Greater Bilbao Discovery

Today was a day dedicated to driving to Bilbao, and visiting the Greater Bilbao.

Discovering the Farm at Jesuskoa

After a wonderful breakfast at Jesuskoa, I walked around the farm and visited the animals. Besides this cute dog, there were a pair of vicious, barking German Shepherds that wanted to eat me alive. I did not dare photograph them. Leslie also found some pigs and piglets but they were hiding in a dark barn by the time I got around to photographing.

Zumaia - Jesuskoa Farm Goat

Zumaia – Jesuskoa Farm Goat

Zumaia - Jesuskoa Farm Dog

Zumaia – Jesuskoa Farm Dog

A Great Surprise

Afterwards we got in the car, Aitor had a surprise for us. We pulled up to what looked like an abandoned warehouse. We walked up to the door and here’s what we found….

Aitor and the Chocolate Factory

Aitor and the Chocolate Factory

 A Chocolate Factory!

We were greeted inside by a very nice Basque woman who was one of the factory workers (made the chocolate). She walked us through the chocolate making process, from the raw ingredients, to the mixing, to the molding. We even got a tasting, including the less refined (chunkier) chocolate used in their Basque hot chocolate.

Basque Chocolate Factory

Basque Chocolate Factory

Less Refined Chocolate (for Hot Chocolate)

Less Refined Chocolate (for Hot Chocolate)

Cocoa

Cocoa

Then we got to taste the more refined, higher quality eating chocolate – dark and milk with nuts/fruits. Yum! Leslie bought an assortment for her office, but I surprisingly resisted.

Assorted Chocolate

Assorted Chocolate

Moving Towards Greater Bilbao – The Town of Vitoria

Then we drove to Aitor’s town of Vitoria-Gasteiz for a small tour. The streets were similarly picturesque as the other Basque cities we’ve visited, and the old town was appropriately charming Vitoria is the second largest city in the Basque region, second of course to Greater Bilbao).

Vitoria Streets

Vitoria Streets

It’s also Europe’s “Green Capital” (yes, ANOTHER capital!) in what I call the Greater Bilbao region. Here’s a map.

Vitoria to Greater Bilbao

Vitoria to Greater Bilbao

The highlight of the Vitoria tour, and our journey towards Greater Bilbao, was the tower, the Casa del Cordón, which was a 15th century fortified tower that had survived over the years due to it’s unusual position in the city. It had several levels, including an area for animals (the bottom), a living area for humans (that is now the blue ceiling-ed room on the first floor), and the upper floors were for defense. It was built by the converted Jew trader Juan Sánchez de Bilbao and he made a great point to emphasize that we was a believer to avoid persecution – Santa Maria was written in the front as the patron Saint and protector.

Check out the beautiful star-studded dome, a rare example of Gothic civilian art.

Casa del Cordon Starry Dome

Casa del Cordon Starry Dome

Leslie and Aitor in Casa del Cordon

Leslie and Aitor in Casa del Cordon

Casa del Cordon Starry Dome

Casa del Cordon Starry Dome

I also liked the stained glass.

Casa del Cordon Stained Glass

Casa del Cordon Stained Glass

Casa del Cordon Stained Glass

Casa del Cordon Stained Glass

And the original blue paint in the coat of arms.

Casa del Cordon Coat of Arms

Casa del Cordon Coat of Arms

Greater Bilbao

We then drove through Greater Bilbao and in to Bilbao to check in to our hotel, the Miro Hotel, a boutique/designer hotel. We shoved our luggage in the room, briefly marveled at the economical design, and most importantly grabbed lunch nearby at  Restaurante Serantes next door.

Restaurante Serantes

Restaurante Serantes

This was a restaurant known for fish, a subject our family is not very adventurous in. We eat white fish, shrimp, some lobster, clams, oysters…but it basically stops there. We won’t eat octopus, eel, or squid (OES), which seems to be snuck in to nealry every mixed seafood dish in Basque country. As such, it turned in to a disaster (but humorous) meal. Everything that could have gone wrong did.

Marv ordered the scallops but got served the escalope (breaded veal) – translation error. Leslie ordered the seafood salad and had heaping octopus squishing around in the middle. I thought I was so sophisticated in my mastery of Spanish that I ordered gambas a la planche, thinking that it would be grilled shrimp (deshelled). It turns out that they were mini-lobsters in their carapace and had to be unwrapped – tentacles and eyes still attached. I immediately lost my appetite. Aitor ordered squid in ink and we were all disgusted – however Leslie tried the squid and admitted it was good, and I tried the ink and admitted that was good. I had never seen such a black and while seafood dish, ever. I forgot that this used to happen to me all the time when I visited Europe (at least one meal gone wrong due to an ordering mistake, a translation mistake, or a wrong assumption) – it’s part of the charm.

After lunch we drove to Getxo in the Greater Bilbao area, and saw where the cruise terminal was located (where Marv would have sailed in to the last time he was slated to visit Bilbao, but didn’t due to weather/tides). We also saw an amazing  bridge.

Getxo Bridge

Getxo Bridge

See the rectangle that’s handing from the wires? That’s how people and cars get from one side to the other, and it’s the only bridge around for 10 miles in the Greater Bilbao area. Here’s a closer look.

Getxo Horizontal Funicular

Getxo Horizontal Funicular

Marv described it as both a “stupid bridge” and a horizontal funicular. The latter is a  great description. The formed is better understood in the context of WHY it was built this way. A hundred years ago there were certain constraints on the river that don’t all exist today – limited real estate along the banks to build a ramp for cars, the fact that the bridge needed to accommodate large ships often. This took a “normal bridge” and a drawbridge off the table. It was built this way out of necessity.

It was one of the highlights of the trip for Marv, even though he thought the bridge was stupid.

therestlessroad

About therestlessroad

The tar in the street starts to melt from the heat And the sweats runnin’ down from my hair I walked 20 miles and I’m dragging my feet And I’ll walk 20 more I don’t care And I’ll wander this world, wander this world Wander this world, wander this world all alone I’m like a ghost some people can’t see Others drive by and stare A shadow that drifts by the side of the road It’s like I’m not even there And I’ll wander this world, wander this world Wander this world, wander this world all alone Well I’ve never been part of the game The life that I live is my own All that I know is that I was born To wander this world all alone, all alone Some people are born with their lives all laid out And all their success is assured Some people work hard all their lives for nothin’ They take it and don’t say a word They don’t say a word Sometimes it’s like I don’t even exist Even God has lost track of my soul Why else would he leave me out here like this To wander this world all alone And I’ll wander this world, wander this world Wander this world, wander this world all alone –Jonny Lang, “Wander This World”

One thought on “Greater Bilbao Discovery

  1. JJ1

    Stupid becomes interesting in the vernacular!

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