Photo Friday: Bilbao, Spain

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Bilbao, as a whole, is such an architectural marvel, and yet I spent 90 percent of my time there bed-ridden with a terrible case of the Spanish flu (which is so much worse than the American flu, lest you be curious). At least I was there for work and, thus, staying in five-star hotels the whole time, and hey if you have to be on your death bed, might as well do so in style, am I right? Plus, I had quite the interesting view from my hotel room:

That’s the Guggenheim Bilbao, of course, and even though I wasn’t well enough to venture inside it until my sixth day in town, I could still appreciate the aesthetic from afar.

It was the spring of 2006, I had been in Spain for five weeks working on my first guidebook for Frommer’s, and Bilbao was my final stop. SVV, fresh off an oil research trip to Azerbaijan, met me there, and I recovered in just enough time to spend two sunny days in the city with him before we hopped a train to Portugal for two weeks. Good thing, too, as I got to see him eat a snail. Yes, a LIVE one. Some local news station stopped us stupid unsuspecting tourists and asked if we’d participate in an on-camera challenge. I manned up…and volunteered SVV for the challenge. He accepted (an attempt to impress me, no doubt).

Because my debilitating flu had kept me from seeing much of the city and because SVV was only there but two days, we had a lot of ground to cover in 36 hours. Bilbao is a lot of things: Compact and easy to get around it is not.

That night, though, we got to go to the top of the Parliament building for the six-course degustation menu on Newsweek’s dime. That’s before I was doing so much restaurant reviewing, and such a meal was a true novelty. Afterward, we took a walk on the famed harp-like Campo Volantin Footbridge, draped over the Nervión River.

And then we turned around and walked its length again, snapping blurry pictures of the patterns as we strolled.

Bilbao was not the prettiest Spanish city I visited, not by a long shot. In fact, I’d say it was my least favorite of all. (That’s not to say I didn’t like it, just that Spain is fantastic and there are so many other places I liked much more.) But the riverside all lit up at night—I’d say it held its own.

Accommodation in Bilbao

*****

*The past month’s worth of Photo Fridays embarrassingly have been taken with low-quality point-and-shoots SVV and I used while living in Europe, as I was too lazy to tote my SLR around the continent in 2005 and 2006. (For shame.) So excuse the image quality, if you please. I would never endorse either Olympus or Nikon models we used—especially these days—but if you’re in the market for a P&S, I’d recommend the Canon G11 for a more advanced pocket camera or a Canon Powershot 780 for a more basic and compact model.

**For more Photo Friday fun, visit Delicious Baby.

COMMENTS
  • March 4, 2011

    Been in Spain heaps, but never to Bilbao. But that region of Spain does seem quite mysterious and exciting – what with the rough Atlantic waves and winds of the Biscay, heart of the Basque country, the slight threat of terrorist activity… 🙂

    Some cool photos here. I like the b/w of the Guggenheim and the ones of the bridge patterns. The blurriness gives an interesting effect, like it was a foggy night.

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes, the Basque Country is probably my favorite part of Spain, though I do prefer San Sebastian’s coastal charm to Bilbao’s industrial beauty!

  • March 4, 2011

    Point and shoots can get the job done quite nicely when it comes to travel photography. I don’t think it’s anything to be embarrassed of. Sometimes I get tired of toting my Nikon SLR around. Of course, I suck it up and do it anyways.

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Kevin, I’m more embarrassed by the graininess and low quality of all my Europe photos–the point-and-shoots (4MP) we used back then were nothing like they make them now! Don’t get me wrong: I use my Canon Powershot and Canon G11 often; I only wish I’d had either one of them with me while living in Europe!

  • March 4, 2011

    The BEST part about the Bilbao Guggenheim is the building..the art takes second place but the building is a masterpiece. We really enjoyed our time there and LOVED this building.

    Sorry that you were sick. In 4 years of living and traveling around Europe and Spain, we never got that flu, thankfully. We happened to be there during a festival and saw lots of Basque dancing so that was added fun for us. I love how diverse and different the various regions of Spain are and we are looking forward to going back to Europe for the summer after our winter in Asia and stopping in India on the way. We miss our Spanish friends, the beauty and the liveliness of the people.

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes! Totally agree. I remember being impressed by the museum as a whole, but honestly the only thing I can really recall is the facade, which should tell you something.

  • March 4, 2011

    It’s so funny to me that you say you didn’t find Bilbao that pretty compared to other places in Spain because seeing your photos, I was thinking how gorgeous it looks with the mix of old and new architecture. Clearly I’ll just have to go see for myself someday.

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      That speaks volumes of Spain, I think. It’s a country with so many overwhelmingly beautiful cities–San Sebastian, Madrid, Pamplona, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, Zaragoza, Alquezar, Sevilla, etc.–that even somewhere pretty like Bilbao doesn’t make it into the top 10!

      • March 5, 2011
        Emily

        I lived in Sevilla for four months and loved it. Spain really is a beautiful country.

  • March 4, 2011
    greyfavorite

    Lovely pics.

    And, YES – I had the flu while living in Spain, and it was the worst flu of my life.

