Thursday, May 12, 2016

Day 7: Elciego to Bilbao

Day 7: Elciego to Bilbao

POTD:  Thank You: Obrigado(a)
We're on the Camino!
Stat of the Day (SOTD): DA and SA climb over 10 miles on their fitbit, THB and DB coast along in their jet stream

And just a few k's short of completion

Weather: Pleasant all the way through the day and into the night

THB sleeps in again, fruit and cereal and toast for breakfast, and at 9am we pull away from the Gehry-designed hotel for the short ride to Bilbao.

THB and DB were here in 2008 on a day trip from San Sebastian, this time around we’ve reverse engineered the trip and are spending two nights in Bilbao and doing a day trip to San Sebastian tomorrow.
Gran Domine, Bilbao
We ease the BMW into a driveway at the Gran Domine, across the street from the Bilbao Guggenheim, often referred to as the Gehry. Will it live up to THB’s designation as the best form plus function building in the world? We check-in, leave the bags (it’s 10:30am, the rooms of course are not ready, which we expected).
Jeff Koons "Flower Dog" is undergoing semi-annual replanting

THB's fave view, from the bridge 

First, we go up the bridge to the west of the museum to get the best panoramic view and are not disappointed. In this converted shipyard area, the building looks just like a huge mystery ship unloading at the dock. Smoke creeps out from under the walkway running along the back, the pools next to the museum meld into the river (no longer polluted), and the scene is magical.

Entrance is on the city side down a long slowly cascading staircase. The Jeff Koons dog out front is undergoing replanting (done twice a year, THB vaguely remembers it was not fully in bloom last time either). 18E for two seniors, and we’re off to see the Richard Serra permanent installation.

Pics are only allowed in the Warhol exhibit, so THB is now admitting he broke the rules a bit:

As powerful as ever! Even the maquette room is a winner, with the 7 (or is it 8?) large pieces shown in miniature along with interviews and pictures of other Serra pieces (many of which THB and DB have seen, just not Tilted Arc, the piece that became a huge controversy in NY and made Serra very well known).

We take a break, going to bar to have drinks on the patio in the front of the building: coca light, coca, OJ, and cerveza, 15E. It’s lovely outside, with a slight breeze.

Back in for another few hours: Warhol, Louise Bourgeois, French 1910-45, several rooms with few paintings, and all the art looks terrific. Gehry magic, he retains the title of architect of the best form and function building in THB’s world.

Lunch in the museum, at the Bistro. We go for the mini-menu: main course + dessert + a drink. Okay, we’re totally immersed now, three of us have wine with lunch! Of course, it is mid-afternoon, practically cocktail hour. The food is very good, THB has a lamb “square” that is a version of carnitas, with French toast and ice cream for dessert (more like bread pudding), both excellent. Total per couple 50E. Similar experience to eating at Modern in NY Moma, a bit more casual, food a bit better.
The Bistro

THB is now drinking at lunch

Main courses:  


Back across the street to the Gran Domine to get into our rooms. There appears to be a slight misunderstanding: on our notes from our agent, we’re in “comfort” rooms with Guggenheim views. Our rooms look out the other way, over downtown Bilbao. The Gran Domine does not have comfort rooms with a view of the museum. Another note will be going back to our travel agent. And, ironically, there are huge flower arrangements in our room with notes of apology for the tardiness of a tapas tour guide in Madrid. THB suspects we may be seeing flowers in the room for the next 8 days (today we’re halfway through the part of the trip with SA and DA).

{Ed. Note: reporting one day ahead, THB woke up too early and ended up going to fitness center only to be rewarded with the Warriors-Trailblazers game on the TV – it wasn’t available in the room, only in the gym - so this is some sort of come-on for us Americans to work out more – and the bonus is W’s won to move on to next series in the NBA playoffs.}
Ana: our guide for walking the town and eating pintxos
A brief stay in the room to unpack and then we’re in the lobby meeting Ana, who is giving us a walking tour of the part of town near the Gehry and then a stroll over the Calatrava bridge (controversial: the city built an “extension” to make the bridge more accessible to pedestrians, Calatrava sued and won and the extension stayed!), then Old Town for pintxos (tapas here in Basque country) and drinks.

She was expecting one couple, another slight miscue on the itinerary. It is fine, basically she takes turns walking beside each of us (mostly DB and SA) giving insights to what we’re seeing and the Basque Autonomous Region (right term?): they pay taxes to the Region more than the nation, they locals make most of the decisions (including to underwrite the Gehry, an unbelievably good investment) and other civic regulations in the Region. Most everybody is bilingual except possibly in the smaller villages where Basque is the only language. Ana speaks Spanish, Basque, French, English and Russian (though there aren’t many Russian tourists yet).

By the same architect that designed Chiron HQ in E-ville

Eduardo Chillida

We’re taking a leisurely pace. We pass a building by the same architect who did the Chiron building that we see from our loft windows (and some day to be blocked by the Sherwin-Williams development now moving through city approvals), and you can see the similarities. There’s a Philippe Starck remodel with a swimming pool on the roof which you can see through the bottom from the ground floor. A large pair of buildings done by a Japanese architect who finished second to Gehry for the Guggenheim. All explained as we stay within a few blocks of the river.

An early break for drinks: no coffee slush, it’s not summer time yet. Instead, Fanta Lime for THB, and only DA goes for a G&T (his go to drink!), 16E.
Calatrava bridge with extension in foreground

Back along the river into Old Town, where in an inner courtyard (in the middle little ones are practicing their football skills), there are a series of bars to choose from for pintxos and drinks. This time we’re all drinking, THB and Ana have an austere white wine that is a cross between a Gruner Veltliner and a sauvignon blanc, DB has a vodka and lime juice martini-type drink that takes several iterations of discussion with two waiters. SA has a delicious (semi-sweet) huge bowl of sangria, DA has G&T, and we each get two cold pintxos. THB has a small tuna sandwich with spicy green pepper (just like he has at home) and an eggplant stack.

Even 5000 miles away, there's always something to remind an A's fan of the tough times 
More strolling of Old Town, it is charming. Very few tourists, all locals on their way home or to the bars for a quick snack and drink.

We end up at a second bar for hot pintxos this time. THB has a small dark beer, DB has wine, SA has coca, DA must have a G&T again, and Ana wine. THB has a skewer of pepper, olives, and anchovies marinated in olive oil and a combo chorizon/bacon plate with bread.

Phew…we’re done! A 50E tip for Ana, and a 8C taxi ride back to the hotel. We’re back before 11.

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