Getaria is a small fishing town just 15 minutes west of San Sebastian along the A-8, and we passed some gorgeous seaside scenery on the way. Like seaside towns the world over, Getaria is perched on a hill overlooking a harbor crowded with fishing boats. The streets were pretty empty when we arrived around 1:30, and we followed our noses to the delicious-smelling Elkano, but unfortunately the restaurant was closed until the next day (of course we went back the next day for dinner).
So instead of going to Elkano, we walked down to the town harbor to see if we could find some asador (seafood grilled outside on a charcoal grill), but sadly nothing looked good by the harbor. Instead of joining the crowds of locals in grungy-looking tapas bars, we were so obsessed with finding asador that we ate at a deadly-silent restaurant called Iribar, Calle Nagusia 34 that our guidebook had recommended.
We’d seen the grill all hot and fiery in front of the restaurant, so we thought the place would be OK, but when we walked in, there was just one other couple in the restaurant. Though they spoke Spanish, they were clearly tourists, too.
The menu came laminated and in three languages (a sign the restaurant never changes its menu), but we figured that at a seafood place, nothing on the menu depends too much on creativity. Rather, it’s all about freshness.The grilled cuttlefish came grilled, breaded and pan fried, which was not at all what I expected, but at least it seemed freshly prepared. My portion size was certainly generous – there must have been six or seven whole cuttlefish on my plate. For 15 euros, this seemed a good deal, except that the whole reason we’d come to the restaurant was to enjoy the smoky charcoal flavor you get only with an outdoor grill.
Jon’s hake came grilled, but kind of flavourless. What happened to all that sea salt and lemon juice we’d seen by the grill? At another 16 euros, his dish wasn’t worthwhile.
Our total tab was about 60 euros with a half bottle of 2003 Muga rioja, and I wouldn’t go back unless it were crowded with locals or someone you trust assured you that they’re capable of grilling some quality fish (because I have my doubts)
.After finishing lunch around 3, we continued west for forty minutes on the A-8 to reach Bilbao. When we pulled into Bilbao, we were a little concerned that we lacked a city map, but it turned out to be no problem. Signs every 50 feet point you in the direction of the Guggenheim.
The building is even more beautiful in person than in photos – it really shimmers in the sun. At an exhibition I once saw about Frank Gehry, I remember reading that the metallic skin of the museum shifts like the waves of the sea. I can’t confirm if the walls physically shift or not, but the sunlight dances enough that the effect of waving and shifting is there.
Viewed from across the Bilbao river, the museum has the lines of a graceful ship, and I suppose the jumble at the end could be seen as waves.
We walked in, paid our 10.50 euro admission fee (which comes with an indispensable audiotour), and started to wander through.
It turns out the building is beautiful on the inside, too, with many tall, curvy spaces. Photos aren’t allowed inside, or else I would have gone crazy trying to capture the interior beauty. Glass, titanium, steel, white walls and marble combine and show off one another.There’s an LED zipper installation in one of the first galleries, and it’s mesmerizing to watch the zipper light’s reflection move along the curved, shiny surfaces of that particular gallery.
I also enjoyed the main gallery where these’s a large steel installation by Richard Serra called A Matter of Time.
You walk through these enormous, maze-like, concentric steel ellipses, and not only do you feel disoriented, but it does feel cool and echoey and closed-in, as if you were walking in medieval city streets (as Richard Serra says he intended).
Modern art is not my favorite, but I enjoyed the Bilbao Guggenheim, mostly because I think the building itself is such a work of art. My guess is that the building probably gets more interesting the more time you spend looking at it.
I felt a little guilty for not doing anything else in Bilbao except visit the museum (“guilt” because I like to do my part to support urban regeneration), but Bilbao seems to be doing just fine without my patronage of its tapas bars and shops. So I’ll let myself off the hook this time.