Friday, November 11, 2011

Bilbao and the Puente

Bilbao! Frank Gehry's architectural masterpiece, The Guggenheim Museum and El Puente de la Salve
I have decided to ride the wave of my freshly asserted motivation (see last entry) and tell you all about my trip to Bilbao over the puente two weeks ago. But first, let me answer the question that some of you may have: what in the world is a puente? Yes, I am a mind-reader ;) Actually... funny story...

A lovely girl named E.* who is also an auxiliar here as well as a palm-reading enthusiast told me that I have "the mystic's cross." In other words, I kind of am a mind-reader. Or at least, I'm intuitive enough to be... according to my right hand. But I digress...
This is puente in the traditional sense.
Puente means 'bridge.' This can be a literal bridge (as in build one and get over it :P), but it is also what Spaniards call a 4(or more)-day weekend. For example, the most recent puente was due to All Saints' Day (November 1st and a National Holiday in Spain). It fell on a Tuesday this year, so the schools and a lot of businesses go ahead and give everyone the Monday before off as well, thus they bridge the weekend to the holiday. Get it? This is a Spainism (yes, I made that up) that I wish the U.S. could adopt... but alas, they have manipulated our federal holidays (MLK, Memorial, Labor... do we get off for Columbus?) to all fall on Mondays.MLK's birthday's on the 15th? Let's put his day on the third Monday of the month. Columbus landed in America on the 12th of October? The second Monday of the month for him (regardless of the fact that the rest of the world celebrates it ON the day). Sheesh.

ANYway, BILBAO!!!!!! It was wonderful and beautiful and all other kinds of good -fuls... and definitely a successful first (of many) weekend trips to other parts of Spain. Bilbao is the biggest city and industrial hub of País Vasco (the Basque region). It is just under 2 hours north of Logroño by bus.
The map is in French, but it's the best I could find. Logroño and Bilbao are in red. [source]
We took a bus from Logroño at around 5:30, arrived by 7:30, hopped on the Bilbao Metro, the entrance to which really made me feel like I was going down a wormhole, and found our hostel, Bilbao Akelarre. Very nice, though we didn't spend much time there... even sleeping (more on that in a second).

Afterward, we made our way toward The Guggenheim Museum for an event they host every last Friday of the month called "Art After Dark" where they basically turn the
main atrium into a night club, with cash bars and a featured DJ. The 12€ ticket included not only entrance to the museum (the exhibits are still open for viewing) but also the cover of a very popular nightclub for post-museum partying called Fever... a very good deal since the cover to the nightclub alone is usually that much.

Anyway, it was quite the experience... and very refreshing. The music that permeated throughout the museum made it feel less stuffy and much less formal. I felt like I got to experience the art more. Case in point, sculptor Richard Serra's "The Matter of Time:"
"The Matter of Time" Richard Serra
Imagine running around the spirals toward the center as fast as you can to the beat of a DJ, or racing through the curvy, two-lane part closer to the top of the picture... We did it! I think because there were other things to see and do besides just look at the art (i.e. dancing, the DJ, the bar), there wasn't as much traffic in the actual exhibitions. I may have even done some pirouettes and tour jetes in the middle of the sculpture on the bottom left of the picture. Why? Why not? :)

The event ended at 1am, and we then headed to the nightclub Fever. That was an experience that you will just have to ask me about sometime. For now, I will just say that my roommate and I were able to get on stage with the DJ to dance not once but twice in front of hundreds of people. DEFinitely a memorable experience. Oh, and in true Spanish form, we didn't get back to the hostel until 7. :)

The next day was full of walking. Took a ride on the Funicular to go up the mountain that had great views of the city.
Our group in front of the view :)
Kiburi and I also tracked down hostel number 2 (Akelarre was booked for that night) as we would be staying through Sunday. It was called Ganbara Hostel and it was lovely. I highly recommend it!  The rest of our party departed for Logroño and K. and I went out in search of some authentic pintxos (a Basque word and concept)... very similar to tapas. On the way we stumbled upon an impromptu demonstration of a traditional Basque circle dance called Aurresku (I think). It was such good luck... and I ALMOST figured out the footwork :) (video to come, hopefully).

Anyway, the following day, our main goal was to get to the Museo de las Bellas Artes and stumble upon interesting things along the way... and it was one of the most successful 'stumbling upon' days that I've ever had! Here are the highlights:
La Catedral de Santiago... and a juxtapositon :)
What luck! We found the 3rd Annual Bilbao Tango Festival!
Beautiful Parque de Doña Casilda Iturrizar
LOVED the Antonio López Exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum
With my friend Kiburi Sunday evening before leaving; Guggenheim behind us
Basically, Bilbao was wonderful and I would love to visit again. It was definitely the kind of place where I recommend leaving ample time for walking around, because to be honest, aside from the museums, almost everything was unplanned and stumbled upon. Spontaneity is key... and perhaps a little bit of luck :)

What's the most random, wonderful thing that you've been lucky enough to stumble upon?


  1. Sounds like a wonderful adventure. Didn't you mention in a Facebook status that you got to dance with the Tango Festival organizer??

  2. Nice pictures. Puente, eh? I hope you continue to take advantage of it but I wonder if the Greeks, Italians and Portugese also fond of 4 day, government-funded weekends? Hmmmmmmm.

  3. Angela, it was amazing! And yes, I did! His name was Sebastian and he was from Bilbao, but spoke English with an Australian accent. I died. :)

    Dad, don't even get me started...