Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bilbao (4)

We had a couple of hours to spare before taking the airport bus, so I made a solo excursion, leaving June to pack (I take a bag and rarely unpack more than a minimum on short trips). I took a brisk walk down the length of the Grand Via to cross the river and take a look at the fine 19th century Ajuntamente, the town hall building, with a famous abstract iron sculpture in front of it - there are many such sculptures in the city. There's an installation piece made of piles of iron ore pellets. My favourite is by Dalvador Dali, called the Spirit of the Muse - at least it's wrought iron, and doesn't resemble a few girders just twisted into an odd shape.

The piece in front of the Ajuntamente is by Basque sculptor Jorje Otieza is called 'The Ovoid Variation of the De-occupation of the Sphere', representing, as the guide-book says, 'the artist's concern with emptiness'. That's a sphere made up of girders. On the opposite side of the river on the promenade, I found a wrought iron semi-abstract sculpture of a discus thrower, elegant and poised in action. It made for good photography in the morning light.

It struck me that the city seemed to have plenty of birds singing in the trees, but few pigeons, and no seagulls whatsoever. I found this as surprising as seeing a river empty of boat traffic. It seems as if the policy of scrupulously clean street (no cleaning machines, only people) and well organised waste and re-cycling management has paid off, leaving scavengers nothing to live off in the public realm. Added to that is the social habit of eating together, browsing food convivially - which is how tapas consumption strikes me - people just don't wander the streets feeding their faces, and te environment is so much better for it as a result.

I took the tram back to the hotel to collect my sister and our bags for the short walk to the bus terminus, where we were able to use up the last euros on our Creditrans cards for our airport journey. e gave ourselves plenty of time, not only for check-in, but also to take a proper look at Calatrava's airport, before setting off an another two stage flight, returning to Heathrow. No long walk to the connecting flight this time, as the flight was Iberia, not BA, but lots of confusion at the gate, where there was a border police passport control as well as airline passport checks with boarding cards - two airline checks were needed to weed out passengers confused by the succession of flights for London leaving from adjacent gates, late afternoon, making a total of three passport checks in twenty paces, before boarding.

We landed at terminal three and had a long walk to terminal one to find a taxi home for June and a bus to Cardiff for me. The end of another fascinating journey into another city's life at a point of social and cultural adaptation to the new knowledge based global economy, art and leisure to the fore-front. Where next I wonder?

Photos, hundreds of them, can be found here

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