Friday, 23 September 2011

When in Bilbao....

There is a certain tradition that when in Bilbao (or any other part of the Basque Country) it is necessary to participate in. At midday, after a long morning of walking and sightseeing, go into any bar and you will come across a sight like this:

Bars and cafés in the Basque Country offer an incredible variety of finger food called 'pintxos' to accompany your beer or wine. So, I believed it to be my civic duty to 'do as the locals do'!

Txikito (small wine) and pintxo
There are competitions to see who prepares the best pintxos - and they are taken very seriously!

As it's Friday, I'll offer you a txikito and pintxo to start the weekend off well!

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, have a great weekend!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Probably the biggest puppy in the world

The Guggenheim is famous for the wonderful architecture of its building, for its modern art exhibitions

Main entrance to Guggenheim Museum
And for Puppy!


'Puppy' is a 13m high West Highland White designed by the artist Jeff Koons. It is made from a steel structure and is covered with clay and flowers which are changed seasonally. It was first built in 1992 for an exhibition in Germany before it was acquired by the Guggenheim Foundation and moved to stand guard over the entrance to the museum in 1997 and where it has remained ever since. 'Puppy' is delightful to see and has become a symbol of the city.

Wouldn't this be a great view to have every day either from your apartment window or on your way to work? And for all the film buffs, the white building on the right is where James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) escaped from in the film The World Is Not Enough!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


The Guggenheim holds modern art exhibitions which run for a certain length of time and then are completely changed. I'm not sure if they have a permanent exhibition because I've never had time to actually go into the museum and wander around. Next time I go I need to plan a longer visit so I can get to go in and see what's on show.

But you don't actually need to go in to be able to see some examples of modern art. If you saw yesterday's post then you'll have seen the giant spider which is a permanent feature to the museum. There are usually other pieces of art outside which do change and when I was there recently there was one particular sculpture that I loved.

It looks like a tower of bubbles or air bubbles in water that are floating to the surface. I thought that it was a very original piece of art and that it was a perfect example of something simple which is totally captivating.

You can see how the bubbles reflect the buildings on the opposite bank of the river. It's a scene within a scene and I thought that it gave a whole different dimension to the sculpture.

The sculpture fits in perfectly with its modern surroundings. The Guggenheim museum is on the left and, in the background, is the Iberdrola building which towers over one of the new university faculties.

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Modern art on the street

There are many different views on modern art and even more interpretations. I prefer not to say that I always like one particular style or another because I find that there are always things that surprise me and break the mould. The newly modernised dock area of Bilbao along the river is one of those places that strikes me as very modern, but I like it.

La Puerta de Los Honorables
This sculpture is next to the Guggenheim museum and is in honour of Ramón Rubial, a former Socialist politician from the region.

The sculpture fits in nicely with the modern design of the neighbouring bridge.

"Maman" by Louise Bourgeois
Behind the Guggenheim lives the giant spider sculpture named "Maman" by the artist Louise Bourgeois.

If you look closely you can see the eggs that she´s carrying. This week I hope to be able to show you a few more interesting aspects of this very modern museum which catches the attention of anyone that visits the city.

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Modern vs. classical

The majority of the architecture in Bilbao is classical and adds character and a certain atmosphere to the city. But, as with any large city, progress and modernisation has to be a part of its' moving forward. In Bilbao the modern manages to sit quite comfortably with its older surroundings.

Isozaki Towers

The Isozaki Towers are symbols of the urbanistic transformation that is taking place in Bilbao. They are built close to the commercial and historic centres of the city along the river bank. Practically all of the old industrial areas along the river bank have been redeveloped and modernised with residential buildings and offices.

Zubizuri bridge
The modern Zubizuri footbridge links the two banks of the river, the new with the old.

Directly opposite the modern tower buildings sit some traditional residential buildings. They certainly don't seem to be overshadowed by their modern counterparts. I suppose that, as with everything, it is merely a question of taste.

