Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Weekend in Bilbao

Bilbao is the capital of Biscaya in northernmost Spain, which is in the Basque Country. The Basque Country is a region consisting of areas in the north of Spain and the Southwest of France.


I have already been to some of the cities in the Basque region a couple of years ago the first time I visited France and Spain. I have visited San Sebastian, Spain for shopping, and St Jean de Luz, France to see the beach. I didn't have such a nice time back then because I was disappointed with the paella that we had for lunch, and the super-crowded beach that looked as if there was no beach at all, just bodies of people, in various stages of nudity, lying next to the ocean. Sorry to all the pervs, but I was too grumpy then to take a picture.

The famous puppy by American artist, Jeff Koons

The magnificent building of the Guggenheim Museum
Anyway, we went to Bilbao because we specifically wanted to see the famous Guggenheim Museum.  It is quite an impressive building that greets you upon entering the heart of the city via the Salve Bridge.
The Salve Bridge view from the Guggenheim

Inside the museum was a temporary exhibit by David Hockney.  His paintings were so vivid and colorful.  The bucolic sceneries in his pantings looked as if they were trying desperately to jump out of the frame. My husband says they looked as if they were painted by somebody who was high on drugs.

The museum features exhibits from David Hockney
Inside the Guggenheim
Tulips by Jeff Koons

We also went to Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum), which features an exhibit of Francisco de Goya's prints, depicting the horrors and atrocities of war, to which I would say that I still prefer to see the Japanese woodblock prints anytime. The collection inside was huge, though, compared to the Guggenheim. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao featuring prints by Goya

I was very impressed with the architecture. Most buildings are painted in the typical Basque colors of red green and blue. It's all so colorful. And cheerful.

Lovely Basque buildings
One of the lovely buildings at a roundabout close to our hotel


On the way to the Guggenheim, there was a park with lots of huge trees and fountains and interesting columns and pergolas of red bricks. In one corner there was a small piece of plaque commemorating the death of people who were victimized by terrorism. Apparently, these terrorists are a group of people who are fighting for the Basque country to be independent.

Last stop at Plaza Nueva, a rather ironic name for such a place with old-world neoclassical architecture,
located at the Old Quarter

We were quite surprised to find some good food too. Now we all know that Spain is famous for the Tapas. In Basque language (Euskara), which is one of the oldest languages in the world, it is called, pintxo. I didn't have such high hopes at first because I was previously disappointed with the food in Barcelona and San Sebastian. But this time, I was just so glad to be not disappointed at all.

Picture-perfect and mouth-wateringly delicious pintxos for lunch

I just love this Spanish white wine

Les jambons et les saucisses... can you imagine the smell inside this shop?

We were not just interested in the architecture and the museums, we were also interested in shopping!

Souvenirs at the Old Quarter
This area reminds me so much of St Jean de Luz

A lovely soaps and perfume shop at the Old Quarter
I had a marvelous time in Bilbao. The people are nice, it's not very touristy, the food is glorious, especially the seafood, which they call mariscos. And above all, the service in the restaurants and in the shops are excellent -- with that, you'll know you're not in France anymore.  :)

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