Sunday, 19 May 2013

Getxo, Bilboa

As we approached Bilbao we could see the massive outer breakwater topped with a row of wind turbines from several miles away. It’s a busy port and as we got closer we could see a dot on the horizon which looked like it could be heading our way, we kept watching as the dot grew larger and it became obvious that we were going to reach the entrance at pretty much the same time. We carried on watching it and followed all the ColRegs (regulations to avoid collisions at sea) and basic common sense, keeping over to the correct side and keeping our fingers crossed as a Brittany ferry thundered past us to meet its waiting pilot escort. If we had been sailing and further out ColRegs would have given us the right of way, however common sense dictates that it’s wise to stay away from something that would turn you to matchsticks without even noticing the bump…


Once through the first entrance the harbour opens up, from the outer harbour wall to the mouth of the river is 4 miles, so for us that is roughly an hour of looking out for tug boats and other shipping before we reached the marina we were aiming for. The weather was not particularly pleasant as we arrived and getting wetter so we were all quite soggy by the time we were safely moored. The marina itself is nice though and being on the outer pontoon we have lovely views around the bay.


Having passed through Cantabria into the Pais Vasco, it was time to visit a chandlery to buy a new regional courtesy flag. The Basque flag is currently flying below the Spanish flag after carefully studying other boats in the marina. It is politic in this region to watch carefully and do as others do as it is easy to cause offense to Basques, non-Basque Spaniards or both without care in such things as flag etiquette, we will be careful!


Having finally started getting a grip with Spanish (admittedly poorly with reading notices, finding opening times, saying hello etc, deep conversations or understanding exactly what someone says are still beyond us) we are now plunged into a bi-lingual area with a completely different accent making even the Spanish speakers sound very different. Most signs are written in both Spanish and Basque but the order varies and very few words are similar enough to recognise as being the same, we’ve picked up a couple of words so far, there are a lot of z’s and x’s in everything.


We had a couple of great walks to the old harbour and around the fishing quarter to explore its tiny streets which crawl their way up the hill away from the water. There are some fantastic views from the top and a lift joining the beach below and the shopping area above if you don’t fancy walking the tree lined paths which run up and down the steep hill. It’s a really lovely area with some quirky little buildings and as with much of Spain some nice public areas with gardens and benches.
Fishing quarter


 One delight we had been looking forward to was a bridge. The top part of the Puente Bizkaia transporter bridge rises to 50 metres above the water and the design was inspired by the Eiffel tower. It was the first transporter bridge built in the world and one of only twelve remaining (three of the others are in Britain). I’m sure you can imagine that the boys were slightly excited about the whole thing, the word ‘wow’ was mentioned once or twice I believe. We travelled up in the lift (it was a long way up) and then walked along the top walkway, admiring the stunning views in every direction then down the lift on the other side. We were particularly impressed with how brave the deckhand who is not keen on heights was, he desperately wanted to go on the bridge, took a deep breath and went for it, he did hold my hand tightly whilst we were on top. Wandering around the town on the other side of the river we found a lovely park, a lively market and more interesting buildings. We returned across the river on the hanging part of the bridge which takes cars and people – cue more ‘wow’s’.

Transporter bridge

We have had some good wanders around the Gexto Getxo area which was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries with the gentry for their summer houses, so there are lots of big mansions designed by famous architects all trying to outdo each other, many were supposedly influenced by English country houses and most of them have been built in locally quarried sandstone. They are all lined along what used to be the Las Arenas beach overlooking the water until the currents were changed by construction and the beach mostly disappeared, the houses are still nice though.



Having not done a ‘proper’ shop for nearly two weeks it was time to stock up but supermarkets were proving hard to find, small and expensive. Finally finding out about a Lidl we set off one morning for a walk up the river. The boys loved the working areas of the river and we found many more lovely buildings. A long stone wall alongside the road was home to lots of common wall lizards basking in the sun so we played spot the lizard for quite a while until we reached the shop. After an ice cream it was a quick trip back home on the metro to unpack all the shopping.


A trip to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao itself was high on our to do list so off we set one afternoon on the metro, we were originally just going for a wander round the city and to find out opening details but once the boys had seen the outside the decision was made to go on in. It was certainly an amazing experience with a range of sculptures, art installations and paintings. The Kitchen utensils installation and one involving poles of LED lights were particularly popular as well as the enormous sheet steel spirals and walls ‘The Matter of Time’ which you walk through like a maze, there was also an interesting exhibition on art in war whilst the curves and swerves of the building itself – both inside and out - really impressed us all.


That brought us to the end of a week since we had arrived at Gexto Getxo. With several days of strong winds predicted, toothache for Mark and more to explore in this area we made the decision to stay on for a bit longer before moving on to pastures new.

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