(early Summer, 2009) One of the nice things about having Jax for a home airport is the Art. In addition to the artistic décor of the terminal, there are display cases with changing exhibits and a very nice gallery. There were large abstracts and a wall-sized installation with 12” art tiles and pink birds attached to the wall.
We began our adventure in DONASTIA, better known as San Sebastian, on the northern Atlantic coast of Spain; the Bay of Biscay. It's the Capitol of the Basque Region or Euskadi, as it was locally known.
Ondarreta, the neighborhood at the bottom of Mt Igeldo, was a very nice, upscale area that we explored later. But then everything we saw in Donastia was pretty upscale. From the center of town we walked past all the fancy shops, through neighborhoods of Belle Epoch residences, over the Urumea river on the Christina Bridge, past the train station designed by Gustave Eiffel and lots of statues, we followed the river to the sea. Recrossed the river and found the Old Town. It was all so beautiful, though a gray day.
As usual in the life of a “shoulder season” traveler, the weather can turn on you, and it turned cold. So we were glad to find café con leche and breakfast tapas the next morning.
At the edge of Old Town we found stairs leading up to an old church and from there, additional steps that led us onto the main path up Mt. Urgill. The entire end of the peninsula is a park for the mount. There were lots of paths with interesting stonework through the park-like slopes offering views of the city. It wasn’t terribly steep, but we took our time trying to figure out the correct paths. At the top was the Castillo, which was topped by 50-foot tall El Sagrado Corazón (the Sacred Heart) by artist Federico Coullaut in 1950.
It was a nice day, so we drove west along the ocean past Ono and Zarauz. Stopped at GETARIA, which juts out into the sea and has a special kind of cidre, but not available due to the strike.
|On the Passeo de Julio Beobide.|
|Estela a Rafa Balerdi, Pico del Loro|
|Monument to Dr. Fleming|
While Chillida's earliest sculptures concentrated on mostly torsos and busts, his later works tended to be more massive and more abstract. Much of Chillida's work is inspired by his Basque upbringing, and many of his sculptures' titles are in the Basque language, Euskera.
Begun as a Roman military site, Bayonne was a target of Danish Vikings. And as part of Aquitaine, it was ruled by England from 1151 to 1452. A military armament industry was born here giving the world the "bayonet." It became a center for Basque culture.
In our travels, I noticed a shop with no sign, but the window had Art and other items piled up in it. The door was open, exposing more piles of art, books, and stuff. We went in. The proprietor, Alain de Guili, was a photographer and it appeared to be a gallery of sorts, but there was also an old piece of furniture which turned out to be a breadbox that stood about 4 feet tall to accommodate the French loaves.
While we couldn’t take home the painting of a woman & snake, M found a rack of photo/postcards that he shot. The price for two was 50 cents, but we had no change, nor did he, so he made them a gift. He then proceeded to give Marie two more packets of postcards. Very cordial.
The cathedral, which towers over Bayonne, was very old and worn. To one side was a cloister which was under restoration, but you could see the green grass of the courtyard within. The other side had a nice little area of shops and cafés where we stopped for lunch. While sitting outside we admired the old town and ate Tarte legumes avec fromage et salade. Pleasant service and atmosphere.
Click here for more pics.
We heard a band playing, as we approached the town square where we found lots of people wearing different colored robes or capes, and hats with signs that we could not read. By the costumes and signs we figured out that this all had something to do with food. Standards with carrots, cherries, loaves of bread, chunks of cheese all in evidence and much more. We got there right after the entrance procession and the Mayor was on stage speaking. The banner across the back of the stage read: “Confrérie du Chipirón” (Brotherhood of the Squid). Interestingly, the word for brotherhood is in French while the word for squid is in Spanish, but this referred to the local chapter, not the organization. There were obviously brotherhoods for various gastronomical objects. Next to the stage was the band. There was much speechifying, awarding, kissing, and clapping, with an occasional song. Click here for video. Click here for pics.
Back in Donostia, there was time for a walk on Ondaretta’s beachfront promenade with its many beautiful flowers – the colors blended so perfectly – and then a stroll through Antigua Ondaretta. Lots of folks out for evening socializing. Knots of people, young and old, crowding the sidewalks and parks.
At one end of the vast Plaza Nueva there were small groups of people – old and young – pouring over stacks of trading cards. Adults with lists of numbers which they crossed off as they passed cards back and forth. One boy showed me what he was trading, apparently an animated adventure series I didn’t recognize (not that I would). I saw others that looked similar to Pokemon. They leaned in close to one another, like top secret stuff. The open square was surrounded by arcades and there were vendors set up there as well. On the other side of the plaza were tables and bars, where we got some tapas and beer from the Café Moderne: pinxos, canon, stuffed red pepper over a fish paste on bread, fried quail egg on anchovies & ham, tuna & ham sandwiches. We sat outside watching the kids play.
