Bilbao, Spain

Image

Bilbao, Spain

“On the Continent people have good food; in England people have good table manners.” Unknown 

Bilbao  is our first stop in the Basque Country. The city has its own personality. It is quite small which makes it easy to walk around and enjoy the Basque culture. The Basques have their own language which is different and unrelated to any other language in the world.  If you are linguistically obsessed, this is a good place to be. There are also several different dialects of Basque, so the Basque that people speak in Bilbao is different from the Basque that is spoken in San Sebastián. You will notice a lot of k’s and tx’s.

We meet our guide Kyle from Cultural Xplorers. He is carrying three umbrellas -just in case.  As we were to learn, some days, it seems like all it does is rain in the Basque Country. They even have a word for that light, misty rain that seems to never stop – txirimiri.

  We start with breakfast at a pinxto bar and have a  potato and egg torta and a cortado coffee.

Walking through the beautiful city, we head to the train station. There is a large stained glass window depicting Basque life.

There are lots of architectural gems  scattered all over the city,.

We enter Casco Viejo (Old Town). At its heart are Bilbao’s original seven streets, dating back to the fourteen hundreds when the city was founded.

There are many historic buildings like the Gothic Cathedral and tiny streets lined with quirky shops and bars.

I find an authentic hat store and  buy a Basque beret -ish.

I could have wandered around here all day – except we were getting hungry again.  That could only mean one thing in Basque country. It was time for pinxtos.

Pinxtos are foodie heaven.  Imagine sitting in a bar having a nice quiet drink and being able to steadily munch your way through a range of amazing food from wonderfully cured meats, steak, cheese, olives, rich foie gras, duck and fish in various guises. It’s overwhelming and Kyle helped us find the best ones.

They are in every bar so even if you just plan on going for a drink-you will end up eating. Kyle points out some of the better bars so we can come back on our own.

The truth is I don’t think you can find a bad meal in Basque country. It is known for amazing food. 

We continue eating in the nineteenth century Plaza Nueva.- full of pinxto bars which come alive between three and eight pm. 

It is a custom to go from bar to bar and try different pintos along the way. 

Refueled, we take a walk down the waterfront toward the Guggenheim Museum and our hotel.

The riverfront promenade has an eclectic mix of traditional and modern architecture and is buzzing with both tourists and locals. We see the La Salve Bridge and the big art installations outside the Guggenheim Museum.

There is Louise Bourgeois (Maman -spider),  Jeff Koons (“Tulips” and “The Puppy” which is a giant flowering topiary in the shape of a terrier).

There is Anish Kapoor (“Tall tree And The Eye” aka a stack of metallic balls)  and Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Sculpture, which is a unique sensory experience of a jet of fog emanating from the water in the moat surrounding the museum at every hour -odd to experience in the pouring rain.

We meet for a late lunch early dinner at La Vina Del Estanche. On a trip of best food ever, this meal rates very highly and was only the beginning of the food to come.

The next morning I go over to the new exhibit at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. It was their 110th anniversary and newly renovated and reopened the day I arrived. The exhibit was ABC including Spanish, English and Basque letters and words.

Through a selection of more than 300 pieces and 200 artists, they created an alphabetic story.in 31 rooms. Each room was a word. Arte (art), Bilbao, Citoyen (Citizen), Desira (Desire), Espejo (mirror), Friendship………( P was for Portraits- from many different artists)

It was really cool and the museum has some interesting pieces. (love this one – John Davies-Every War Memorial)

And then it was back to eating.  After a private tour of the Guggenheim we went to the Michelin starred Nerua. Nerua is an ancient Latin name for the Nervion River  where the restaurant in the Guggenheim museum is located.

Nerua,

The small restaurant is designed by Frank Gehry with white walls and tablecloths and his signature curvy chairs.

When we arrived it was pretty much empty.

Chef Alija’s tasting menu was a beautifull and artfully prepared take on Spanish flavors.

I did not know what to expect from my visit to Bilbao. A bucket list place doesn’t always live up to the hype. Bilbao’s enchanting mix of old and new with a focus on food and people makes it a wonderful place to visit.  Special thanks to Kyle for making us feel so welcome, comfortable and extremely well-fed in his wonderful city.

Fly safe

JAZ

Advertisements

Things I Wanted To Do In 2016 – Did I?

Things I Wanted To Do In 2016 – Did I?

