Embarrassingly enough, ever since I saw the James Bond flick "The World is Not Enough", I've wanted to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. I remember thinking it was one of the most unique buildings I'd ever seen - twisted, flowing, glimmering metal in the shape of a flower... or a fish... or a... who knows - it's just cool looking. Add to the fact that it encases a museum full of 20th century art, and that it sits on the river in the middle of a Spanish city with a cool name... I was sold.
I was already heading to Spain to meet up with some friends to run with the bulls, so when I found a flight directly into Bilbao, I decided to make a quick stop.
The unfortunate part about my visit is that I didn't have much time in the city at all. As they tend to do, my plans changed as soon as I got there. I had in mind to spend a day or two in Bilbao, then head down to Benidorm to meet up with my friends from the States who had just arrived.
When my plane landed, I found a shuttle to the downtown bus station, and I made a call to see if they'd made it. It turns out everyone was there, and having a great time on the beach. Talking to them made me realize it was ridiculous to be by myself in Bilbao when my friends were just a few hours away, laying around on the beach. So, I waited at the counter at the bus station for an hour and a half (yeah - the siestas are a real-deal over here - everything shuts down from like 2:00 to 4:00, for no real reason.), and bought a ticket on the 10:00pm bus to Benidorm.
This left me about five hours to see Bilbao. Not much time, but really, all I wanted to see was the museum. And further, all I really wanted to see was the building itself. I know it may not be "proper" for me not to care about seeing the art inside, but when you only have five hours in town, you don't have a place to store your 50 lbs of gear, the entrance fee is 10 Euros and you only have two hours until it closes, I opted for the poor-man's tour of the outside.
Fortunately, the museum didn't disappoint. It was everything I thought it would be and more. The entire area around the structure has been developed into a set of parks and gardens with fountains and small cafés. It sits right on the Nervión River and is within walking distance of a beautiful downtown plaza.
If you've seen pictures of the museum on TV, it simply doesn't do it justice. It's immense, and seems to have an almost infinite number of curves and angles. It seems like a huge, free-standing sculpture. It's hard to believe you can actually walk around in it.
There's also plenty of art outside - there's a 40 foot puppy in front of the museum made out of flowers. There's a giant metal spider near the water. And, there's the building itself, which seems like a different structure from every angle.
Anyway, I enjoyed my time there, as short as it was. Maybe next time I'll actually go inside...