Barcelona & N. Spain

Day 09 - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - Drive to Santillana del Mar by Way of the Costa Verde; Visit Bilbao with the Guggenheim Museum of Contemporary Art and Walking Tour of Old Town; Altamira National Museum; Walking Tour of Santillana del Mar

Our bags were out at 7:30 and then we went down for yogurt, fruit, and a coffee for Vic. We are learning to pace ourselves with these morning buffets. We usually do not eat three full meals and as we travel, we have to stay on an eating schedule as much as we can.

Javier and the porters loaded the luggage, no problems today and we were able to leave on time at 8:45. Laura gave us an over-view of our day from San Sebastian, west along the scenic Costa Verde (green coast) to Bilbao and then on to the New Altamira Caves.

While we traveled Laura also talked about the hardships of the Spanish Civil War from 1936 and 1939. The war did not divide the country by north and south but by political ideology.

General Franco and the Fascist party won the war and Spain was ruled as a dictatorship until Franco’s death in 1975. Many artists, journalists, and mercenaries from other countries joined Franco or the opposition in the Civil War for Spanish Independence, but then when he came into power, he ruled with a very iron fist.

Arriving in Bilbao at 10:00 we went right to the Guggenheim Museum of Contemporary Art. After getting our personal headsets for the self-guided tour we were on our own for 90 minutes.

When we were here in 2004 there were many more exhibits. This year the whole second floor was closed to set up a new exhibit. Two major exhibits took up most of the first and third floors limiting the variety in what we saw.

The outdoor art was excellent and we have to remind ourselves that the Bilbao Guggenheim is as much about the art of the building as the art in the building.

Javier was waiting for us and took us to the old town where Laura led an informal tour. We passed the Cathedral of St. James of Bilbao, a strategic stop on the Pilgrimage Route. As we walked on the streets we saw several tiles with scallop shells pointing the way for the pilgrims.

We were on our own for lunch and found a local street with not one tourist. We shared a kabob and a Coke and spent the rest of our time wandering the narrow medieval city streets.

The meeting point was at the center of the Plaza Nueva, a bright and sunny park surrounded by small cafés. Many of our group had eaten in these small cafés that have a variety of offerings.

At 2:00 we followed the many other tourist buses out of town and left the Basque Region and entered the Cantabria Region, one of the smallest of Spain’s 17 regions or states.

Our next stop was at the New Altamira National Museum to see replicas of the Altamira Caves noted for the pre-historic painting and artifacts from the human occupation that has taken place over the last 22,000 years.

The original caves were closed to only very specific scientific and art research in 2002. Scientists discovered that the paintings in red, ocher, and black were being damaged by carbon dioxide from the breath of the huge numbers of visitors.

While we were in the museum and visiting the “caves” Javier took our luggage to the hotel and the bags were in our rooms when we got to the hotel at 6:00. The Hotel Altamira was built in the 16th century and is now owned by a corporation but it feels like a family run pension.

We unpacked and then started to write the journal and look at our photos from the day as we did not have to go down to our group dinner until 8:00.

Dinner was in our hotel and a typical Spanish meal. We had a stew of white and black beans with sausage, French bread, and the main course was hake, a local white fish. Dessert was a flan like custard.

Accommodations: Hotel Altamira - - - Meal: B, D

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Gypsy Marionette, Old Town, Bilbao, Spain

Gypsy Marionette, Old Town, Bilbao, Spain (0:56)

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The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao

Guggenheim Art

Guggenheim Art

Cantabria Farm House

Cantabria Farm House

Altamira Cave Art

Altamira Cave Art

Altamira Hotel

Altamira Hotel

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