sleep last night - he insists itīs jet lag, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the coffee and chocolate profiteroles he consumed....

We said goodbye to Sandi, Nancy & Lynne this morning - theyīre spending the morning in Bilbao before going to San Sebastian for three days.  Weīll meet up with them again in Leon in 4 daysī time.  Jim and I rented a car and drove to San Sebastian for the day....we zoomed along the freeway in our baby blue Citroen and followed the coastal road for the last half hour.  What a pretty drive!  Once in San Sebastian, we found a spot to leave the car and walked the entire promenade, probably about 3 km each way.  Lunch was spent on a terraced restaurant overlooking the gorgeous beach in the sunshine.  I sampled my first taste of Spanish Sangria, which I hate to say isnīt as good as the bottled stuff at home.  There was about half an inch of sugar at the bottom of the glass....too sweet, even for me!

We headed back to Bilbao when the storm clouds were ready to burst, and I couldnīt help it - I fell asleep for part of the drive.  Arenīt I BAD?!

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Bilbao and hit the road, following the northern coast to a place called Santillana Del Mar.  Iīm not sure how many internet cafes weīll find, but Iīll do my best to update you as I can....Love to you all, Linda & Jim
Slideshow Report as Spam


spanishsteps on

On our way!
Greetings Linda and Jim~ We are finally enroute, lounging in Toronto airport awaiting the transatlantic flight. Since we were not as diligent as you and did not study the spanish language prior to this journey, John and I were pleased to hear that our lack of linguistic skills will be expected. We will be in Leon on Monday and will have a bottle of red wine waiting for your arrival. Welcome to the grape Linda, next challenge is embracing coffee - Spanish style of course! Love, Julia and John

tdkurucz on

Hello from Kurucz Klan
Hi, I'm new to all of this technology so tried to send a note but not sure if you got as it didn't show up on the entries yet so trying via this method.

Keep in mind the 'after-party' so all the Spanish wines need to be recorded so we can do the wine tasting party kind of stuff and perhaps Jim would like to BBQ some herring once back.


tdkurucz on

After Party update
Hi, I believe my note went to Linda's email so thought I'd let you all know that I think a new tradition of having an after party would be a good idea.

Photos, wine tasting,sampling of some of the local foods that you would eat (no herring in the egg sandwich rule) and of course wine (I guess I mentioned that).

I will be off to Ft. McMurray this week so I'll take a few photos and find out what wine the locals like there and check out local menus for my after party that you are all invited to.

I'll be looking at the blogs as much as possible and hope to connect into Nancy's also but give our love to all and enjoy. Dana and Tom

enlord on

Sounds like you're having a great. Imagine all the gems you will continue to discover! Tom your after party idea sounds great - we know Linda will have the photos and Jim will be checking out the wine. (Jim- Is it all red wine or do they have good white wine too???)
Thinking you you! XX Nancy

hockey55 on

Hi Jim and Linda
WOW!!!!I feel like I am reading your stories out of a book. They sound so I was right next to you following in your footsteps. It really does sound beautiful, sounds like you are seeing lots and enjoying yourselves! That's great. I need to get dinner now...we are having heregg. Oh, sorry that is Canadian for herring on an egg!LOL!!!!only you Jim.I miss you lots, Love reading about your adventures! Be careful...Talk soon.

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