Horray - Made it to Bilbao!

Trip Start Feb 02, 2011
1
7
Trip End Feb 25, 2011


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Flag of Spain  , Pais Vasco,
Friday, February 4, 2011

Left Orange County on Wed. and luckily missed the huge East Coast snow storm - my flight from Orange County to Newark, NJ went out on time even though another airline leaving at the same time and going to the same airport cancelled their flight! Whew! Forward ahead 3 flights and 20 hours, and I landed in Bilbao, Spain, in the Basque Autonomous Region. Instead of provinces or states, Spain has 17 autonomous regions. Took a taxi to my hotel in promptly fell asleep so nothing exciting on the first day. Today, Fri., the rest of the group arrived throughout the day so I wandered around on my own. Bilbao is a pretty city in rolling green hills and forested areas which used to be a huge ugly industrial center and port but that shut down and the city went into a major decline until they managed to have the Guggenheim Museum built here about 10 years ago. This was designed by Frank Gehry, the architect of the Disney center in LA and in the same style but much more spread out and on a river bank.

The group visits the museum tomorrow with a paid admission included ($20) so I just walked over there to go through the museum store, take pictures and eat at their famous restaurant for lunch. It is run by a very famous chef and has a "tasting menu" which is different every day so I had to try that. First they brought around a small glass with a delicious what tasted like squash soup. The next course was a slightly cooked egg on a bed of celery puree in a bath of onion soup - yummy.
Then came a Basque speciality of cod balls in a red sauce with chives - good but not great. Course 4 was grilled veal cheeks (yes cheeks as in the face of a baby calf) - just like two small fillets, very tender. Apparently cheeks and jowls are also Basque delicacies. Very tasty. Dessert was a light chocolate cake on top of a mocha mousse with vanilla bean ice cream on top, all balanced on a smear of dark chocolate. After dessert came a "digestive" which was a thick creamy pudding of some sort, then tea. The presentations were beautiful - each course was on a very unusual bowl or plate of some sort and in a small unusual shaped glass. Expensive but worth it as a splurge - 22 euros which is about $30. The evening tasting menu runs about 65 euros or $90 so I guess lunch was a bargain. I could not have eaten any more of anything.

Like a lot of European countries (and South American), meals are served much later. Lunch did not start until 1pm and dinner does not start until 9 pm. If you want to eat earlier, you go to a bar and order "pinchos" which we would call tapas, just small bits of this and that.

Our group, 22, met at 5 pm with our guide, Unai, who then took us for a walk around town. Bilbao is a very good walking town - the central area is only about 1 mile and most within one half mile so everything is within walking distance. Very beautiful architecture, most built within the last century - about 4 to 5 story buildings side by side along the river bank, sort of like amsterdam or copenhagen and VERY EXPENSIVE  - small apartments on the river go for at least one million euros which is $1,300,000 dollars.

Several of us (I have hooked up with a Canadian woman also by herself named Patricia, who has done extensive research on every town with long lists of restaurants and what specialities to order, etc. so she and I are going to go around together for the next few days. There is only one organized tour tomorrow morning walking around the Guggenheim and the Old City in the morning and then we are on our own. She is a lot of fun and interested in going everywhere and doing everything just like me so it is a good match.


Getting back to the sentence I started above but never finished, several of us after the walk went to a recommended historic "bar" to get some pinchos (small bites). It took us awhile and a very nice young Bilbaon man in the next table until we discovered how to get food and drink. You had to walk over to a grill in one corner and order grilled meat (beef, very tasty) which you paid for there and then brought back to your table if you had one or ate the bar standing which most people did. If you wanted any other pinchos, you walked around the bar and pointed at what you wanted and one of the bartenders put it on a plate for you. Very cheap. Each pincho was about 1 or 2 euro, or about one to three dollars. I had 3 different things and small drink for 5 euros and was full. Very busy place as all of the bars are.

That is all for now. I cannot get my little netbook to get the wireless in the room but there is a free computer in the business center.

Bilbao Shirley




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Comments

Jack & Marilyn Eldridge on

Hi Shirley, Out and about again, we see. We never made it to Spain during our three years in Brussels. Sounds interesting. Appreciate the updates and I'll load your blog into favorites and check it weekly. Good hearing from you & have fun. Love Jack & Big

Lisa Archer on

Sounds like Fun....I'm reading this before dinner and my mouth is watering at the descriptions of the food!

Joyce Archer on

Shirely & Bob,
Sounds like you are having fun. Got back from our cruise yesterday. We are currently iced in solid 3-4 inches of ice. Our neighbors chipped with an iron mallet a path about half way to out back door. But this morning everything is frozen up again. so we can't get out. It was about 45 degrees when we got home yesterday so could get enough traction on the drive to get up and unload suitcases. Will now start reading all your blogs. have a great time and don't think about us poor people frozen into our ice castle

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