Bilbao

Our arrival in Bilbao coincided with the 714th Anniversary of the signing of the city charter. This is the cause of great celebration for the town, and we enjoyed it!

Following the lead of Paris in 2002, Bilbao celebrates this anniversary with a noches blanches, with art, music, and other cultural and community events through the night. Monuments, historic buildings and bridges in the central city were all lighted, and special lighting displays were installed.

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The lights offered excellent opportunities for Selfies!

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We visited the Guggenheim museum at 10pm, listened to a New York pianist, watched a very funky New York dancer, looked around the gallery, and hung wishes on Yoko Ono’s “wishing” olive tree,

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attended a concert by a swing band,

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and a symphonic accordion orchestra (!) in the Cathedral cloisters. We stood in a queue for a while, and were amongst the last admitted before the gates were LOCKED behind us!

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The next morning we had a bit of a lie-in, but not much, as the annual charity rubber duck race was on. Thousands of ducks were bought by the public, and entered in the race. The proceeds went to the Walk On Project, to raise awareness of, and aid in researching unusual neurodegenerative disorders. The release of the ducks was heralded by singing, fireworks, and spraying water from fire trucks. image

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The city cleaners didn’t have a lie-in.

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Even without the spectacular lighting of Noches Blanches, Bilbao’s public buildings and spaces are stunning. The Guggenheim has my vote for the most beautiful building in Spain, possibly anywhere. The titanium sheets look like silk, gold in the sun, and silver in the cloud or grey.

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The Zubizuri, the white pedestrian bridge over the Nervion river is another very beautiful Santiago Calatrava design.

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Even the tourist office was beautiful!

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We explored some nearby villages in the Basque Country, Mundaka, a tiny fishing village with a surf beach with the world famous long left break, and Elantxobe, with the tiniest Plaza, so small the bus has to be turned around manually on a turntable, and both with huge sea walls to protect the harbour from the wild Atlantic waters.

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We used multiple forms of transport, including trams, Metro, funicular, gondola suspended under the 1893 Vizcaya suspension bridge, and, of course, skating.

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The park at the top of the funicular gave a view of the city, including the glorious Guggenheim.

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Other highlights were Phillippe Starck’s conversion of a disused wine warehouse into the Alhondiga, with exhibition spaces, cafés, shops with excellent designed products, and the lap pool that we viewed from below! And a wonderful retrospective exhibition of Henry Moore sculptures.

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Although we didn’t fall over wonderful food the way we had in Valencia, we still found some great cafés, restaurants and bars.

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