English people love Spain. Mainly the really hot parts of the South – Andalusia, and the Canary Islands (which are actually closer to southern Morocco) which stay warm through the winter months. I love Spain too, but there are so many other magnificent places to explore. Last weekend we went to the Basque Country, and stayed in Bilbao. This semi-autonomous region has its own language and culture and is one of the richest and most industrialised parts of Spain.
The regeneration of the city and the area owns a great deal to the enormous infrastructure investments that have taken place over the recent period. The most iconic, and transcendent art work, is the Guggenheim. I cannot quite express what an impact this tremendous building has – similar to the Sydney opera house, or perhaps London’s St Paul’s cathedral. It is innovative, enormous, full of hope and energy, and a landmark that can be seen from all over the city. It sits on, and incorporates the river. I absolutely loved the materials it was made from – shiny titanium, stone and glass. There is barely a straight line in the place. The glass panels that form windows and wrap around the lift are layered over each other like fish scales. If you get a chance to go and see it I really urge you to do so. We found a flight and two nights in a good hotel was achievable for less that £300 a person.
At the moment the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition drew us there, but I know that other amazing exhibitions will follow. I would also recommend the Fine Art Museum. The wide selection of Spanish and Basque art here gives a good insight into the culture and history of the country.
Here are a few other things you can enjoy.
Men in Basque Berets (similar to French ones, but bigger)
We also enjoyed a trip on the Funicular railway that turned out to be free of charge – either because it was Sunday, or it was its 100th anniversary. At the top you can see the Guggenheim, and look through a steel fingerprint. As a region that owes its wealth to steel there are many steel monuments – a very interesting one by Richard Serra inside the Fish gallery at the Guggenheim.
Also you can buy fabric. I will cover this in a future post. I loved the hot weather (up to 33 degrees, in October!), the very friendly and chatty locals and the fact that it is only 90 minutes from London. Go if you can.