From Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela
The Northern Spain trip was one that was taken during the COVID-19 pandemic storm. 2020 hit all of us with this dark swan event, and grounded literally the entire world. In 2021, with some semblance of normalcy creeping back to some tourist destinations, it was time to make plans for some careful travelling! Hence this trip to Northern Spain.
As usual, many photos were taken during the trip, but I'll try to insert those 360 photos that I've consistently taken and posted on Google Street View. Enjoy!
First stop (after checking into the hotel) was Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao. At it was getting late, we reckoned that we will take time taking photos, and enjoying the cool yet sunny weather instead of going into the museum.
Actually the view from the nearby bridge is the best as it provided an expansive view of the museum. If you walk along the bridge, you can see the various light reflections off the Museum exterior, giving the museum a very interesting sheen. Due to the fact it was the COVID-19 period, there were not many tourists at this area, making it a nice walk around the museum, the surrounding park as well as along the river bank. The first day was a short one due to jetlag.
We then took the funicular (Funicular de Artxanda) up to the lookout area, called the S. Cook Bilbao Lookout. This lookout is famous for the red "BILBAO" characters which are obviously popular with the tourists. While the hill is not very high, it still offers a view over Bilbao city (not too many skyscrapers fortunately).
While looking for a place to eat, I read the reviews and decided to head over to Cafe Iruna to try their tapas and drinks. The Café Iruña located in front of the famous “Jardines de Albia”, was inaugurated on July 7, 1903 by the great Navarrese promoter Sir Severo Unzue Donamaría. We arrived a little too early (remember lunches start very late here in Spain), so we had tapas and drinks before settling for their value-for-money lunch set.
We had meals at a few really nice restaurants, such as Restaurant Alameda (at San Sebastian) which offers menu with local and seasonal products, and they have held a Michelin star for over twenty years. We also tried Arzak, a 3-starred restaurant focusing on traditional Basque cuisine by Elena Arzak, who was named best chef in the world by Veuve Clicquot. Nevertheless, I think that dining is not always about the stars, and homely restaurants and cafes can be a joy to dine in. A case in point is Hidalgo 56, a nice cafe-restaurants serving pinchos at San Sebastian.
Another interesting part of the trip was driving all the way into the mountain areas (lots of curvy turns) to this place called Fuente De, where you can take a cable car up to the mountains, with snow walks and amazing views. This is also a stop for hikers who want to spend a few days hiking in the snowy mountains.
If you are a fan of Gaudi, then you would want to include this stop as part of your trip. El Capricho de Gaudi. El Capricho is one of the few projects completed by Antoni Gaudi outside of his native region of Catalonia and produced a summer villa for a wealthy donor based in Comillas, Cantabria, Spain. One interesting aspect of this design is that Gaudi decided upon a different shape of roof than he would normally use, due to the different weather and climate conditions of this area close to Santander in Northern Spain. His normal consideration was, of course, Barcelona, and so in this case he demonstrated an understanding of the implications of working in a different part of the country. It's a great stop for 1 or 2 hours.
At Santander, one of the main highlights would be Palacio de la Magdalena. It was built in 1909 to house the Spanish Royal Family. There were some local tourists visiting the place as well, and as with the previous stops, we were the only Asian folks doing any visiting. (We did not see any Asian travellers until we reached Santiago de Compostela.
Gijón or Xixón is a great stop for the Northern Spain trip. The city itself has this nice bay-beach area with underground parking. There were so many locals who were bringing their dogs out to play. The humans-to-dog ratio here is incredible! Generally, if you are visiting this city, you will also be making the stop to Oviedo which is quite nearby.
Another really quick (morning) stop was Ribadesella. a small town in Asturias along Spain's northern coast. As we arrived on a Sunday, everything was closed and there was no one around. We managed to find a pub-cafe place which was open for a quick bite before taking a few photos and then going on our way.