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            According to the people who live in the areas we have gone through so far, we have not actually entered Spain yet.  Well by crossing from the Basque country to Cantabria (to the west), according to some, we have finally entered "España" for the first time.  But I get ahead of myself.  First I have to tell you about the terrorist bombing by the Basque liberation group called ETA.  It happened the morning of our 2nd day in San Sebastian.  In the old town, a bomb in a toy car killed a grandmother and blinded her grandchild.  Everyone from Jairo to Irene was worried we would be scared to death.  We're here, what can we do about it now?

           

            The morning of our last day in Donostia, I ran the length of the beach, heading east past the large Ayuntamiento building through the old town, across the river bridge into the section called Gros, toward France (Biarritz is the next city up the coast) all the way to the end past Playa de Zurriola to Playa de Gros (photo).  These beaches are outside the protected cove of San Sebastian’s Bahia de Conches, so surfing is big here.  While walking back, I bought some souvenir pins and in one shop in old town I saw a man ordering a penis birthday cake from a 70 year-old woman - amazing.  I found the church of San Sebastian close by and the internet cafe which worked well (the photo zip upload from the floppy disk at the hotel in Pamplona (Chapter 17 and Chapter 18 didn't work so I will send it again).  Dr. Jaime Aramberri picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Olartzun to Restaurante Zuberoa, which he says is the best in the area (photo).  Well, it was a 7 course gourmet meal that was fabulous and by the time we got to bed it was 3 AM.

            The next day (not AM) we drove the 55 mile Autopista ($10 toll) to Bilbao.  By the way, instead of the $3.80/gal as in Italy or $4.25/gal as in England, we are only paying $2.60/gal in Spain - a real bargain.  We arrived about 4 PM and could not find our hotel on the GPS system so we aimed it for the famous Guggenheim Museum and it got us there perfectly.  The city of Bilbao, or Bilbo in Basque, on the Rio Nervión, has over a million people and is the 6th largest city in Spain as well as the being the capitol of the Basque region and Spain’s leading port.  The locals refer to it as “botxo” (boh-tshow) meaning hole or mouth.  It is very industrial but is changing to be more livable, hence the museum.  The Guggenheim Museum was designed by Santa Monica's own famous architect, Frank O. Gehry and opened in 1997.  It is a very beautiful and wild looking titanium-clad building but, to me, there was nothing inside - not one painting or sculpture worth the effort of the visit.  You visit this to see the architecture of the building, inside and out.  Someday it may house great treasures.  There was an exhibit of Armani's fashions on the 3rd floor, a Korean's crazy stuff with TV sets on the 2nd and huge slabs of metal sculpture on the 1st (photo).  For me it was a waste of time and space.  They severely ban cameras and camcorders here, so I was in 7th heaven and ready for action.  Only problem there was nothing worth videoing except the interior architecture (photo) which I got all of.  Just when I was finishing, they caught me and sealed my camcorder in a glued up special plastic bag.  I must have left my guard down because I was finished.  Outside the building is a large ceramic dog covered with flowers called Puppy (pooo-pee) that is now the mascot of the city.  In 10 years this city will really shine.

Irene flew from Madrid to meet us and she joined us at the Museum for coffee.  She had been to the hotel but didn't know how to get back so we all got in the BMW and chased down a cab.  She got the cab and we followed him to the hotel Marial Arenal in the old town.  It so happens that this is the week of the festival Madonna de Borgonia and there are 50,000 people filling the old quarter to the brim.  We never would have gotten there without the cab.  Obviously the parking lot was full but we lucked out when a guy in the front was just pulling out.  I went for my run through the crowds (again) and at the end videoed all the different music venues including a 10 man group of Basque singers going from bar to bar.  Then we all had wine in the main Placa (plah-tha) and took a cab to the Palacio de la Musica y de Congresos Euskelduna for a wonderful dinner at the Restaurant Etxanobe and fireworks (again) off the dining room balcony outside.  Irene had bull's tail and it was good with an excellent ‘95 Rioja red wine.  To bed at 4 AM.  Even I am finding this hard to get used to.

Next day Irene had to fly back so we stroll and shop through the new part of town and then head west.  We see a sign saying "Welcome to Cantabria," a little state that is happy to be part of Spain.  So now we have finally arrived in Spain?  We drive the 65 miles to Santander (sant-ahn-dare) on the coast to Hotel Bahia, a beautiful spot.  I run along the bulwark along the water arriving at a beach (photo).  I had to climb a very steep hill then headed back to town which is now very lively.  Instead of having dinner in one place, we went to 5 different bodegas (photo) and had a different tapas with rioja in each one until we were full.  The best was chopitos fritos which are tiny calamari.  There was no fiesta here but people filled the streets even at 1 AM (photo).  Got to bed earlier this time.

Now we are off to the state of Asturias and its capitol, Oviedo.

 

 

 

KJH                                                               Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #22 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD

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Santander, España

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