John and Joan's Travels through France, Spain and Italy travel blog


Today a treat for breakfast. Amalia having discovered my dislike of eggs yesterday, has Spanish breakfast for us today. It is baguette split and toasted and coated with some sort of very fresh tasting tomato pulp and topped with almost black jamon and a drizzle of olive oil. So much nicer than yesterday's omelet John reports and certainly better than my toast. I am curious about the tomato because it is like a pulp but seems uncooked so am whisked off to kitchen - Amalia is a whisking and whirling sort of person - and demonstration proceeds.

Cut tomato in half, place flat grater over bowl and grate - you are left with half a tomato skin in hand. Add salt, a little oil and ole! Ready.

Tomorrow we are off to Bilbao so we take a long walk - good thing after that breakfast - in a different direction to we have been before to the bus station to buy tickets. This is a lovely city. Low rise in every direction, no more than 6 or so floors, and a mix of interesting building styles some belle époque French influenced, some with the modernista wrought iron balconies of Barcelona style, some classically influenced, some inoffensively modern, and in the old area even lower level. The streets are wide and traffic is excluded or reduced with trees, pedestrians and bikes getting more space. It's a city for people not cars. I mentioned how they totally changed Bordeaux by introducing trams and reducing or eliminating traffic from the city centre. We heard later from Andrea that this had changed the character of the city entirely to one where people now loved to walk around. How the river had been an area where people were a bit afraid, a bit rough, whereas now it is crowded with families, young people, couples. But I digress.

John has progressed overnight to fluent Spanish and asks for two tickets to Bilbao from a woman who rather deflatingly answers in English.

It is freezing cold and raining and we try to hunt down the museum of sacred art but it is closed till further notice and by the time we are back in the main part of town and ready to hunt down the San Telmo museum it is siesta time and shut until 4.00. So we go with the flow, take a cup of hot tea - no lunch - in a nice cosy little place and come home to write blogs.

The San Telmo museum is an ultra modern building built around an old convent with some parts Gothic and others clean modern lines. I will leave John to write about the first part which was a sacred art section. The rest was a museum of Basque culture of this area of Spain including ethnography and fine arts.

I will mention the part of the museum that resonated most for me. This section represented ordinary people's work and daily life through the implements they used, clothes they wore, photos and video. A shepherd's home spun and woven and stitched sack-like covering. His roughly made shoes of sheep skin. His crook and shears. A grainy video of an old grandma sitting high in the mountains outside her house as she draws a bunch of dried reeds through prongs made of lashed slender spears of wood -like willow. She also cards wool, spins, weaves and so on. Around the video the implements and the fine work of women like her. Around another corner the implements of fishermen and photos. Hard lives and the sense that these were just a few steps away.

Throughout the museum a strong pride and emphasis on Basque culture. We have occasionally see an ETA sign on buildings but don't know what they say. The museum deals with the history of the movement in a video. Again we can't really understand but do pick up enough to know that it finishes with the armistice.

A bar for dinner of pintxos and racione of stewed baccala with peppers. Down the street for cortada (short black with milk) and small biscuit. Cheap and delicious.



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