Bilbao, Spain: A big flower “puppy”, the crazy Guggenheim, a bustling food market

Today, we docked in Gextos, Spain, just a short drive away from Bilbao. We slept in a bit, then caught on of the free shuttles to the center of the city. It was a short walk from the drop-off point to the Guggenheim Bilbao museum. We had no intention of going in (not too fond of modern and contemporary art and not in a museum mood) but we did want to see this Frank Gehry monstrosity on the river.

Bilbao is a beautiful city, full of interesting architectural blends. In front of the Guggenheim is a huge sculpture called “Puppy” by the artist Jeff Koons. It is, indeed, a large dog covered in real flowers and it is delightful! We walked partway across the river on an elegant bridge next to the museum and took “money shot” pictures of the huge titanium clad building that has no straight edges.

The weather today was cool, with intermittent showers, which we mostly dodged. After taking our pictures of the post-modernist museum, we found the Green Tram station nearby and took this light rail train to the Old Town area. We got off at the Ribera stop, right across from the two-story food market. We wandered around the stalls, admiring the fresh fish, charcuterie and butcher displays, cheeses, and fresh fruits and vegetables. We stopped in for a refreshment at a tiny shop in the market and laughed when the radio in the place played “Stand by Your Man” and we sang along with the proprietor.

Entering the pedestrian zone of the Old Town, we made our way to the Santiago Cathedral. This dark, elegant church had some modern twists, including little LED candles (instead of real ones). Outside, we spied a covered table for a nearby bistro and took a seat. The young man who was our waiter could not have been ruder if he tried, but we did manage to get some Rioja and a platter of Izadbiel cheese (a wonderful local cheese with a good “bite” like a Manchego), some green olives and bread. We sat there relaxing and watching people dodging raindrops and walking their doggies, some wearing little raincoats and hats, for crying out loud.

Groups of passengers from Marina went stumbling past on walking tours, some eyeing folks at the sidewalk cafes with envy. We finished our repast and walked around Old Town a little bit more, then caught a taxi back to the center of the city where the shuttle bus would pick us up. There was a bit of a scrum at the waiting point because some people had been waiting quite a long time and this British woman from our ship was extremely rude to us, thinking we were jumping the line (we weren’t). Two buses showed up, fortunately, and we all piled on board to return to the ship.

We went through the security scanners at the port and another fellow passenger demonstrated his stunning mastery of inconsiderate behavior by walking around me and jamming his stuff right ahead of mine into the scanner (I had to suddenly step back to avoid colliding with him). El Jerko still had to wait for his wife after he did this because she was behind us; I muttered something about hoping he didn’t fall down and break his leg in his rush to get back to the ship. I guess there was a Kobe beef burger with his name on it at Waves on deck 12.

Anyway, enough about the rude people – there are always folks like that on every trip, but there are also very nice people and we have met quite a few of them so far.

We are sitting at the aforementioned Waves right now, after a low-key day in Bilbao. People seemed distracted in Bilbao, possibly due to the economic turmoil in Spain and also perhaps because of the upcoming referendum in October, where the Basque region votes on separation from Spain. A government building across from the shuttle bus stop had amazing security, with guards cradling automatic weapons. We wish them well – it is a beautiful place.

On to La Coruna…

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