Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sharon Peter Bilbao

Travel is a funny thing, at least for me. The actual to and from trips form a parenthesis around the whole journey, walling it off from my regular life. This has it's good and bad points. On the one hand, I get back into my daily life pretty easily. On the other hand, I look back on the details of the trip as if through a glass where the detail is never as sharp and clear as I would like it to be. Our time in the Basque country is definitely like that. I can see details but things are more disconnected than I would have expected after a few weeks at home.

When I think of the high points of the trip, one was probably the chance to walk on the Camino de Santiago da Compostella. I was excited to be in St. Jean Pied de Port and I eagerly found the pilgrim office so I could register and get my "passport" and shell. I can't claim any great insights while walking on the pilgrimage road. It was windy and sunny and gravelly and rather up and down. I think I suspected that traversing the whole route was not something I would be able to accomplish. But it gave a connection, however slight, with medieval pilgrims.

Other memorable events were sparse. I didn't have a lot of "wow" moments as Rick Steves calls them. I did love eating more foie gras than I have ever had in my life. Sorry to all my vegetarian friends.

Probably the other "wow" moment was seeing Frank Gehry's Guggenheim. I'm not a huge fan of modern art, but the building is phenomenal. I did like some of the art, but it was the building that really impressed.

The major downside was trying to accommodate my wheat allergy. I did discover where to buy gluten-free foods, but having to supply some of my own breakfast, always worrying about what I could and couldn't eat, were aspects I didn't enjoy. The other downside is the shower problem. It's not that showers weren't possible. As usual, it was obvious that many European hotels just don't understand the mechanics of showering. Why else have a shower and no shower curtain? The variations on the ways to flood a bathroom floor are too numerous to enumerate.

I enjoyed the Basque country, but I didn't love it. If I go back to Spain, to see the south, I may love it more, or I may not. Only time will tell.

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