I think I have enough moments in Spain to last about a year....
I've said that there's not a lot to do in Bilbao, but there are a few decent museums. The most famous, and according to Rick Steves, the only reason to stop in Bilbao on your way to or from San Sebastien, is the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art. I went there on Tuesday of my week in Bilbao.
I got there in the late morning and I thought I might be able to see everything before breaking for a late lunch, but as I made my way through the exhibits and still hadn't looked at the special collection of Surrealist works, I knew I would want to stop for lunch and go back.
One of the best draws of the Guggenheim is the excellent restaurant. Though dinners are extremely expensive, I was able to get a three-course lunch with wine for only 25 euros or so. OMG, it was so delicious! Definitely my best meal of 2008 to date. The first course was a mushroom ravioli in a frothy green sauce. Next came a cod stew dish (traditional Basque). Dessert was a sautéed apple with cinnamon ice cream. And between every meticulously savored bite, I enjoyed some wine. Wait, let me clarify: when the server said "Water? Wine?" I said, "yes, please." I figured it would be a glass of wine or a half bottle. Nope, it was an entire bottle of wine. 750ml.
All my dishes were cleared away, and this is what was left. I'm so glad I brought a magazine because I was in no fit state to walk.
Hehehehehe!!!!! They wrote on the table papery thing! WITH CHALK! *snort*
Needless to say, I really really really enjoyed all the modern art after my scrumptious gourmet bistro lunch. It was ideal, actually: I'm not sure how much the Surrealism would have made sense to me otherwise. As I was, it really spoke to me. :)
Wednesday was free admission day at the Belles Artes Museum, which is actually one of the best art museums in Spain. It's less of an international draw than the Guggenheim, though, and I felt more awkward trying to navigate the place with limited English signage. But I fully enjoyed the collection, and then I challenged myself to order a small lunch in the little cafe/bar. It was mostly empty, and though the bartender didn't speak English, he gave me encouraging nods as I pointed to what I wanted and muttered a few Spanish words from my phrase book.
Ordering food with a language barrier is always stressful, but it's nearly always worth it. This was just a simple lunch of little ham (jamón) sandwiches and a little beer (caña), but the atmosphere was lovely...
...the food was good, and I could be proud for going outside myself and accomplishing something that involved interpersonal communication. If I ever go back to Bilbao, I'm ever so slightly more prepared to just go out and enjoy it.