Archive for September, 2009

The Guggenheim Bilbao

The Guggenheim Bilbao

Today we visited the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a building famously designed by Frank Gehry. When I’d first seen photos of the museum, back in my student days at Carleton, I remember thinking that it was a building I had to see in person at some point in my life. Walking towards it along the river was a special experience, because this memory came back to me, and I realized that I was actually fulfilling it. There it was, rising above the river on a beautiful sunny day in Spain. There we were, in person, taking it in. It was a surreal moment for me.

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In the land of tapas

Mmmmm, tapas

We arrived in Bilbao by train and bus this afternoon. It was a beautiful bus ride through steep valleys. We checked in to Hotel Bilbi, and were pleasantly surprised. Our room is clean and has a nice modern bathroom, and we have a big window that opens to let in fresh air. Perhaps we’ve lowered our standards a little since the QM2, but compared to some of the places we’ve seen, it’s heaven.

After settling in, we went for tapas. Ahh, tapas! What a great way to eat! We had dinner at two different bars, along with some delicious wine. They put the tapas out on display along the bar, and you simply pick and choose which ones you’d like to try. At the end of the meal, you just tell the bartender how many you had, and he charges you accordingly. We had tapas ranging from tuna and salmon to omelette to ham, all mixed together in interesting combinations and presented in appetizer-sized portions. It definitely won’t be our last Spanish tapas outing.

Basking in Basque

swimming is fun

After our brief stay in Paris we decided to head for the south coast to soak up some sun. On a recommendation from Carl and Brigitte we came to Biarritz, which is in the very south west corner of France, on the Atlantic ocean. I am loving it here: beach, sun, surf, French cuisine — c’est la vie.

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wewander updates

A very kind and generous lady at the fabulous 4 star Biarritz campground donated her prepaid WIFI card to us as she was leaving today. This gave us a great opportunity to do some website maintenance and updates. Hooray! We shall pass on her generosity somehow, somewhere.

√Ä la Nick Hornby √† la High Fidelity we’ve decided to compile several on-going lists of “top fives”. It’s very tricky to choose just five and will get more and more so as the days pass by but they are fun so we shall try. They’re scattered throughout the site on the breadcrumb (compass rose icon), photos (camera icon) and gear (suitcase icon) pages.

We’ve also put up three new albums on the photos page, from Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris.

What else…hmmm…not much! Please keep reading. We love knowing we’re being watched for some creepy reason. The reason, as Mark mentioned in an earlier post, is because it makes us feel connected to home. Aw.

Our camping conundrum

Camping in Basque country

We’ve been carrying a small tent and our sleeping bags around with is so far on our journey, and actually making quite good use of them. The camping hasn’t always been picturesque (see our post on Paris), but it has definitely been an affordable option for us. The last few days have been spent camping in Biarritz. Our camp ground is called Le Pavillon Royal, and it’s more like a resort than a campground. It’s right on the beach, and has a pool, fantastic hot showers, a small grocery store with fresh croissants and baguettes daily, and a bar/cafe. It’s been like a mini vacation from our bigger journey.

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Another chance at surfing

Wetsuits look good on everybody

It was our third gloriously sunny day in Basque country today, and after two days of watching other people do it, it was our turn to tackle the surf. We rented one surfboard between us, and set up camp on the very busy main beach. The beach was especially packed because it was Sunday, and on top of that, the whole town was having a giant artisan market/sidewalk sale. Nothing like a crowd to motivate you, right?

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Ahh, le Paris!

Eiffel tower

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. How fitting that I just finished reading Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” as we made our way toward Paris. I half expected to be thrown in prison without reason or trial upon arrival, but luckily this didn’t happen. It was an altogether better experience than that.

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Bicycles, bicycles, bicycles. Did I mention that yet?

In the countryside (on the island of Texel), people really do wear wooden clogs! We saw several, and some even had laces. No idea how that works.

Amsterdam, and most of Holland, is flat. Very flat. That’s how they get away with such cruiser bikes.

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Cycling with bell recommended

We arrived in Amsterdam on September 14th, after taking the ferry over from Newcastle. We were lucky enough to be able to connect with our friend Andrea, who lives in Amsterdam. Andrea was generous enough to give us the use of her apartment for our whole stay there, which let us settle in a bit and have a really convenient home base. The apartment came complete with a friendly little cat. We spent many relaxed mornings slowly waking ourselves up over delicious coffees and planning our days from there.

Because we had no difficulties finding accommodation, we were able to spend nearly a full week exploring and enjoying the city. The first thing we did was rented bicycles for the week. Amsterdam is a bicycle city! I’m not exaggerating when I say that. In the city centre (and throughout most of the rest of the city that we saw) the bike path network, signage, and condition was most impressive, better even than most of the roads. And everyone rides bicycles. They are everywhere. I can’t even begin to tell about our time in Amsterdam before I write about the bicycles.

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Reflections on Scotland

Never call a Scotsman “English”. They are British, hailing from the island of Great Britain, but they are definitely not English, a term reserved for those from England only. It’s like calling a Canadian “American”.

The Union Jack is a perfect combination of the English and Scottish flags. Maybe this is a well known fact but I thought Mark was so clever to notice this on his own.

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