My final trip for 2011 was to Bilbao in Northern Spain. It was part of a blogging trip organised by Vueling, a new airline, who are encouraging bloggers to ‘swap’ cities and hopefully swap pieces of advice about the best things to see and do.
Dylan and I swapped with a guy called Inaki and we definitely think we got the better end of the deal. I love London but trying to see the entire city in just one weekend is virtually impossible, but we look forward to seeing how he got on.
Bilbao is a tiny city in comparison, perfect for a weekend away. I work full time and study part time so although I like to see and do a lot on my weekends away, I also like to chill out and the size of Bilbao meant I could do exactly that.
Our first evening was spent meandering through the many tapas bars where we enjoyed plenty of tasty dishes and red wine. I love the vibe in these little bars because they’re so different to a Friday night in a British bar.
It seems as though people go to Spanish bars to chat to their friends and relax -the fact that there is food and drink there is a bonus. In the UK, people go to the bar to get drunk and the fact that there are people there is a bonus.
Every bar was heaving with people of all ages and even though there were tables and chairs free, no one sat down. I found this a little strange but it meant people could move around much easier, chat to different people and occasionally tuck into the tasty tapas that lined the bar.
We spent the second day at the Guggenheim Museum which was so good it deserves a post entirely to itself. I know what a lot of you will be thinking already – “museum = major yawn” but I can honestly say it was one of the best museums I’ve ever been to and was really interesting and so beautiful so keep your eyes peeled for that post. We loved the museum so much that we even went back that evening for dinner.
The rest of the weekend was mainly spent meandering, stoping occasionally for coffee and snacks and the inevitable snappy happy moment. I like to wander without a map, without a specific destination in mind and without any prethought itinerary. Wandering is all about taking it slow and stumbling across a little park, a coffee shop, a market or a church that might not be significant enough to make it onto the map but there’s a lovely sense of achievement when you find that place that only the locals know about. It might even a be a little gem that they keep all to themselves precisely because they don’t want it on the map.
Bilbao is so small that you can walk around the whole city in a day. You can easily see all the highlights, all the beautiful buildings, the quaint little shops and stunning churches and also soak up the vibe of Bilbao.
You will find it to be charmingly relaxed with a quaint yet stylish feel. It is undeniably Spanish, you only need to look up at the buildings or into the faces of the locals to feel the infectious Spanish attitude. There are rustic and wonky Spanish apartments that tower above narrow, winding streets – these are the type where you expect to see old ladies shouting rapidly from the top windows and drying their washing from their small, flower filled balconies.There are beautifully grand, dominating buildings that sit next to sleek, modern buildings. These buildings contrast so markedly that it makes them both seem even more spectacular by emphasising what they may or may not have.
It rained constantly during our weekend in Bilbao which didn’t ruin the trip but it did mean that we didn’t get the chance to head to the hills and enjoy the serenity of the countryside that we’d been told so much about. The hills were always there in the background making the perfect backdrop to the colourful city skyline.