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha. You know what I’m talking about! I used to tell a story of being in Spain preceded by “while I had a terrible bout of the Spanish flu in Bilbao,” and inevitably would always get the response: “how is the Spanish flu any different than any other flu?” Those people have no idea because it is SO much worse. Most misery I’ve ever been in while sick.

  • March 4, 2011

    I wasn’t sick in Bilbao, but felt much the same about the city (it’s beautiful, but the fact that every other place we went to in Spain took our breath away made it a little bit of a let down.) I was stuck in bed with the flu for one of our only two days in neighboring San Sebastian, which was such a shame! But I like to say, “there’s always next time.” 🙂
    PS: I love the pictures you take with your point and shoots, as a fellow user myself! We have a Canon PowerShot too… love it! I hope to invest in a better camera when I’m no longer carrying around a toddler while traveling.

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      The Canon Powershot series is awesome. I still use mine frequently. I only wish I’d had that back then, as the Nikon model I used performed terribly in anything less than perfect natural light and for some reason even on the highest file setting, a lot of my images from that period of time are very grainy. (Hence why I have to “black and white” them to distract from that fact 😉 )

  • March 4, 2011

    Bilbao is in my top 5 places to visit next, my hubby and I are dying to go. I lived in Spain, in Madrid for 3 years and spent a lot of time in Barcelona when I was working in Switzerland (I had a vendor there), and I have been to Portugal, but I never made it to the upper West corner to visit this amazing city and I have got to get there asap!

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      You have to make sure and go to San Sebastian while you’re there. It’s my favorite Spanish city, and all the little coastal towns between there and France are quite charming.

  • March 4, 2011

    I studied abroad in Spain, but never made it to Bilbao and it’s one of my only regrets from that year! What hotel did you stay at? That view is enviable!

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      I stayed at this place called Hotel Miro, which had just opened the year before, and funny enough, I wrote them up last month (after five years!) for Jetsetter, who was doing a big flash sale with them. I also stayed in a couple big luxury hotels nearer to the city center, but I liked Miro the best for its artsy design.

  • March 4, 2011

    You’ve got to love a man who will eat a live snail on television to impress his lady!

  • March 4, 2011
    SVV

    YuM! Live sea snail.. It’s what’s for lunch!

  • March 4, 2011

    If you had to choose between Bilbao and Seville for a few days while on holiday in Spain, which one would you choose and why?

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      San Sebastian! Oh wait, that wasn’t an option? Seriously, though, San Sebastian is my FAVORITE Spanish city. First off: It’s stunning, with similar architecture flanked by some of the prettiest beaches in Spain. It’s got a great food and nightlife culture. And I just found the people very friendly there. I’ve only ever been to the bus station in Seville en route to Morocco, so I have no opinion on that at all!

  • March 4, 2011

    Thanks for the suggestion and input. The place really sounds tempting so I’ll have to read up more about it before I make any decisions. So much for my making a choice quickly .:-) Then again, I have time.

  • March 4, 2011

    Ahhh me encanta Espana! There are so many cities I’m dying to still visit. Bilbao for sure being one. Sorry to hear you were sick. 🙁

  • March 4, 2011

    Cool architecture!! But yeah, boooo on being sick – the flu is the worst, especially while traveling.

  • March 4, 2011

    Didn’t know the Guggenheim would photograph so well in black and white. Stunning!

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Just another case of me trying to mask how pixelated my photos are from back in the day! =)

  • March 4, 2011

    I don’t get jealous easily BUT I AM SO JEALOUS you got to see the Guggenheim! How does Gehry make metal look so graceful and fluid! Beautiful!

    • March 4, 2011
      Kristin

      It was probably my favorite museum I’ve ever been to, anywhere. Then again, I’m not the connoisseur like you =)

  • March 6, 2011

    See, when I was in Spain I was rather disappointed with Madrid. While the downtown is quite beautiful, the rest of the city is rather depressing. It reminded me of Detroit in some cases.

    • March 6, 2011
      Kristin

      I’m with you. Everyone kept telling me Madrid was so fab, but I found Barcelona enchanting and Madrid kind of blah. Madrid, Pamplona and Bilbao were my three least favorite Spanish cities, though they were all still very pretty regardless of my impression.

  • March 6, 2011
    Jen

    Being sick when you are traveling is just the pits…especially when it is supposed to be a working trip. I was sick when I traveled to a conference for work once. It was one of those conferences that you had to actually attend too which made it even worse! Ugh…not many fond memories of that trip!

  • March 6, 2011

    Sorry, K, been MIA for a long time…storm on the home front, hahahaha! Anyway, I’m just catching up on your blog 🙂

  • March 6, 2011

    I was going to congratulate you for the new look of the blog as well! (Hit the ‘Post’ button too soon…) I really like this new colour scheme and design. Congrats!

  • February 14, 2015

    It is one of most famous holiday destinations for people willing to take a glance of the attractive rolling hills and be among the beautiful vegetation of the country. Bilbao is a home to a number of astonishing constructions with many ethnic and culinary pleasures to experience. It is located on the banks of tidal river the Nervión.

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