Matt week 12
“See The Guggenheim”
After a somewhat lazy start to the day we gathered together our clothes, towels and bed linen into our large rucksack and headed off in search of the launderette. It was only five minutes away and thankfully had nice new modern machines that could do all 20kg of our washing and drying in less than an hour.
Whilst Ellie waited with the clothes I headed off to find a local supermarket for some bits for the rest of the day as we had invited Brian and Wendy to ours for a few drinks that evening. Ever since being in mainland Europe I have seen the price of food and drink steadily decrease but now in Spain the prices were lower still which was certainly helping our budget go further. At the supermarket the cost of six bottles of beer was around 2 Euros and a good bottle of wine could be had for less than that. Dried meats and fruit and veg were also notably less expensive than they had been in France. So I loaded a basket, paid and headed back to Els with the now almost completed washing.
Having guests around for the first time to Heidi and having been made so comfortable the previous evening with Brian and Wendy we spent a little time in the afternoon making sure Heidi was clean and tidy, helped by a vintage style throw that we had picked up in St. Emilion being placed on the slightly worn looking sofa.
That evening Brian and Wendy came over and we enjoyed another evening of storytelling and a few drinks. At the end of the evening we said our goodbyes as the next day we were off in different directions but we all agreed to keep in touch and that we would try and meet up later in the year down towards the Algarve.
In San Sebastian there is a large sculpture of Saint Sebastian at the top of a large hill at the very tip of the cove which overlooks the whole town. So on the Tuesday we had decided before we left we should take a walk to the top and take in the great views. The weather was again lovely so we headed off.
Although the walk was not too steep it had been a good few weeks at least since we had done anything so strenuous. However it was worth it at the top as the views in front of us were not just of the town but stretched out to the mountains behind giving quite a dramatic effect.
Wary that our parking ticket expired around lunch time we made good time on the way back down and on the walk around the cove back to the aire for the final time. As we were packing up to leave We had a knock on the door from another Matt who was travelling with his partner Jo in their motorhome which was now parked up next to ours. They were from Lougborough and doing a fairly similar thing to us but they had left 5 months before us. They were very lovely and invited us around to see their newer shinier motorhome, which was great and having been on the road for that much longer than us and been to places that we were planning to go to they were happy to give us some useful and practical advice.
Unfortunately our ticket had already expired so we weren’t able to stay and chat longer but they were heading in the same direction as us and at roughly the same speed so we exchanged numbers and agreed to try and meet up somewhere along the road.
We were heading off to Bilbao, but being a bit latter in the day than we had planned and having heard that the aire in Bilbao may be closed when we got there we decided to stop off at an aire about 30km away in Bormeo. This aire was in a corner of a public car park in the middle of a high rise housing estate and all together quite intimidating. Knowing we would be heading to Bilbao early the next morning and not being able to find anywhere else on the way we locked up for the night and settled in with a DVD.
The journey to Bilbao the next day although not far was a slightly fraught affair with windy mountain roads and cars insisting on overtaking at every given opportunity. It wasn’t helped when we finally arrived near the aire for the sat nav to have a melt down and send us the wrong way on two separate occasions. However when we did arrive it was worth the stress as the view from high on top of the hill looking overlooking the city was spectacular.
We got settled in and then got the bus into town, which almost went a bit wrong as we had initially tried to get on the bus in the wrong direction and would of ended up 20km in the wrong direction in the middle of nowhere! When we arrived in the town we just walked around and took in some of what the city was about. It was too late to start heading to museums and galleries so we walked around the old part of town where there was a myriad of small lanes holding bars, cafes and small shops, we also stumbled across the fish market but being late in the day only a few stalls inside were still open. Feeling hungry we popped into a supermarket and bought some bits for diner that evening and walked back to the bus stop to catch the ride back.
The next morning I was keen to get back down into the town but Els was feeling a bit under the weather so decided to spend the day back at Heidi. I got the bus (in the right direction) and headed down into town. My plan was to visit the Guggenheim, find somewhere for lunch and generally mosey around. The walk to the Guggenheim from where the bus drops you off takes about a half an hour walking through the town and along the river and as you approach it the striking architecture of the building really jumps out. The first part you see is a curved almost cartoon styled tower clad in stone that engulfs one of the towns highest bridges and as you pass under it the almost armadillo titanium shell of the main building appears reflecting the sun in all directions.