Drove south again, the next day, to ESTELLA in search of a festival. It was an interesting drive, climbing a mountain ridge and crossing through a pass into an enchantingly isolated place. We were almost surprised when we arrived at the small city. It soon began raining. As we approached the square we found a Navarre folk group singing in a doorway. Click here for video.
|by Rafael Huertas|
BILBAO is the capital of Bizkaia, the third Basque county. Not especially pretty, but working hard at it. We found the old quarter, with an unimpressive Plaza Nueva. There were lots of sculptures, however, especially along the Nervion river. And there were nice pedestrian bridges, which we crossed to get to the Guggenheim Museum. Calling Frank Gehry’s creation a beautiful building doesn’t suffice. It’s indescribable, really.
|Bosque de Paraguas by Jose Ibarrola|
|Garden of Delights by Juan Luis Moraza|
|Cai Guo-Quang, Reflection-a gift from Iwaki, 2004|
|Lugar de Encuentros IV, 1973|
|Stele of Gernika II|
We went to COMILLAS to see Gaudi’s Capricio, and decided to spend the night in this coastal town. It’s a pretty little place with old buildings covered with blooms. We got a room at the Esmerelda and then we walked to Capricio. A private residence, it was one of Gaudi’s earliest commissions. We liked it very much. Inside, which featured a curved center wall, is now a restaurant. Pricey, too. We also walked the beach and all around town. Click here for pics of Capricio and Comillas.
|view of the Atlantic from the mouth of Cueva del Pindal|
|Hórreo (storehouse) in Cabrales, a cheese center.|
Saw the medieval Roman bridge (Puente Romano) at CONGAS DI ONIS, an ancient capitol of the Kingdom of Asturias. There was also a running race messing up the traffic, while the rivers were filled with kayakers.
We continued on to GIJON, which was overrun with football (soccer) fans cheering for the home team, Sporting de Gijon (also known as Rojiblancos because of their red and white striped jerseys).
There was a sculpture at the beachfront promenade, but not the Chillida we were seeking. That, it turned out, was on the extreme other end of the beach (far), up on a hill, also overlooking the ocean. With the influx of people and traffic, it was not possible to get near this site, however.
|Sombras de Luz by Fernando Alba|
Probably founded by the Carthaginians around 230 BC, invaded by Visigoths and then Muslims, Barcelona points to the time when the Muslims were expelled in 801 AD as the beginning of Catalunya.
We got off the Metro at the Arc de Triomf and walked through the promenade that dated from the 1890s. It was lined with interesting buildings, though several were under restoration, as was the massive park at the other end. Walked along the Passeig Picasso and decided not to go to the Picasso Museum. Outside the Customs House we found a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture and more, as we walked through the marina to the Rambla de Mar and the Maremagnum (shopping mall on the pier).
Many twirled large axe-like props, while others employed a variety of items. One group looked like they had emptied out a convenience store and attached it to themselves. Others marched with brooms over their shoulders and performed some not-so-precision drills. Drinking was not evident, but many of the marchers smoked cigarettes while they pranced about. Click here for video.
We found ourselves at the sunbather-filled playa now, with more sculptures like Frank Gehry’s Fish and a host of unlabeled installations. All that and we hadn’t yet found a bed for the night.
The next day we began our search for all things Antoni Gaido i Cornet, also known as Gaudi (1852-1924). As usual, we did more than our share of walking. Yes, it takes time, but there’s no better way to see what a city has to offer. And Barcelona had plenty to offer an architecture fan. Besides Gaudi, there was a whole school of wildly creative artists working in the “modernista” style, as they refer to Art Nouveau. This activity was interrupted only to look for Chillida sculptures.
The most famous Gaudi creation was La Sagrada Familia, which was begun in 1882 and is expected to be completed no earlier than 2026. Click here for more pictures.
Back in town, we found these Chillida's as well:
|Barcelona, 1998, at Plaça Àngels|
|Topos V, 1985 in Plaza del Rey|
Palau Nacional was the home to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya as well as Museu d'Art Modern. This was the largest museum in Catalonya. It was also the most important center for Romanesque Art (11th-18th century) in the world, though Art of other styles and other times were well represented, from Catalan Gothic artist Jaume Huguet to Goya, El Greco, and Peter Paul Rubens.
Some of the most important works of art in the museum were frescoes taken from 12th and 13th century churches in the Pyrenees and reassembled at the museum. And there was an attractive display of decorative art from the 19th and 20th centuries featuring Gaudi and his Modernista pals. Click here for some pictures.
Agulla by Tom Carr
We found two contemporary Art museums: The CaixaForum, which was housed in the Modernista Casa Ramona, and MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) at Plaça Àngels, since 1995.
The Caixa offered interesting displays of graphic arts, as I recall. And very long escalators. MACBA had a variety of contemporary Art exhibits on several floors of the large, airy space.
The last place we saw in Barcelona was the Agbar Tower by Jean Nouvel. On the way, a band of female pickpockets wsd foiled by Marie’s quick thinking.
I should point out that we have been to Spain previously, when we visited Galicia in the northwest corner, as well as Segovia, Toledo, Madrid, and other places along the way. This was before we had a decent camera, so the photos may not allow for a full post. But I will someday write about the Galician artist Alfonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao.