Guggenheim Bilbao

Basque Country Report

After the conference finished, we flew west to Bilbao. Our flight was super-early which sucked, but we took a taxi through the suburbs of Vienna while the sun rose which was pretty spectacular.

After arriving, we went for a walk along the river while we waited for the apartment to be readied and the rest of our friends to arrive (they had spent a couple of days in Madrid on the way…). It was as hot in Bilbao as it had been in Vienna, but we were looking forward to some seabreezes later.

After our friends arrived, we walked across the city to see the Guggenheim, but planned to visit the following day. We had a few drinks and were joined by Roger, a local friend from my Ironhack course. It was so nice to see him and have a catch-up!

Puppy, Jeff Koons
Puppy, Jeff Koons

Later we had dinner in the old town and I realised when we arrived home around midnight that my wallet had been pinched somewhere along the way. Luckily, I didn’t have much cash in there, but it was a huge hassle to cancel all the credit cards. I knew that to replace my French healthcare card and residence card I would need to register the theft with the police, so very early the next morning, Tom accompanied me to the municipal police station. I spoke with a very helpful policeman who directed me to his colleague and between the four of us and a little GoogleTranslate, we filled out an accurate report and I got a copy in Spanish and French.

After getting back to the flat, we rounded up the others and headed over to the Guggenheim Museum just as the day was really starting to heat up. It was lovely and cool inside and the museum collection was incredible. The two featured exhibitions were Jeff Koons and Basquiat.

The Basquiat collection was a really interesting and vivid look into the life and experiences of the artist. I had not know much about him before, but I left full of respect for his talents and innovative artistic techniques.

Jeff Koons is a very different type of artist, and viewing his creations after Basquiat’s was a really interesting transition and change. They spoke in broader terms and with what I saw as less ambiguity and subtlety.

The gallery itself is obviously also a work of architectural art, and we really enjoyed wandering around the galleries; into and out of the little nooks and crannies; inside and outside the building. It’s a visceral experience, I would say.

In the afternoon, we took a bus to San Sebastián, north along the coast towards the French border. Previously, we had hoped to hire a car and stay in a remote Casa Rural type place, but our international driving permits did not arrive in time, so in the end we settled on San Sebastián as our destination.

A very tourist-y little town, it nevertheless has many charms, including decent (although extremely busy) beaches, a lovely old quarter and hundreds of pintxos bars. After checking in after arriving in the late afternoon, we hit the beach for an hour or so, then spent the next few days alternating between scaling the local peaks (Monte Urgull, Monte Igueldo), eating pintxos, swimming and drinking sangria/vermouth. A very pleasant way to spend a few days with great pals.

Santa Klara and Igueldo from Urgull
Santa Klara and Igueldo from Urgull

We also visited the Museo de San Telmo where we saw a very interesting exhibition on the Italian film director, poet, writer and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini. The exhibition takes you on a journey through his life after arriving in Rome with his mother in the 1940s and follows his successes as a writer, poet and director up until the mystery of his murder in late 1975.

At the end of our stay, our friends all headed back to Madrid before travelling home to their various cities (Leipzig, Sydney) while Tom and I travelled further north to Biarritz in France from where we flew back to Montpellier.

You can all the photos from Vienna and the Basque Country here on flickr.

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