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Historical buildings

Bilbao is bursting with historic buildings! Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit many but I can give you a taste of what some of the beautiful historical buildings look like.

Arriaga Theatre
Town hall
Regional government building
Residential building
The architecture certainly gives a certain character to the city. There are so many fabulous buildings, monuments and statues that it would take a couple of days to be able to see them - but they definitely wouldn't disappoint!

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Bilbao, city along the river

Through the heart of Bilbao runs the river Nervion which becomes an estuary in the dock area of the city before joining the sea.

The river is an important part of the structure of the city as well as an integral part of the industry in the area.

Buildings along the river

There is very little industrial traffic along the river now but it still used frequently for sporting activities such as canoeing and pleasure sailing. The port of Bilbao is still very much in use for industrial activity and there is a frequent ferry service between Bilbao and Portsmouth in the UK.

Bridges across the river

With the city being built on both sides of the river there are many bridges joining the two shores for road transport as well as people on foot. The designs range from the classical to the ultra-modern, something to suit all tastes!

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Fiesta, Bilbao style

I was in Bilbao just as the biggest 'fiesta' celebrations on the calendar were coming to an end. It's called the 'Big Week' (Semana Grande in Spanish or Aste Nagusia in Euskera) and starts on the Saturday before the 22nd August and continues for 9 days.

During these days there are many activities organised by the local council which include concerts, theatrical plays and bullfights. There are also bars and food stands set up in the street offering refreshments and entertainment throughout the night until the early hours of the morning.

Barrel of locally made cider
In the open park areas along the river the tents are constructed for the bars but during the day the local people offer dishes of home-cooked food and drinks.

And the band played on
The atmosphere is relaxed and happy and the activities are accompanied by music from the local band. This fiesta has been celebrated this way since 1978, and it is definitely worth experiencing.

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 9 September 2011

And finally, it's Friday....

So Friday rolled around again - this week seems to have flown by! Since we got back from Tenerife we've spent some time every day tidying or putting away or finding somewhere to stuff all the things that don't have a home and won't fit in any cupboard! Slowly, slowly it's getting there. But then the temperatures went back up again this week to 33ºC and most of the time I just can't be bothered - so it is a slow process.

The next few posts will be about Bilbao because I have so much to say about it (and there is so much more that I just didn't have time to see) that I'm going to split it up over a few days. During the trip to the north of Spain I managed to squeeze in a trip to this beautiful city filled with history, character and interesting places to visit and things to do.

So as it's Friday, and I don't want to keep you from starting your weekend, I'll keep todays' post short!

If you arrive in Bilbao by train, the last station is here:

Abando Indalecio Prieto station, Bilbao
It is right in the centre of the city so any sightseeing can be easily started right from your arrival. I found the stained glass window stunning but I haven't been able to find any other information about it. If I worked in Bilbao, I certainly wouldn't mind starting my day with something so colourful!

And so on the weekend! This weekend I'm spending time with hubby (who has been doing some wonderfully scrummy cooking this week - hope that continues!), with the horses and heading down to Murcia to visit my parents. I'm hoping that the trip to Murcia will include plenty of photo-taking, time at the beach (hubby is hoping to get some kitesurf practice in), time floating in the pool and yummy BBQ or two (please take note parents if you are reading this!).

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing this weekend, enjoy!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Always time for coffee and a butter roll

One of my favourite things about visiting Llodio (or anywhere in the Basque Country for that reason!) is the butter rolls. I'm not sure if it's because it's something I only do when I'm there or because it's impossible to buy butter rolls in any other region in Spain - but I love them!

There is a café in Llodio called Quintana (just outside the centre, across the river and next to the train station for anybody planning a visit) that does the best butter rolls ever. They also do wonderful vanilla slices too, but that's something I choose when there are no butter rolls!

