A February 2002 trip
to Bilbao by billmoy
Quote: My latest destination is Bilbao, the most prominent city of the Basque region in northern Spain.
The government powers of Bilbao have bankrolled various projects that have transformed the city from an aging industrial city to a modern metropolis. Being a vital port city, most of these projects are located alongside the central lifeline which is the river. Not only is the Guggenheim alongside the river, but also the new convention center, concert hall, several new bridges, and a massive, still-under-construction complex of new office buildings and hotels. Bilbao has a Seattle-like reputation for frequent rain. However, when the sun comes out, the lush green mountains form a dramatic backdrop to central Bilbao.
If you are going elsewhere in Spain, read my sections on BARCELONA, SAN SEBASTIAN/DONOSTIA, VALENCIA and ANDORRA.
Hotel | "Barcelo Nervion"
My standard room on a high floor did have a partial view of the Guggenheim, although I had to stand on a chair to enhance that particular view. Locals hanging laundry outside their balconies contributed to the quaintness of my room with a view. My room was comfortable and fairly spacious, though the bars of soap are small. The windows can be opened to provide some natural ventilation. Each room features a stocked minibar and a digitally-controlled thermostat.
The hotel lobby lounge was a bustling center of activity, as there was a large television monitor which periodically showed major international soccer matches. The locals were especially giddy when their beloved Athletic Bilbao defeated the national powerhouse Real Madrid, so drinks flowed freely in the lobby bar. Even if you are not interested in what is on the tube, you can take a look at local newspapers and tourist brochures here. Note that the three elevators are tiny, so if you do not want to take the stairs you may have to wait a bit if there is a large group staying the hotel.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 8, 2002
Barcelo Nervion Hotel
PASEO CAMPO VOLANTIN 11
Bilbao, Spain 48007
34 94 4454700
The energy level picks up well after sunset, as the locals go cruising by the various bars in this area. This is a good area to just pick a place that strikes your fancy, order a txacoli (tart white wine) and pick some pintxos (bar snacks, like tapas) to munch on. I know, I cannot pronounce these Basque words either, but my Castillian Spanish seemed to work for me in a pinch in Bilbao.
This area of glorified alleyways is centrally located just east of the river.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 13, 2002
Since my hotel was on the north bank of the river, I crossed this bridge every day. You can access either end of the bridge by ramps or stairs, and the bridge is illuminated at night for dramatic effect. The paving of the bridge deck employs embedded strips of laminated glass, so walking across at nighttime is quite a sensory experience. The curved arc and the slender wires gives the bridge a graceful appearance, as if it were some sort of musical instrument. The bridge carries its 300 ton weight gracefully.
This is a nice spot to observe locals walking their dogs or carrying freshly baked baguettes home. The Zubi Zuri is basically a little old bridge elevated to a sculptural art form and acts as a foil to the nearby Guggenheim Museum.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 13, 2002
Zubi Zuri Footbridge
Visiting the Guggenheim is an exciting experience, inside and out. To enhance your experience, sign up for one of the free guided tours starting in the lobby. There is at least one tour in English per day. My tour guide, who looked like a Basque Sinead O'Connor, spoke English fluently and informatively. It was about an hour long, and our small group consisted of myself and four Germanic-speaking travellers.
The museum is closed on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly (this may be different during the peak summer months). There is a nice multi-level shop where you can check out a variety of books and fun museum-type souvenirs. The restaurant and cafe have earned a good reputation in the city, but I did not dine at either.
The special exhibition when I visited on a rainy day was a retrospective on the work of...Frank Gehry! I had already seen this exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York, but I wanted to revisit it within the spatial context of Gehry's greatest cration. This building is worthy of sporting the Guggenheim Museum franchise begun by Frank Lloyd Wright's superlative spiral in New York City.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 8, 2002
Abandoibarra Et. 2