"" Writer's Wanderings: Spain - Bilbao

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spain - Bilbao

From Lisbon, our ship the Crystal Symphony sailed to Bilbao, Spain, another place new to us. Whenever we visit a new port on a cruise, we choose to do a general introductory excursion if it’s available. We chose a panoramic excursion which was a morning tour that took us through the city and up a mountainside for our panoramic view.

Bilbao was a wonderful mix of modern and old world architecture. The city sits on the banks of the River Nervion in the Basque region of Spain. Because of its location, it is a highly industrialized area including mining, steel, and shipbuilding industries. At the beginning of the 20th century it is said that Bilbao was the wealthiest city of Spain.

I was amazed at the beautiful gardens in the city. Everything was so trim and well-designed. Once we finished our tour, we opted to exit the bus at the shuttle stop in the city so that we could walk around a bit before returning to the ship. One of the great perks of the Crystal Cruise line is their free shuttles from the ship to the city.

We found the old section of town and explored the Santiago Cathedral a bit, then wandered up and down a few streets. We had left our map back in our stateroom so we didn’t venture too far from the shuttle stop.

One of the neat features of the city’s architecture involves their subway system. They have what appears to be a spiraling see-through tunnel that covers the entrances to their subway stops.

A big attraction for the city is the Guggenheim Museum, an ultra-modern designed silvery structure that sits on the riverbank. It was designed by Frank O. Gehry. The design has no symmetry. The architect is quoted as saying, “. . .the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light.” It was opened in 1997.

As we headed back to the shuttle stop, we walked through a large park area which was full of booths selling books. We guessed it was a book fair of sorts. Behind the booths, we found a beautiful bandstand in the middle of the park. The ceiling of it was an intricate stained glass.

Our day was not without excitement. As we sat on the shuttle bus awaiting departure, we heard and then saw a bunch of police vehicles come from all directions and stop right near our bus. It was enough to make a tourist’s heart skip a beat. In a few moments we heard the familiar cadence of a chant that indicated we were in the middle of a demonstration of some kind. Sure enough, marching down the street behind a lead police vehicle, was a group of workers protesting something. I later learned it had to do with the closing of a plant in their city. At least I think that’s what it was. Between my limited Spanish and Yahoo’s Babel Fish, that’s what I gleaned.

Travel is never boring.

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