Friday, 26 August 2011


Beautiful Barcelona. Staying at the old Olympic site, we dropped our gear and headed by train and Metro into town to look for Tapas. Eventually found a little cafĂ© called Eucalyptus where we had an excellent meal washed down with sangria before a long walk down Las Ramblas, the main tourist drag for an introductory look. Next morning we flew out to Bilbao on the northern coast facing the Atlantic.

There we found the incredible Guggenheim Museum, a wonderful massive sculpture in titanium sheets, guarded by a cute flower puppy 12 metres high out the front.

The most outstanding exhibition was constructed of 50mm sheet steel, in panels 4m high by 12m long curved into various 3D shapes. These varied from cones to sphere segments to toroidal segments to rotated ellipses. Walking through these giant structures and the spaces they create is quite amazing.

The Bilbao Museum of fine art is also excellent with some great sculpture and paintings, plus a exhibition of gold artifacts from before Columbus, and an exhibition of Matta, a surrealist and abstract painter.

Bilbao is such a pretty town, uncrowded and unhurried and very modern. Even the old town is pretty, with its narrow streets and multitude of tapas bars where we could even get a very acceptable breakfast, amongst the poker machines and the rows of spirits on the walls.

Afterwards a visit to the Archaeological Museum, showing the history and pre-history of the area for the last 9000 years, based on excavations in the town and surrounding region.

Then we took a trip on the Metro out to Portugalete to see the oldest Transporter Bridge in the world, a wild cross between a ferry, a bridge and a flying fox. Built around 1890, it carries cars and passengers across the river on a hanging gondola. It is very impressive structure 165 metres long and over 50m high. We took the 30cent trip across, but the walk back across the top cost us 5 Euros each. I guess it was worth it for the views.

Back in Barcelona we took ourselves off to see Guel Park designed by Gaudi in the early 20th century. A quite fantastical place full of wild shapes and colourful mosaics, designed to be the gardens for a model community.

Continuing the theme we went to Gaudi Museum in La Pedera, a building created by him, with a very organic facade, and a beautiful lightwell with balconies.

The rooftop sculpture was awesome, turning the various service vents and chimneys into art forms.

The first floor has been an exhibition space for decades and currently showed and exhibition of black and white photos by Francesc CatalĂ -Roca  a brilliant photographer recording life in Spain over the last 60 years.

We ended the evening looking for a reasonably priced meal, ending up at a tapas bar which turned out to be an Irish pub in disguise and gave us both a bout of food poisoning. The joys of the tourist drag. We cut our losses and we went somewhere else for a very tasty paella.

Our final day was at the beach. It was Saturday and everyone was there. The first beach not dominated by rented umbrellas and lounges. Great atmosphere, a bit of topless sunbathing, lots of swimming, but taking it in turns. Lots of offers of beer, soft drinks, sarongs and massages from the travelling sales men and women.

We eventually rinsed off and took a bicycle rickshaw along the beach to an intriguing woven copper fish sculpture about 10metres high we could see in the distance.

Back in town, the Sagrada Familia is a massive gothic cathedral designed by Gaudi, but still under construction 140 years after it was started, complete with 4 cranes in operation. Unfortunately closed due to a big christian youth event, but extraordinary nonetheless, with a planned 18 towers of inverted catenary shape.

We spent the evening at a brilliant concert by a Spanish guitar duet, performed in an intimate chapel of a former monastery. Needless to say we bought their CD which will be combined with our other musical acquisitions to form the soundtrack to our welcome home party on Sept 4th.

Put it in your diary! - More details very soon!!

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