We have not felt the warm rays of the sun, not even for a few seconds, since arriving in Bilbao three days ago. Yesterday, there was maybe a patch of three inches in the sky colored blue, but beyond that, it has been nothing but gray and wet.
After only one day, it was clear that our umbrellas, purchased outside a metro stop in Madrid, were not up to Bilbao standards, not only in quality but aesthetics. Bilbao is umbrella country, and if you don´t have the latest model, you´re going to be met with stares.
Miguel and I are both now proud owners of fancy umbrellas, the kind that most everyone uses here in Bilbao, machine fabricated in Portugal. They´re very nice, like nothing I would ever own in the states. They are push button activated, both to open AND close. The umbrella salesman was quite clear about this when demonstrating how the umbrellas work in the shop. He came awfully close to hitting his partner in the head as the umbrella was unfolding, and then I realized that we were dealing with professional umbrella salesmen. They know what they´re doing.
This was a small umbrella shop, with umbrellas of all colors, some with stripes, others polka dots, all adorning the front window, some compact, some full-sized, some mechanical, some foldable, some manual, and some even electric!
Miguel has a nice, foldable model in black, with a cane shaped handle. I have a more dainty version, with a smaller handle, in red, with white trim. We are very happy with our new umbrellas.
Bilbao feels a lot like Seattle, but without the coffee shops. I would probably be more happy here if there were better coffee.
We went to the Guggenheim two days ago. Well worth the trip, if you can do it. It is a titanium covered building, with out a single straight line, that pays homage to ships and to fish. Every gallery has a different shape, and is attached to the atrium in the center, so visitors can rest after viewing a gallery. Viewing contemporary art is hard work, said the audio guide. This is true. I needed a cup of cocoa after viewing the pop art of Warhol, Lichtenstein, and others, just to calm my thoughts. I have to say, I do not understand “modern art” which doesn´t mean that I don´t like it. I find it as much mentally stimulating as perplexing. I found myself staring at three building sized busts of Venus, wondering, “Why? Why?” which I think was the point. Maybe. Another piece was a boat sized Swiss Army knife, with paddles. It is one of the premier pieces of the gallery. I wonder more about the people who “get it”, though. My Gramma from Minnosota is one who “got it”. We saw an episode of 60 Minutes once, about two art collectors in New York. Their most prized piece was a small piece of rope taped to the wall. “Oh, that is WONDERFUL!” said my Gramma, giggling gleefully. I went to bed that night with a headache, but none of this has anything to do with our trip.
Bilbao is an industrial city. What I feel like is that we are inside a factory, that has somehow been opened up and exposed to the outer-elements. There is a constant clanging of metal on metal, the sounds of machines dredging and chopping. On every street corner is a group of workers scraping and molding cement. There is a river here, with riverbanks made of concrete walls, on top of which stand centuries old buildings, of shops, apartments, and factories, many storeys high. If you look high enough, you can see the cloud covered sky, and then not much farther are tree-covered hills.
We´re also in Basque country. The guide books warned us that this could be a dangerous place for travelers, but we haven´t encountered any problems. Well, there is a little girl screaming here in the post office. That´s driving me nuts.
We´re leaving for San Sebastian in a few minutes. We don´t have many photos of Bilbao, maybe one of part of the Guggenheim. The torrential rain has dampened my mood, and there is nothing I´d like more right now than to just go home, and cuddle with my cat Mila, or maybe go for a bike ride out to Pt. Reyes. These are all but distant memories to me now, but I know they´re waiting for me. I know that I have a job in California, but I can barely remember what it is that I do. Thank God.