MUNDAKA: Our drive from Santillana del Mar to Bilboa took us past some stunning country side and we dropped into Mundaka on the coast to check out this famous surfing break. Of course being summer it was not really working but enough to see what it would do when it unloads on the sand bank across the Rivermouth. We stopped for lunch at a cafe beside the marina and wandered around the lovely old town before hitting the road to Bilbao.
BILBAO: Through all the fun and games of winding mountain roads to Mundaka and then back again to the crazy highways that run all around Bilbao in crazy patterns we arrived without drama. After checking into our apartment in Euskadi Plaza we took a walk down to the Guggenheim to check out what it was like and WOW, beyond my wildest dreams. Not only is design and style but in scale as well, its huge, organic and unlike anything ever created in my view. You are greeted by Jeff Koons Puppy covered in blooming flowers as well as Joana Vasconcelos Pop Galo chicken in the plaza which is reminiscent of a Joan Miro sculpture. We have booked a full day at the museum the next day so will explore everything in one section.
We kept wandering and explored the new town of Bilbao which is what was developed from the 18th century onwards when it became the booming commercial and maritime centre of the Basque region. Combing stunning Art Nouveau mansions, apartment blocks, retail and government buildings with thoughful contemporary structures the streets are alive with people and fascination at every turn. We headed through the Moyua Plaza to the amazing glass edifice of the Eusko Jaurlaritza Gobierno Vasco with its angular flowing forms is mind boggling and can be studied for hours and then there is the amazing transformation of the Azkuna Zentroa Centre inside an old Mercado. The soaring interiors and its solid decorated foundation columns are a fascinating combination. We had a drink on the rooftop bar with all the fashionistas of Bilbao to take in the trendy euro vibe of the place.
Our first meal was had at Ura Japanese restaurant which was really nice and very tasty in a nice quiet atmosphere for a change. The atmosphere of the city was really secure and friendly from what we saw so we explored the streets on our way back to the apartment at a very leisurely pace to enjoy all the sights as we went.
We got tickets for the hop-on-hop-off bus and explored the greater city in more detail especially along the river Estuary of Bilbao with its famous bridges including the Arcos Rojos Escutor with its red arch and the pedestrian Zubizuri curved arch bridge. We enjoyed one off the best meals of our lives at the Origen restaurant with its super creative cuisine , stunning food presentation and amazing interior design. A real highlight for us and just 5 mins from our apartment. It adjoins a fabulous chunk of greenery called the Casilda Iturrizar Parkea which is Bilbao’s green lungs which it desperately needs as there is not much apart from the massive amount of green mountains surrounding the city.
From every angle the golden, zinc clad Frank Gehry designed museum is a sight to behold. like a piece of paper scrunched up and then squashed to create its sharp lines this extraordinary structure takes hours of studying to fully appreciate and we are so glad we had a few days here to appreciate both inside and out. With so many photos taken cutting it down for this post was hard but the impression is clear, it is simply one of the greatest buildings man has ever created. The brown river evokes the same tones as the cladding on the river side and and the reflection of it off the glass city buildings turns it more into a silver look as the light changes the colour every minute.
Inside we were fortunate to be there at the time of the massive Joana Vasconcelos exhibition and “Egeria” installation. The Norse female mythology is depicted in a snaking fabric piece that winds around the whole interior and must be over 100m in length and suspended from the ceiling as it is visible at every turn. It is simply extraordinary in every way and has never been seen before. There are of course the permanent Jeff Coons Tulips, the spider and the ball column but this piece takes your breath away
The inside is huge and on multiple levels with intimate exhibitions and then huge permanent ones such as the insanely amazing Richard Serra “The matter of time” constructed from between1994 to 2005. the pliable curving twisting nature of steel is both visible from above and from ground level where the interactive nature of the maze style is captivating to say the least.
The Joana Vasconcelos exhibition features her astounding “Independent heart” made from red plastic forks, spoons and knives, the “bride” chandelier made from tampons and stainless steel cables, the “i’ll be your mirror” venitian mask, the “Marilyn” stiletto made from saucepans and lids, the “Call Centre” gun shaped piece made from old bakelite telephones.
OLD TOWN BILBAO:
The hop on-hop off bus took us to the old Medieval town centre where we enjoyed lunch at the 1900’s Mercado de la Ribera now both a market and restaurant food hall. Its was so cool and brilliantly set up on the riverside. we wandered around the old narrow streets and visited the astounding 14th century Bilbao Cathedral with its stunning stained glass, stonework and cloisters
The city was a real surprise and its architecture was exciting and yet also respected its origins with plenty of preservation happening. The Airport was brilliant with its nickname “the dove” highlighting the winged shape of the concrete structure.