Easter is over and it is time for us to get off the Camino Del Notre path and head up into the Picos de Europa.
In addition to its famous hiking paths, this area is known for its alpine flowers and wild orchids.
We will spend the next week scrambling over the rocks and looking for horticultural treasures.
But before we leave, a couple of parting thoughts about Bilbao.
There is much to see in this small city. If you are walking the Camino Del Norte, it is the perfect place for a rest day.
If you are able stay longer, there is plenty to keep you busy for three days.
What do see.
There are enough churches to go on an endless “church crawl”.
Getting into these churches can be a challenge as most are only open certain hours each day.
Spaniards take their siesta time very seriously and the clergy are no exception. ( On one of our earliest caminos, we stayed in a convent. We were sent outside from 2-4 so the nuns could have their siesta.
We slept outside on park benches while they slept inside. Promptly at 4 the doors opened and we were welcomed back in. (TRUE STORY!)
But back to the churches. The Cathedral of Santiago is impressive and the audio guide is excellent.
With a Pilgrim passport, your entry is free.
The churches of San Juanes, San Anton and San Nicholas are all different and have interesting interiors.
Ironically during Holy Week most of them were locked.
However since the “liturgy” took place on the street it didn’t matter except I have no pictures to show of the churches themselves.
The Guggenheim Museum, at least the outside, is a must see. Although it is now more than twenty years old it still looks, well, modern and fresh.
The exterior sculptures are great.
Tall tree and The Eye by Anish Kapoor is a series of stainless steel reflective balls randomly stacked, each ball reflecting its neighbor and the scenery around it.
The bronze sculpture entitled Maman by artist Louise Bougeois is impressive especially when you stand underneath and look up into the sack of eggs under her body. The periodic fog outbursts add to the experience.
On the other side of the museum is the “flower dog” or officially Puppy by Jeff Koons.
I love this statue. It is 150 feet tall and weighs about 16 tons.
It is covered with flowers which are changed twice a year, 37,000 plants in all.
We are here at the end of the Oct- May installment of pansies and the flowers looked fantastic.
The steel frame onto which multi colored pansies have been set in peat, utilizes an internal watering system that includes weekly fertilizing. This may be explain why they look so healthy.
To change the flowers takes 30 gardeners working one week.
Happily this will not occur until we have left.
The interior of the museum is another matter. I just don’t get it.
Maybe I am too old; maybe I am not modern enough. Bottom line. Check it out and decide for yourself.
Portugalete is a suburb west of Bilbao at the mouth of the Estuary of Bilbao which opens into the Bay of Biscay. You will pass through this town on the Camino as you walk back to the coast.
It is well worth stopping to see the historic Transporter Bridge.
Built in 1893, this hanging bridge/ ferry is able to carry six cars and several dozen pedestrians across the river. It was been in continuous use except for a brief suspension ( bad pun) after it was bombed during the Spanish Civil War.
It is now possible to have a round trip adventure.
Take the elevator to the top of the support leg and walk across the pedestrian boardwalk. Enjoy the views around and underneath you.
I prefer looking out to looking down but it is quite something to watch the ferry pass beneath you.
It takes a little courage to walk the boardwalk, but this daring feat of bravado is well worth the quivering knees and sweaty palms.
Besides when you come down, you feel quite snug and have surely earned at least one glass of wine. All good.
And so we leave Bilbao behind us.
It is time for us to pick up a car and drive into the mountains. Stay tuned for our adventures of single track driving and mountain goat walking.