Our mission for the day was exploring Bilbao and the adventure started a little sooner that we anticipated, as we had to navigate our way to the metro station, buy tickets and then make sure we were on the right platform! With the help of google maps and some pointing from the Spanish train guard we were soon on the train and heading into the centre.
As is generally our first port of call in a new city we headed straight for tourist information to grab a map and having worked out where everything was that we wanted to see, we headed down towards the old town. We had a mooch around the maze of streets, seeming to pass the same square and church over and over again as we went on the hunt for caffeine to help fuel our day.
We arrived at a large building sat close to the riverbank and on walking in realised this must have been the food market Ness had been telling us about. It turned out this was La Ribera – the largest covered market in Europe – and had a mixture of stalls selling fresh fruit, veg, meat and fish as well as an area with bars selling everything from coffee and croissants to wine and pintxos! We settled on some coffee (and biscuits we’d bought from a shop on route) and munched away whilst doing a bit of people watching.
From the market we headed onto Plaza Neuva for yet more people watching, this time over a glass of wine and a few pintxos at Cafe Bar Bilbao. It was a lovely spot complete with tasty pintxos, hanging legs of ham, decorated tiles and most importantly seemed to be full of locals. Definitely one to go to if you’re in the area.
We headed west towards the Guggenheim, passing bar after bar selling all manner of pintxos, and arrived to marvel at the architecture of Frank Gehry. It really is an amazing structure from whichever angle you look at it and worth the visit to check out the building alone.
In the end this is what we did, as we didn’t fancy the Francis Bacon exhibition and instead decided to go back and check out an interesting looking exhibition called ‘Human Bodies’ we had seen on our way up to the Guggenheim. And so we spent the next hour or so looking at dead bodies – preserved, sliced and displayed in all manner of poses! It was a really interesting exhibition, covering everything from creation to the nervous system, however I couldn’t take it too seriously when I was confronted with preserved and pickled penises!!
Back out into the light we decided more food and drink was needed so headed to another recommendation, Bar Irena. This didn’t have quite the same atmosphere as Cafe Bar Bilbao – perhaps due to the lack of locals – however we enjoyed a delicious range of pintxos including a kind of ‘cured ham tartare’! Stomachs full we had a final mooch around the shops before heading back to our home for the night in Sopelena.
Clearly the train journey was enough for us to begin feeling hungry again, so on spotting a bakery we decided to pop in and pick up a few biscuits to go with a coffee back at the van. On entering the shop we were greeted by a rather enthusiastic owner (who we decided to call Pablo!) who insisted we tried his freshly baked flan, before he went on to explain in a mixture of Spanish, English and mime exactly how he made it! It was a lovely eggy flan, made using his grandma’s recipe and we felt it was rude not to buy another slice (as well as a few more biccies to have with our coffees)!
Back at the van we cosied up for another film night – watching ‘Two Days In Paris’ – before getting some shut eye ahead of moving onto San Sebastian tomorrow morning.