As you get closer there are a few art installations and a reflaction pool outside including a giant spider (Louise Bourgeois) and a tower of spherical baubles (Anish Kapoor) reflecting all around them. The entrance is also impressive as you walk down a series of maybe fifty steps all made of the same sandy coloured stone giving the impression of a large slope rather than steps. On entering the building I got my ticket and audio guide and set about seeing what was inside. The audio guide starts in the lobby and gives a good account of the architect (Frank Gehry) and lots of information about various design elements of the structure. The inside again uses the same sandy coloured stone, titanium cladding as well as glass and steel. In the whole building there is not a single straight line which leads to the building having an amazing organic quality.
Unfortunately on the day I was there the top floor which houses their modern art collection was closed for updating so only the ground floor with its permanent displays and the first floor which had been given over to a exploration of African modern art were open, but none the less both of these sections were fantastic and helped me while away many hours. My favourite thing I saw was probably the permanent display called “A matter of time” by Richard Serra a Calafornian post-minimalist sculptor who had installed in “The Great Hall” a series of 5cm thick enormous steel plates that had been softly bent and twisted to create formations that gave the viewer a strange sense of motion making even managing to make me feel strangely dizzy in places.
Having walked around for several hours I decided to head for lunch. The day before when we had been wandering around I had seen what looked like some impressive baguettes filled withfreshly cut Iberico ham that I was planning to seek out but in the end stumbled across a large partially covered square surrounded by cafes and bars so I took a seat at a table in the full sunshine ordered a beer and decided what to eat. In the end I went for a selection of Tapas including a scallop with potato and curried breadcrub a beef rib with seaweed and some grilled txistorra which is a local chorizo and it was all exceptionally pleasant!
For the rest of my day I walked around the city going through the parks, along the river and along and up a plethora of streets. I had had a great day but wanting to get back and make sure Els was ok I grabbed some food from the supermarket and got the bus back. On my return I was given a pleasant surprise not only was Els feeling better but she had spent most of the day giving Heidi a spring clean so everything was looking all spangley and shiny.
The next day having told Ellie how good I thought the Guggenheim had been it was Els turn to get the bus and head for the town, I had a couple of bits on Heidi that I wanted to look at including an intermittent problem with the flush on the toilet and making sure all the lights were working as we were pretty sure one of the headlights was not coming on. When my jobs were done along with a major sort out of which tools I was going to keep in which box I looked into some places we could go along the next stretch of our adventure.
Whilst at Bilbao we had spoken to Matt and Jo and they had told us about a place you could park up at the edge of a wildlife park overlooking an elephant enclosure which was over towards Santander which they were going to be staying at for a few days. So it sounding pretty cool and always being up for some elephants we headed over.
On our arrival it was just getting dark, Ellie had taken instructions from Matt as to where they were parked. We got to where the pay barriers were and turned right just before them and followed the road around but to no avail the road just went into a small cluster of houses and the roads were pretty narrow and it didnt have the feeling that the residents would be happy about us driving there let alone staying the night. After several phone calls and Jo doing a lap of the area trying to find us the sudden dawning upon us all that there was more than one entrance came over us. They were quite literally at the other side of the park a 7km drive away!
On our way to the Cabarceno Park we had stopped off for supplies so were happy when we had landed to invite Matt and Jo around to ours for drinks and some food. We had fajitas and beer and wine and had a great evening telling stories of our adventures. We also chatted about our budgets and had a stark reality check that although we thought we were doing pretty well we had a long way to go on our economizing to get anywhere near to their level. They were drinking wine from tetra-pack 1 litre containers and although I’m sure it wasn’t too bad its one level of money saving I’m not sure I will ever want to try!
The next morning Matt and Jo were heading off so we said our goodbyes and went off exploring the area and taking far too many photos of the elephants. It was so nice and peaceful there we decided to stay another night, meaning we would start our next week leaving the park and “Heading West”.