Week Notes 19 - 26 April 2024: Spain!

Sunny San Sebastián
26 April 2024

Yes, there was some work… but more importantly, a trip to spain with some longtime friends!


Had a great visit to spain with a couple of guy friends who used to be neighbours in Belsize Park. One is now back in Greece, the other is in Canada, and I’ve moved to even more northern London.

We converged in Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim of course. Yes, the building is interesting, but what I most enjoyed was the always-monumental Richard Serra piece “The Matter of Time” where we took a few obligatory selfies.

Inside Serra's The Matter of Time

Later, we strolled the old town, stopping several times for pintxos on the way back to our hotel. The next day, we had breakfast, tried in vain to catch a sold-out bus after believing we didn’t need to book ahead (oops). Ended up paying exorbitantly for an Uber to San Sebastián, but I’m so glad we did. What a wonderful little town on the beach! We walked the sunny promenade, admired the sparkling blue water, had some pintxos, climbed the hill to an old castle, had a few beers and olives on the ramparts and chatted about life, walked down to the San Telmo Musuem museum where we learned more about Basque culture and history including some Basque ska/punk. We spent the evening pintxos-hopping from one place to the next across the old town including Ganbara, some place specialising in sardines, a place specialising in the region’s world famous cheese cake (bar vita or something?), and several others I can’t remember. Full and happy, we strolled to the other end of the promenade and then back home to bed.

Anchovies, peppers, olive oil, and green onions on bread. Perfect.

Kortatu – 80's Basque ska
The next day, we strolled the old town again, saw a folk-singing group who were walking through the old streets singing traditional songs and playing instruments (guitar, tambourine & concertina), saw a wedding party leaving the old church amid plenty of confetti, sat on the boulevard and enjoyed some tortillas and drinks, visited the Basque Country Architecture Institute for a great little exhibit about trees in architecture, ate gelato, had a much needed healthy lunch at La Issla, caught the bus back to Bilbao winding through beautiful lush green valleys along the way, made a quick connection to the airport bus, jumped on a plane to Barcelona, checked into our very nice “Midtown Apartment”, then went out for dinner at the glamorous, cavernous, El National a posh, slightly too Instagrammy for my taste mega-food-court restaurant complex where we had another much-needed healthy meal with minimal ham & cheese. After dinner we wandered the streets, waiting a while for amazing gelato at the delicious Dela Crem, walking past a very sparkly drag bar, and finally returning home. I’m so grateful to have friends that enjoy wandering around quaint European cities in the evening as much as I do.

I speak for the trees!

The next day we walked down La Rambla and took the funicular and then the gondola to the top of Montjuic. I didn’t visit the Fundacion Juan Miro this time but I still have fond memories of visiting on my own during my first visit to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress and again a few years later.

Instead, we walked down to the Miramar station and took the gondola across the city to the port, then stopped for more gelato and walked along the beach for a while, turned and walked up through a beautiful park (which one?) and over to the Picasso Museum. It’s a somewhat random assortment of stuff he donated but I enjoyed some of the more than 58 responses to Velasquez’s Las Meninas that he did in 1957. My favourite were the colourful playful paintings he did of the pigeons outside his studio, “Villa La Californie” near Cannes when he was taking a break from Las Meninas.

After the Picasso Museum we popped into a very gothic looking restaurant for a delicious but probably too heavy dinner. My instinct was to have the tuna main which I thought would be lighter, but I second-guessed myself and switched my order to the Iberian pork which was delicious and succulent but too rich. Should’ve trusted my gut.

On the last day, we went to the incredible Mercado de la Boqeria, marvelled at all the food, ate all the things, sat at the counter at Mític Bar, then visited Park Güell, had an early dinner of some paella and a lovely fig salad, then I jumped in a taxi to the airport as they went off to Sagrada Familia. A lot to pack into 5 days!

Greenhouse in the Parc de la Ciutadella
Arches at Gaudi's Park Güell

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