Here’s the second of this week’s reports from First Officer Blackbeard. It only covers his first day in Bilbao, so he’s got some catching up to do on his later excursions to Santiago de Compostela and the Douro River.
When I mentioned to people that I would be flying out to Bilbao to join the Spirit of Adventure, the standard response, “Oh, you must go to the Guggenheim.”
And they are completely right; it is a magnificent, sparkling, modernist masterpiece and no-one should take a trip to the city without paying a visit. But it’s not the only reason to visit Bilbao, of that I was certain, and I made it my mission to find alternative attractions.
I arrived too late for any of the scheduled excursions and I had to discover Bilbao for myself. Leaving my bag in the cabin, I postponed a tour of the ship and took the complimentary shuttle bus into the city. One man, one map, and six hours before I had to be back on board.
The streets were eerily quiet until I stumbled across Doña Casilda Iturrizar park full of people sunbathing, picnicking, walking their dogs and feeding the ducks – all the usual activities for a Spanish Sunday afternoon.
Then it was time to re-trace my steps to the Frank Gehry’s shining spectre, which sits on the bank of the Nervion River.
The main visiting exhibition was “I Want To Believe”, a retrospective of the works of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who works with fireworks and was heavily involved in last year’s Beijing Olympics.
But as I had caught it in New York last year I had more time to explore the museum’s permanent exhibitions. Fascinating they may be, but they are hardly representative of the local character I was keen to discover, so with only two more hours before the last shuttle bus, it was time to move on.
Wandering along the river bank, I headed for the real heart of this Basque city, the old town, or Casco Viejo – a collection of narrow, cobbled streets, full of all the people who were missing earlier. Most of them were drawn to the monumental square of Plaza Nueva, for the weekly flea market.
Just time for a quick coffee, and then it was back to the ship. A successful first day – and we haven’t even set sail yet!