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” Louisa May Alcott

Drink less coffee. Nope

Get more real instagram followers. (travelwellflysafe) A few

Go to Amsterdam. Yes

Go to Anne Frank’s House. Yes

Go to the Van Gogh Museum. Yes

See the tulips. Yes

Meditate everyday.  Have to add this one again.

Train my new puppy. Still doing that.

Be the Pack Leader this time. Nope

Spend more time with my friends.  think I will add this one again-busy year.

Be grateful everyday. Yes

Do more art things in LA. Same

Stretch. Trying

Do more yoga. Less

Go To Paris.Yes

Visit my god-daughter. Yes in Israel.

Go to South Africa.Yes

Go on a game drive.Yes

See the big five.Yes

Be brave. Trying

Hike up Table Mountain. Yes on up Table Mountain

Visit the townships.Yes

Go to Capetown.Yes

Go to Johannesburg.Yes

See my daughter get married.Yes

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Amsterdam

Things I Have Learned In Amsterdam

IMG_7372

“The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”Alain de Botton

There are over one million bikes within the city limits, yet there are only about 700,000 people in Amsterdam.

DSC00130
Stairs in Amsterdam are many and very steep –  like ladders.  (Rembrandt’s house)

IMG_7401
There are 51 well-known museums that are dedicated to varied topics from the history of sex to the use of marijuana to the life of a famous painter. (Stedlijk Museum)

DSC00141
The passageway of the Rijksmuseum has the best acoustics in the city and many professional musicians come there to practice.

IMG_7231
The majority of Amsterdam is below sea level. At its lowest point, it is 6.7 metres below sea level. If climate change causes even a small increase in global sea levels, Amsterdam may go under.

DSC00191
The entire city of Amsterdam was built on piles — massive stakes that are driven into the ground. These piles laid the foundation for every building in the city. This means that if you stay at one of the many Amsterdam hotels, you are actually staying on stilts. Over 6,000 piles are used to hold up Central Station. Regular maintenance keeps these piles in load-bearing condition.

DSC00114

The lines at the Anne Frank House rivals the Uffizi and the Louvre. Get tickets online in advance.

IMG_7189

Amsterdam Is full of Polyglots. Polyglot is a term used to describe anyone who is fluent in more than two languages. 86 percent of Amsterdam residents are polyglots, speaking English, Dutch and a third language fluently. This makes a trip to Amsterdam an easy experience for English speakers.

Amsterdam residents are the second largest consumers of coffee in the world.

DSC00358

It’s estimated that during the Golden Age (put here between 1580-1670), when Dutch painters were among the best of the world, 5 million paintings were made – surely one of the most amazing Amsterdam facts. Almost every Dutch home had at least one painting. Now we have iPhones to take pictures of paintings. ( self-portrait Rembrandt – Rijksmuseum)

IMG_7201

Amsterdam natives are the tallest in the world. According to several different studies, this height is attributed to their DNA and healthy eating habits.

IMG_7194

Tulips, tulip fields and flower bulbs are typically Dutch. Yet, tulips do not originate from the Netherlands. The first tulip bulbs were imported from Turkey to the Netherlands, where they proved to grow extremely well on Dutch soil.

IMG_7509
Amsterdam knows how to brew a beer. The Netherlands is the world’s biggest exporter of beer. Twice as much beer is exported from the Netherlands than the United States, the second biggest exporter.

Amsterdam Has More Canals Than Venice .

DSC00113

Often called the “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam boasts over 165 canals that compose a comprehensive network throughout the entire city.

DSC00174
Amsterdam has one of the most famous Red Light Districts in the world with window prostitution. There are almost 500 such windows in Amsterdam, next to brothels etc. Most  of the girls are Eastern European, Indonesian and Malaysian. Few are Dutch. There is definitely a lot of human trafficking involved in bringing these girls here.  There are no photos allowed. ( Belle – statue for prostitutes all over the world)

IMG_7355
There are over 200 ‘coffee shops’ in Amsterdam where you are allowed to buy up to five grams of cannabis (marijuana or hash). Since the 1970s, buying of cannabis has been decriminalized. Five grams, by the way, is enough to stay high for several days.

DSC00346

Someone dropped their hash packet when i was having lunch . He didn’t know. I waited and decided to pick it up and return it. That would not have happened in the states.

DSC00407
In 2008, a tobacco smoking ban was introduced in Dutch cafes and restaurants, but you are still allowed to smoke marijuana and hashish in Dutch coffee shops – if only you don’t mix it with regular tobacco… That is bad for you.

Fly safe,

JAZ