My flight is from Manchester on the Friday, so I arrived at my friend Lucy in Leeds on the Thursday night which saved me a silly o'clock drive before my departure. I'm extremely grateful for the use of a bed and the mini catch up. I get to airport in no time and set myself up by grabbing some brunch and a seat by a window to watch the planes come in and out. I love airports, I love planes, I love holidays so as you can imagine I'm pretty happy.
I arrive in Bilbao to be greeted by my cousin who had a homemade a sign for me. We get on the bilbobus for the 25 minutes journey into the city. Rachael is already on tour guide mode pointing out landmarks and chatting about what we'll do. You can see her passion for the place which she has grown attached to in the eight months she's now been there and it's infectious. I too quickly fall for Bilbao. As we walked from Plaza Moyua to Casco Viejo, the old part of the city I took in the buzz and atmosphere of the place. It's clean, it's friendly, it's in the Basque country of Spain. What is there not to love?
We dumped my trolley case at Rachael's flat and headed immediately back out to go up the funicular so I could get a bird's eye view of the city. It's beautiful. Afterwards, we went to bar to toast my visit, along with some pintxos, a Basque tradition. They are similar to tapas because they are small snacks. They however are always skewered onto a piece of bread. They are very tasty and there are so many varieties, unfortunately I didn't sample them all but the ones I did try were delicious.
After a rest and shower back at Rachy's we headed out for a paella dinner and a wander round more of the old town. We ended up in a bar on the corner of the Plaza Nueva which is a lovely wee square in the heart of the old town. It was right up my street for people watching and soaking up the culture.
Saturday, we arose bright and early so we could make our way to San Sebsastián. An hour and a half journey on a super bus, with complimentary drink, sweets and at the end a free gift- mini torch in this instance which was random. Once we arrived, we wandered down to the beach front and headed along to the funicular at the other end of the beach. It's was a very rainy and windy day so the picnic plan didn't work out, we instead ate our homemade bocadillos (filled baquettes). The rain never usually bothers me but it was a shame in this instance as the place is gorgeous and in sunshine, it would have been even more so.
The view from the top of Monte Igueldo was spectacular. The rain ceased enough for some tourist snaps of the bay and the turtle shaped rock overlooking it. We then headed inside to the cafe where we could take in the view some more but with the warmth of a hot chocolate and some more of our picnic- strawberries from Rachael's local fruteria, which were absolutely delicious. The rain started again on our descent but by this point we were happy to walk back to the main shopping area and spend some of my hard earned cash. I must say I did very well between San Sebastián and Bilbao, even more impressed I got it all in my carry on case. San Sebastián was beautiful and more affluent than Bilbao but I was excited to get back, there is just pockets of buzz and a great atmosphere in Bilbao. I could happily wander and explore here all day.
Dinner that evening was in the local pizzeria, Isaams. The €1 pizza slices were yummy, along with a portion of fresh chips, washed down with an Aquarius. Aquarius is a still soft juice drink but it came in a can, it's a novelty for me as I don't drink bubbles so I was ridiculously excited. After a mini siesta, we headed off for our Bilbao night out in Calle Somera which is a bustling street in the Casco Viejo. We started the night doing the slosh in the bar, a tradition in our family, it attracted a little attention but always fun. We met up with some of Rachael's friends before heading to the discoteque Antzoki (pronounced Anchokey). The Spanish night out starts late and as I found out ends very very late. It was a fantastic night of dancing and learning some more Spanish phrases, I'm practically fluent now! By the end I was taking pictures of my watch and by the time we got back to the flat it was 6.15am. Not bad if I do say so myself -keeping up with the students!
My last day came about far too quickly but we made the most of it and headed to the famous Guggenheim museum. There was an exhibition featurring work by Richard Serra, Yoko Ono and our favourite Ernesto Neto, a Brazilian artist. We were allowed to climb up suspended netting filled with mini plastic balls and the climb took us high up above the museum floor. Before even listening to the interactive museum guide, we decided it was very human cell like the way the netting was woven and we were correct. Which I think is remarkable that we got his vision before we really knew what it was. His other works were similar but not quite as much fun. We also made a wish and put it on Yoko Ono's wishing tree to add to the many already there. It was a lovely way to mark our visit.
From the museum we passed Deusto - Rachael's university and wandered back to the flat via a frozen yogurt. I have to say that I was gutted to be leaving.
I had such a wonderful time and I would like to thank mi prima (cousin) Rachael who was such a babe all weekend and showed me a fabulous time. Rachael has a wee community in her neighbourhood and it was nice to see and meet the locals and also see where she has been staying for this adventure for her. I'm jealous of her talent as I'd love to speak another language instead of the pigeon phrases I have. Maybe that'll be next years challenge.
Beautiful Bilbao, number six, check. Stunning San Sebastián, number seven, check. Thank you España!