Spain is a different kettle of fish! From the quiet turns of the French countryside we receive our first traffic infringement for a creative city uturn in bustling San Sebastian. It just seems so busy all of a sudden. People and traffic. I figure Spain must be more heavily populated than France but Antonio, my population authority, assures me this in not the case – Spain approx 46 and half million, France approx 63 and half million!!! It is a case of, as even in Australia, humans hug the coast!!   After a month of being green and beige inland, it is beautiful to see the sparkling, crystal blue of the north Atlantic Ocean. Surf and surfers and sunbakers.  And to undertake a well worn and very busy early morning coastal path.  Antonio has his shirt off, still trying to perfect “the retired mans tan!”  Most of these gentlemen do not!  Infact, it is not hard to imagine they all have little wives at home, their shirts and shorts are pristine and pressed!


Due to the traffic fine and an absolute lack of anything resembling a cubby parking spot, we hytail out of San Sebastian, marvelling at the city of apartments we are surrounded by.  And there’s more.  All along the coast and in each and every town – 80’s apartments.  There must have been one hec of a building boom when life transformed into apartment living. I cannot imagine where they all lived before these were built.

We really only have one destination in mind, with two detours in that direction.  We can smell Portugal and an event we have had planned for months, even before we set off in Cubby.  Four friends are arriving to holiday with us!  Well, to join us and holiday!  Well, to join us and do the Camino Portuguese!  Some may argue if walking around 15 – 20 km a day for around 14 days is a holiday!  Still ……. I get ahead of myself……………. there will be more of that to come. First we must traverse Spain, and our destinations enroute to Portugal are Bilbao and Leon.

The feature of Bilbao, of course, the Guggenheim museum.  It is a case of perhaps, the building becoming more famous than its purpose.  The Bilbao Guggenheim museum was designed by architect Frank Gehry and the museum opened in 1997. The building is just stunning! See above!! Sumptuously crafted from limestone, glass and an exterior of ” fish scale-eske ” curved, matt, gold, titanium “tiles” that allow for an interplay of changing light and shimmering shades of blond and gold and bronze.  It is truly as beautiful, as I expected and I feel privileged to observe, to touch and to enter!

The museum itself is a combination of thought provoking installations.  One, a room laid out representing 100 different living rooms with one hundred stories being told by people on a television screen.  Cleverly, only 3 pieces create each life.  A chair, a television and a cabinet.  All second hand and lifted from different eras and income brackets.  We can sit in any chair and meet them.  An interesting and powerful exhibition.

The art is all modern and abstract!  The current curated selection is from the Guggenheim collections of American and European abstract artists from the periods pre and immediately post World War 11.  For me abstract art is a pleasure, not to be taken too seriously.

Not so for everyone I discover.  I’m not sure which is my outright favourite.  The Guggenheim building, the installations and art collections, or the descriptions of abstract art, artists and periods noted on walls, on the brochure and succinctly described through my headphone audio tour.  Comments on “movements of art through this time!  In Europe, Art Informal and Tachisme (from the French word TACHE, meaning spot or stain!). America, Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting.  Not to mention the movement Jackson Pollock made famous – Action Painting.

I would LOVE to have a transcript of what I hear and I wear a smile from ear to ear as I move from “piece” to “piece.”   Try this beautiful (but strange?) collection of words:

“In the 1950s, art had a new form. “artists likewise engaged viewers senses and explored dematerialism, focusing on optical transformations as opposed to the art object itself. Many employed a geometric reductive visual vocabulary and used innovative materials like plexiglas polarized light and flexible steel to investigate the effects of motion kinetic light and color. One such group was “Group zero.” !


Bilbao has been a really enjoyable stop and almost worth the visit to Basque Spain, all on its own. “Camped” beside the river, we were a short walk from the Guggi on one side and the old city on the other. Our first Spanish restaurant meal was a winner. Paella for me and baby lamb Chops for Antonio. (He loved them!) Bilbao is beautifully lit at night and a romantic stroll home, in still 25 degrees, below the street lanterns, ended a delightful day.

Driving out of Bilbao the following morning, I cannot help but feel our visit to the museum has bought on a slight consciousness change. Everything becomes an art installation with a creative and symbolic explanation!!!! A big, dark, smoking, steel, industrial structure offers the chance of interpretation as it sits between distant views of the ocean and the peak hour freeway traffic heading into work!

Our next stop is Leon.  A return to Leon. Significant to us as the place Antonio and I had a well deserved few days rest on our “honeymoon” camino in July last year!  Significant for Antonio as the location he first met the mother of Noah, Kate, over 10 years ago. Its lovely to return to a place we have shared and feel we know quite well.

“Free camping” in Leon is bought to a whole new meaning with a brilliant location provided by the local council. Sitting on the river its a short bicycle ride to the old city, and the old city we explore.  More than anything we hoped to find a masseuse we discovered last year. Joachim!  You may have read about him in the Camino Story posted at the top of the Blog.  Monk, miracle worker and SPUNK!  Alas, his numbers were not answering but Antonio found another masseuse who has really assisted his sciatic issue.

Quite often, though, we have encountered something in Spain we have not noticed in any of the previous 20 countries.  A fractious temperament!  Many Spanish seem a grumpy, a bit cross!  No where else have we encountered so many car horns tooting or frowns to our bicycles. Even crossing a road infuriated some poor Spaniard I glanced back at, a flay of fists and antagonism directed at me!

Certainly the economy, we read, is struggling and we see many abandoned building projects, seemingly stopped mid stream. But things are sooo cheap here.  I have a suggestion to help the economy – raise prices!  Just by 50 cents or a euro. 8 hours of parking here, two euro 70 cents! Two cups of coffee and complimentary donuts – only 2 euro 30 cents! We cannot understand how they can afford the staff to serve it, unless of course, their wages are incredibly low!

Still we have our own program brewing.  The text messages are flowing.  Jo has arrived in Spain, the boys and Elaine have arrived in Athens.  We are just about to arrive in Portugal……. and will do some orientating of our next 14 days, eagerly awaiting their arrival.


One Comment on “Spain”

  1. Michele Manson says:

    Hello Denise and Antoinio, it’s Michele here (Gael’s friend from the Paris trip). I hope you’re both well and in great spirits! I’ve just been looking at your trip since we met and it looks fabulous – so glad you got to some of those gorgeous places I recommended like Les Baux and St. Remy! I’m still in withdrawal from my dose of France (far too small for me!) and can’t wait for my next trip – actually we’ve just had a weeks’ holiday in WA – Margaret River; amazing scenery and surfing (for my son) and lots of delicious food. Keep enjoying your amazing experience and I will enjoy ‘following’ you! Warm wishes and hugs to you both, MIchele

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