We arrived in Bilbao late last night and were whizzed at top speed from the nearby Loui airport to our hotel on the Grand Via at breakneck speed. We even pulled up with a screech of tyres. I guess our driver was late for his midnight tapas.
We slept ok but were up early as we had a cycling tour of the city planned and weren't quite sure how to find the bike place. Through the window of our hotel the clouds looked fairly ominous. And sure enough the omens proved prescient as just as we stepped outside the heavens opened on us. Of course being British we weren't going to let a little rain rain on our parade but we must have looked a bit of a odd sight at the door of the bicycle tour shop standing there dead on 10am drenched to the skin expecting two bikes to be ready along with a perky tour guide.
The shop owner - camp as a row of tents - dispatched as to a nearby cafe to wait it out, get coffee, dry off, and warm up. And sure enough 20 minutes later the rain had stopped and we were ready to roll. He obviously knew Bilbao weather better than us.
Bilbao is a lovely city with lots of history and I think our local tour boy George showed us most of it! He talked about it at length. At length. Boy, the boy could talk. Still, we got good value for money as he shared with us his views on modernity, the EU, taxes, people from Madrid, football, racism, vineyards, the steel industry, David Cameron and the French. He certainly knew his stuff and he made sure we knew it too! We did *see* lots of stuff too though. The old town, the new town, the old docks, the new docks, the old market, the new market... you get the picture. The architecture is great here though. A right mixture of old and new. The streets are clean and the people we met were very friendly. George even showed us one of the many secret gastronomy clubs (which up until recently were the exclusive preserve of men). Members bring food and drink and cook for themselves and other members. The public aren't allowed in and membership is highly sought after. But he knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy... So we got to see one.
To finish our tour - which at this point had lasted four hours (Spanish timing, huh?) - Georgie boy treated us to a beer and a pintxo each. Pintxo are small bar type snacks; ham, cheese, seafood etc served all over the Basque region. They are related to tapas, the main difference being that pintxo are usually 'spiked' with a skewer or toothpick, often to a piece of bread.
So lovely was this that after we had returned our bikes we returned to the same establishment and had six more (pintxo not beers!). Yum, yum.
The rain came again after lunch so we darted across town to the Guggenheim Museum to shelter from the weather and marvel at the art. I say marvel. There were indeed a few good pieces inside but to be honest the building itself was probably more impressive that what was in it.
We are now having a siesta before we investigate Bilbao's nightlife. Like the rest of Spain I hear it starts late. Very late. So we might well be fed, watered and in bed asleep long before the Bilbaons are putting on there dancing shoes. But if we do happen to stay up to see the night life, there's certainly one taxi driver we won't be flagging down for our homeward journey.