Coffee and a butter roll
From the outside the café really doesn't look special at all. But inside it's super retro - the orange decoration, the floor tiles, the tables and chairs, just everything about it.

Interior of Quintana Café
I'm not sure if it's deliberately decorated in this style or if it's just never been re-decorated since the 70's - but I think it's fab!

So no visit to this region would be complete for me without a delicious cup of coffee and a butter roll (it's probably a good thing that I don't go too often!!).

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Llodio, an historic town in the Basque Country

Llodio is an historic town in the north of Spain (it is also Hubby's hometown!). It belongs to the Basque Country and falls in the region of Alava, of which the capital is Vitoria, even though it is much closer to, and influenced largely by, the city of Bilbao. It is one of the oldest towns in the region and, although the historical origins are not clear, it is believed to have been founded during the 10th century. There are manuscripts written in Latin which are believed to refer to the town.

Bridge over the river Nervion
Church of San Pedro de Lamuza
The town today is a mixture of historical buidlings surrounded by modern apartment buildings, typical pedestrian shopping streets and busy industrial areas. The town is fairly large with around 20 000 inhabitants but there is still a feeling of community. It is difficult to walk down the street without recognising neighbours or friends. There is a strong sense of tradition in the town and the Basque language, Euskera, is spoken and taught in schools. Spanish is the main language but all the road signs and public notices are also written in Euskera.

The town hall
The train station
It's not a town that would appear on any tourist route but the people are friendly and welcoming and there are places to visit. If not, there is always the choice of sitting at a table on one of the many terraces, having a cool drink and watching the world go by!

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Traffic trouble in the country

Have you ever been in a traffic jam in the country? It's not quite what you would expect. There's not lane after lane of exhaust chugging vehicles snaking into the distance with the heat shimmering off their metallic bodies, no sounding of horns or angry drivers shaking their fists.

We recently found ourselves in the country and 'stuck' in traffic.

Traffic jam, country style

There's not really a lot that can be done once you find yourself sat behind cattle being moved from one field to another along the main road.

'What's the rush?'
We sat and waited patiently for them to advance and move to either side of the road. Fortunately it wasn't a busy road at all and nothing came in the opposite direction otherwise we could have been there quite a while waiting for them to decide in which direction they wanted to move.

A donkey in the next field had a good laugh at our expense though! It's obvious that in the country it's not how fast a journey can be made, but the quality of the grass along the way!

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Vega de Pas, a typical Cantabrian town

At the heart of the Pas Valley is a typical town of this region. With just over 300 inhabitants it isn't a buzzing metropolis but it is a sanctuary for the peace and calm of rural life.

The buildings are made from stone and are enchanting to see with their wooden balconies overlooking the street.

Typical architecture

The main source of income in this area is from agriculture although the town is less than an hour away from Santander, the capital of the region.

The band stand
At the centre of the town there is a band stand, although I'm not sure how often the band plays here! And no small town would be complete without a church.

Vega de Pas church
There are places to stay and to eat in this little town and also a number of bakeries selling the local specialities of sobaos (a type of sponge cake) and quesadas (a cross between a cheesecake and a flan), so there's no need to leave empty handed!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Pas Valley, Cantabria

In the heart of Cantabria is an area called Valle del Pas (Pas Valley). Towns of traditional stlye buildings, typical from this region, nestle between rolling green hills and rivers.

Valle del Pas
In summer the sun lights up the emerald green of the fields and trees.

Although winter in this region is harsh - snow posts mark the edges of the roads and just to the south of the valley is a ski station which is popular for those interested in winter sports.

The valley is worth visiting, not only for its breathtaking views, but for the rich cultural heritage - medieval churches, monasteries and palaces. Also in the town of Puente Viesgo there are some of the best examples of prehistoric cave paintings which are open to visitors.

The views are stunning and a refreshing change from the heat and dust, typical in summer, in the popular tourist regions of the south of Spain.

Hasta pronto!