Happy Halloween from Sunny Bilbao! Today was good. As hoped, things do look better after sleep and in the light of day. I spent most of today wandering around the Guggenheim Bilbao. It was about a ten minute meander from the hotel to the museum. I wandered along the river and realized how pedestrian-friendly this city is. The sidewalks are very wide, there are several plazas and pedestrian-only streets and bridges. It makes it very easy to get from place to place by foot, assuming you know the lay of the land. I haven’t found it easy to navigate Casco Viejo without a map. I think I did about three loops around the Cathedral of Santiago this evening while out exploring and trying to find my way back to the hotel.
But, the Guggenheim was cool. There was a new exhibit that opened yesterday called “Making Africa” that is focused on trying to show the “real” Africa: its art, technology, universities, fashion, etc. It was very good. There was also an exhibit on Alex Katz, who I’d heard of but never really knew much about. I really liked his landscapes and think maybe I’d like to get a print of one of his landscapes to hang in my apartment. But not here or now when I don’t think I can get it home safely. I’m just going to do my best to remember him. The last big exhibit is on its final day, I believe. It was on Jean-Michel Basquiat, the NYC artist. It was okay. I had definitely heard of him and it was cool to see some of his work. It’s less my style, though. I ate lunch at the museum and had my first taste of jamon. I had a jamon sandwich (jamon bocadillo) with cheese. It was very rich tasting cheese. Ham is not my favorite thing, but I knew before coming here that pig was most certainly on the menu for me for the entirety of the trip. I’m hoping to maybe discover a new way to make ham or pork that will totally change my views on it.
I spent nearly all morning and afternoon wandering the exhibit halls and also wandering around outside the museum. The museum is the Frank Geary masterwork and is known throughout the world for its architecture. There are so many angles to the building and no end of ways to capture it photographically. I spent a lot of time just wandering around the building taking pictures. There are several art pieces outside the building to see as well as those located inside. There are several parks around the museum and there was live music and people just spending their day outside in the sun on the lawns.
It was a really nice day for wandering. I’m hoping this weather will hold, but I believe I’m in for a cold and rainy walk through Galicia because November in Northern Spain is supposed to be quite wet. So, I’m trying to soak up the sun here in Bilbao! This is a really architecturally fascinating city. I know the Guggenheim is its showcase, but the apartment buildings and the train station and the churches are all really interesting to look at. If you have even a rudimentary interest in architecture, I hope you visit Bilbao sometime.
I walked back after the museum to see the train station (which has a really pretty stained glass window in the main terminal area) and get my ticket to Ponferrada (where I’m going to begin the Camino) and also see if there were compatible power sockets to charge my phone. No power sockets, unfortunately. And not having a debit card creates difficulties in using the ticket kiosks to buy train tickets. I found a very bored ticket agent, though, who was able to let me pay for a ticket with the credit card. So, I’m ready for my next leg of the journey. I still have another full day here in Bilbao. I was going to try to take the metro up to the NE part of the city to see the coast, but the machines don’t take credit cards. I’ve decided instead to just spend tomorrow wandering around a big hilltop park I’ve found on a map and reading and exploring a bit.
The no cash thing is a problem. I’ve decided that there is very little else to do but to ask upfront if I can pay with a credit card. If not, I move on. It looks like I will miss out on some things. For instance, I was unable to buy some ice cream with the credit card. It just doesn’t cost enough to make it worthwhile for the shops to accept credit cards, I guess. I did find a grocery store and stocked up on snacks that I can take on the Camino and also that I can eat for breakfast here. I bought a loaf of fresh bread and a knife and some toothpaste and shampoo and some tupperware containers to carry my snacks in my pack. Not bad. I’m discovering that I will need to buy things when I can, rather than on whims as I’m wandering down the street.
But tonight, after being turned away from the ice cream shop, I was wandering around Casco Viejo and I saw my first yellow waymarker for the Camino de Santiago! I was excited. It was in the middle of the road and has the words in English and in Basque.
I’m ready to start walking, I think. Seeing this reminded me why I’m here and why I wanted to come to Spain.