|A sideview of the Guggenheim Museum|
To be honest, I didn't really "get" much of what is in the Guggenheim. I have never been an art aficionado, especially not when it comes to modern art, and while I did enjoy the museum and am glad that I was able to experience it, I did not walk away with my mouth open or my heart palpitating. My friend and I also visited a fine arts museum in Bilbao. I am not sure what classifies art as "fine," but the museum was nice enough, exhibiting some good old paintings and some nice newer stuff, as well. The featured temporary exhibit highlighting the works of Daniel Tamayo was good but weird. His paintings seemed to be like a series of incoherent LSD trips, strung together by the leftovers of his thoughts like a collage of confusing nightmares that were painted in his sleep.
While my friend and I were unable to really "eat" Bilbao like one should when he or she visits the gastronomical hot spot, we did take advantage of a new food culture, one that is different from our usual Madrid. In Madrid, when one orders a drink of any kind (water, beer, wine, coke, etc.), the waiter also provides a small plate of food. Sometimes this plate of food is just some peanuts or potato chips, and sometimes it is a plate full of croquetas, ensaladilla rusa, or jamon, all very traditional and very delicious Spanish tapas. This small plate of food comes with the drink that was previously ordered and is not charged to the customer's bill. In Bilbao, the system is a bit different. When my friend and I walked into the bars of Bilbao (FYI - every food establishment in Spain is a bar), we were surprised to see plates of food, mostly tostas topped with various goodies, covering the glass bar top. Even more surprising was that no one was being handed a tapa with his or her drink.
|The pintxos selection at one of the bars that we visited|
Aside from eating and museum going, my friend and I did a lot of walking around the city, new and old, touring the streets of the growing metro center and the centuries-old "Siete Calles" known collectively as the Casco Viejo. We took a funicular to the top of a hill to get a panoramic view of the city, walked across beautiful pedestrian bridges spanning the Nervión River, got lost in the noticeably residential area of northern Bilbao, and saw two movies in Spanish as our nighttime activities.
One of the things that I most learned from my trip to Bilbao is how much I am going to miss my friend when I leave Madrid. If things pan out the way that I am hoping, I will be leaving here in about 2-3 months to restart my life in the States, and that means leaving (at least in the physical sense) my Spanish life behind. I have made several friends and will undoubtedly miss them all, but the friend with whom I shared my Bilbao experience will be the one whom I miss the most. She has become my best friend here and one of the best friends that I have ever had. Perhaps that is a strange development in the course of only eight months of knowing one another, but somehow that is how it has come to be. She is from England and I, America. She plans on going back to London at the end of this year, and I will probably be making my way across the pond to my homeland, as well. We met through mutual friends, and while in Madrid, we have spent an innumerable amount of time traipsing about the city, talking about our cultural differences, jabbering about Spanish life, and laying out our plans for the future. Most of our conversations consist of making fun of our respective accents or just making fun of each other, period. We spend a lot our time together trying to workout our existences here in Spain, often fighting with and dealing with the same quirks and idiosyncrasies that make life abroad both exciting and a constant challenge. We have connected in a way that seems to make little sense to even those with whom we are mutual friends, but somehow, it works. It makes me quite sad to think that in a few months we will not have readily available opportunities to spend time together anymore, but with effort, we will be able to keep in touch using the plethora of technologies that we all now have at our disposal. One of the highlights of my time here in Spain is having gotten to know her as well as I have, and I am glad that we got at least one chance to go off and explore a corner of Spain together.
|A bird's eye view of Bilbao from atop a northeastern hill|
Bilbao was a nice place for a weekend trip. In all honesty, it is not the most exciting place, and I would not recommend it as a top five "must see" in Spain, but its beautiful scenery and good food, along with the Guggenheim Museum, are reason enough to make the journey if given the chance. You can never go wrong with delicious food, impressive culture, and good company, and my weekend in Bilbao didn't lack any of these essentials.
Click here to see my pictures from Bilbao.