SPAIN – More friends, food, wine, ales & fun

Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
Trip End Jan 10, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Basque,
Monday, September 3, 2012

We had only travelled to Barcelona in Spain before so we were keen to see more of the country and so we spent five days in the north of Spain, Bilbao (Spain's tenth largest town) and San Sebastian – Basque country.

We met KT and Karl, our Brisbane travel buddies in our hotel and hit the streets straight up in search for some lunch. This was the start of our carb filled diet (we are in Norway now and it continues).

The big draw card for us in Bilbao was the Guggenheim museum and our hotel was strategically right opposite the incredible structure that it is! We took sooo many photos it was hard to choose which ones to add to this blog post.  Being so close meant that we were fortunate enough to see the museum in all different lights and angles. 

The museum has only been around since October 1997 so it is VERY modern compared to most of what we have seen around and was designed by the same architect, Frank Gehry, who has designed the new building being built at Leigh and cousin Mark's uni. Actually, Leighs OLD uni… he is technically finished and his masters certificate will be ready to pick up any day now. I don't think we'll pop back to pick it up... luckily they will hold it for a year.

The museum was built at a cost of US$89 million and in three years of opening had already paid for itself with the help of the four million tourists that visited the museum.  Our visit inside the museum was the longest time we had ever spent in a museum. It was such a cool building and there were some interesting installations so it was hard to not want to check everything out.

Walking around is what we love to do most and we had a very nice morning strolling around the old town in Bilbao. We were surprised by how clean and tidy the town seemed compared to Barcelona, which we felt back in 2005 seemed so dirty by comparison.

San Sebastian was beautiful and unlike Bilbao sits on a nice biege coloured beach, with real sand. We had discovered our private apartment booking in Nice had fallen through so we had to spend a good chunk of our time here looking for alternatives but it was quite warm so we didn’t mind having siesta with the rest of the country.

Despite what some might think a siesta is (Auntie Sharon) it is "a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm".

This beautiful city will be the European Capital of Culture in 2016 and we already saw advertising about it so it must be commercially important for the city.

Our taxi driver who delivered us to our hotel after an hours bus drive through some lovely mountain ranges informed us there was a boat festival on. We still had no idea what kind of a festival it was but we hit the streets shortly after arriving so we could see the beachside, which looked amazing from the taxi.

The photo of the beach tells a lot more effective description than I could ever articulate and we were mesmerized! There were people and boats everywhere, helicopters buzzing by and we even saw some dragon boat racing going on. We were on a mission though, find lunch venue that also serves plain rice for KT who was not well and back sleeping at our hotel. We stumbled across what looked like a Japanese restaurant but like many of the Asian restaurants here they are called "oriental" and usually serve Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese all together.

It was a successful mission though and we secured KT’s next two meals which supported her recovery so we could play again. Leigh, Karl and I had a lovely oriental lunch where they were televising the festival via helicopter, which just happened to be the dragon boat racing we had not long before seen in action by the beachside. Festival mystery solved.

The food in these parts we found quite simple, nice but simple. The travel information we read said “San Sebastian is not a place for vegetarians or vegans" but I was okay, I am used to trying to fudge the menu and happy eating veges. The tapas called pintxos in these parts look lovely but there were seldom any vege options and they sit out on the benches, out in the open and for how long (?). I didn’t feel we were missing out by not having too many.

White asparagus was a staple for me much to the amusement of my fellow diners as I dove into a plate filled with them and only them for my lunch. They were pretty dam good too. It sure helped justify all the ice-cream we'd been eating.

Leigh and Karl were happy when we stumbled across a Irish bar for dinner one night and partook in some German sausages (?)… Leigh even ate a half a meter of one. I am sure the mashed potatoes will aid his body in digesting it, won't it? We also ate some patas bravas covered in mayo, a common tapa we see in Australia… I’m not sure what palate they were appealing to but we were pretty happy!
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