Sunday, 22 November 2009

from St Jean de Luz to Bilbao

Moving further afield this weekend we left St Jean de Luz to visit Bilbao. Bilbao is a true hidden gem. It is steeped in history, industry, culture and cuisine (they say there is evidence that food was being cooked in Bilbao 10,000 years ago). Of course there is also a plethora of art museums. Prior to the Guggenheim the city was visited by few but since it burst onto the big screen in The World is Not Enough it is on the trail. Deservedly so but thankfully it has retained its soul. The old town is a real gem. Bustling narrow streets flow with bars and restaurants. Revellers enjoy Rioja, pinxtos and more formal dining. I opted for fried squid followed by pig cheeks in wine, fabulous.

The Guggenheim is quite simply splendid. From the moment you see the Frank Gehry design it is captivating, a real visual feast. The ground floor houses permanent installations, the second is dedicated to a theme or artist (Frank Lloyd Wright at the moment) with the third floor showing art from the vast global Guggenheim collections. If you have a spare day it is well worth getting lost here.

To begin to appreciate Bilbao you need more than a day, and certainly at least one night. Nightime is when the city seems to come alive. Walking along the river past the opera house and into the old centre the city feels like a melange of Rome, Paris, London and Edinburgh. A true European feast. It is unreservedly Basque having been at the centre of Basque nationalism for centuries. We are already planning our next visit.

Basque of the day:-art :: erti