Rest Day 1: Bilbao

Perhaps Thoreau put it best when he wrote, “Things do not change; we change.” Today was both a day of rest and a walk down memory lane.


     (Plaza Moyua, heart of Bilbao)


In case you did not know, many years ago, Mikey was an exchange student to the Basque Country and lived right outside of Bilbao. Like most high school kids back then, he spent his weekdays in the village while weekends were enjoyed in Bilbao. In fact, if Mikey wasn’t traveling elsewhere in Spain, you could always find him on an early subway into the city for a day of museums, shopping, or just people watching.


The Guggenheim-Bilbao had just been completed around the time Mikey moved to Spain. Like most new, large-scale modern art buildings, there was much controversy surrounding Gehry’s architectural masterpiece at that time. Moreover, there were still abandoned shipyards, defunct rail works, and a scrapyard just off to the side of the new edifice. Like many back then, Mikey wondered whether the Guggenheim would acclimate to Bilbao or the city to its new addition.


Almost a score later, Bilbao has transformed the waterfront into a pedestrian oasis. Tourists, joggers, and commuters alike all make use of the widened walkways.


As for the location where the rail yards and industrial remains once were, there now climbs a moderate high rise and ample new condo buildings.


Guggenheim-Bilbao’s architect, Frank Gehry, always stresses the importance of windows and reflection in his work. While the museum looks outward to the city, it opens itself to the community’s inspection.


Yeah, Mikey had to manipulate a selfie here. (Look for this one on Tinder! LOL)

Artist Jeff Koons created “Puppy” in 1992 for the museum’s entrance. Although initially meant to be a temporary exhibition, Puppy (endearingly pronounced “Poopy” in Castilian Spanish) has remained as the guardian the museum to this day.


Even before Koons was a household name, Mikey loved his work to the extent that one of his going away presents from his Spanish host family was a Puppy miniture done in dried flowers!


Of course, the Guggenheim has many other works of modern art to exhibit like this large instillation by Richard Serra. While Mikey’s local Los Angeles County Museum of Art has some pieces by this artist, the current exhibition in Bilbao is quite large and emotionally moving.


Again, Koons makes his mark on the Guggenheim! (Oh, and if you didn’t know – having spent 6 years a clown, Mikey really likes this piece!)

Carrying on, the “Teatro Arriaga” or Bilbao’s Opera house still stands unchanged along the riverbank. It was here that Mikey bought his first ticket to the Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake. At 16, he felt so refined and cultured – not to mention thrifty! You see, he bought a discount ticket from the box office labeled “obscured.”


Not knowing what this meant, Mikey dressed up and went stag to the ballet. It was only upon settling into his discount seat that he saw the column directly in front of him which obscured the view entirely and prevented him from seeing the stage. Still, the music was wonderful and he learned that you really do get what you pay for!


The downtown Fish Market of Bilbao has definitely been made over. New paint and header signs are pretty rad.
Not only are the meats in presentable order with actual prices posted…


the seafood is equally displayed with greater efficiency.


Yes, there are still pretty scary offerings…
but, there’s always someone to walk a shopper through the more questionable aspects of purchasing fish for “la cena.”


And don’t think that the fish monger has remained a predominantly male job. A quick trip to the market reveals how strong a role the Basque women play in the fishing industry.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the market was the pintxo and wine tasting area. To be honest, no one would ever have eaten food at the market back in the 1990’s! Still, there now exists a thriving ready to eat food market in the renovated market
As such, Mikey had to try a sardine pintxo and octopus salad with mussels and caviar.


Following such indulgences, Mikey walked to the cathedral to get his pilgrim credential stamped. The cathedral was nice, but very small and unwelcoming.


Just a few blocks from the cathedral is the Plaza Nueva. There is rarely a shortage of pintxos here as all of the bars and restaurants vie for the best offerings on the plaza.


In particular, Mikey likes a certain pintxo bar where he has always found good eats.


The Bilbaíno transit system seems to have remained largely unchanged. Mikey was able to transit throughout the city with ease and even found a few moments of deja vu.


Still, he once again found the one micro brewer in town and tried these cute 1oz pours before deciding on his drink.


 And the place was great! Names alone were fun.
OK, so that was Bilbao. Check in next time and we’ll do something else.


If you’re new to this blog, know that Mikey is less sentimental the further he gets away from Basque Country. “Agur!” or goodbye to all yous/y’all.

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