Brisk Walkers Logo
Welcome Guest - Login or Free Account  

A Healthy Lifestyle
Begins With Walking

  Home » BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN . WHERE ANCIENT IS HIP AND MODERN IS COOL, By Shyam Amladi

Travel & Culture

BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN . WHERE ANCIENT IS HIP AND MODERN IS COOL, By Shyam Amladi

?BILBAO, VALENCIA and SURROUNDS

Inside Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

The Basque region of Spain should definitely be on your travel bucket list.

WHERE IS IT:

Basque region is in northern Spain. Pyrenees mountains separate Basque from NE France. These mountains also separate two oceans—the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It is characterized by jagged mountains, rugged and independent people (in fact, Basque is an autonomous region within Spain) that as recent DNA research reveals, have come from Northern Europe.

Key towns, including the ones we will describe below, include Bilboa, Valencia, St. Sebastian and Vittoria. Bilbao and Valencia being more famous, are discussed below in detail.

PLACES TO SEE:

                                                        BILBAO

Founded in 1300 as a town, Bilbao, 375 miles NW of Barcelona, is a town where history co-exists with modernism. Its name derives from the Basque “bi albo” meaning two river banks. It thrived soon after its establishment as a key port of the Castille Kingdom, under Juan I.

Highlights

Bilbao enjoys a temperate climate, situated on the Bay of Biscay and surrounded by low-rise mountains (averaging 1,300 feet). Average annual temperatures range from 49F to 70F. The city is surrounded by a massively long greenbelt called the Gran Recorrido de Bilbao, a 62 mile circular belt of trees, mountains and canals that skirts the city.

 

Things to See and Do in Bilbao

·         The city itself is a pleasant walking town where you can catch local delicacies in some of the top-rated restaurants such as Zortziko, Casa Rufo and La Vina Del Ensanche (the latter for some of the best Tapas you can taste. 

·         Guggenheim Museum

Built by the famous American architect Frank Gehry and completed in 1997, the museum is an expression of seamlessly flowing lines and mellow contours, similar to its twin in New York city. However, instead of the crowded, fenced-in urban feeling of its NY twin, the Bilbao Guggenheim truly gives out a feeling of space. It is expansive, sits over a 350,000 sq.feet tract on the Nervion river, in the middle of the bustling city and is perfectly landscaped. . Its free-flowing architectural lines resemble the independent Basque spirit. Some have compared it to the Mad Hatter’s headgear. It rests on 14-foot tall steel and concrete pillars, and houses both antique and modern art—from Florian Slotawa massive sculptures to Andy Warhol (104  multicolored photos of Marilyn Monroe) to classical Greek statues from third century BC.

 

The Art Museum (Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao)

This is located across a large, pleasant greenbelt park that almost bisects the city. It houses major works by Goya, Picasso, El Graco (including his somber, “Annunciation) and Gauguin and has traveling exhibits---for instance, in 2017 they are featuring some of the best works of Renoir, including his “Intimacy” portrait.

·         St. James Cathedral

This 14th c AD cathedral features both Gothic and neo-Gothic styles. It has 26 alters and is named after the patron-Saint of Bilbao.

·         Zubizuri (literally, the White Bridge)

This is a modern-looking 246-feet footbridge built by the famous Santiago Calatrava, with its soaring tied arches on the Nevorin river.

·         Beaches

While the beaches in southern Spain, the “Costa del Sol” catch all the glory, there are somewhat less spectacular but beautiful beaches around Bilbao: Sopelana and Azkorri to name two.

·         San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

This remote-looking but spectacular island is just 3 miles from the airport., 35 miles east of the city. It is connected by a man-made bridge. It features a tiny church atop a rugged hill-the church of St. John the Baptist. In 1334, the seven knights of Biscay fought a fierce battle on this hill and defeated King Alfonso XI.

 

                                                                                VALENCIA

Like Bilbao, Valencia, located 218 miles SE from Barcelona and is the third largest city in Spain. Also like Bilbao, Valencia has a rich history. It was founded in 138 BC. Its first head was the very same infamous senator who was one of the assassins of Julius Caeser (‘Et Tu, Brutus !”…) in 1st Century BC.

HIGHLIGHTS

Even though the highly juicy Valencia orange was named after this city, the variation was hybridized by a farmer in California. But it does highlight the fact that Valencia produces lots of oranges. When in full bloom during the fall and winter months, the streets and boulevards of Valencia are overladen with lush, sweet and plentiful oranges hanging temptingly from the trees.

But Valencia also has a rich past, dating back from 217 BC.

Things to See and Do in Valencia

·         Bio Parc: a 25 acre zoo park with natural wild surrounds for animals of all shapes and sizes, Giraffes, Lions, Elephants…..

The fort in Sagunto

·         Hannibal was Here!

Just outside of Valencia lies the massive fort atop the hill in Sagunto. Hannibal, the legendary Carthahagian military commander, fought the famous “Siege of Saguntum” battle here in 219 BC. Although the castle is in ruins, you can glimpse what an undertaking it would have been to attack this highly fortified fort. Hannibal succeeded in looting and plundering the city.

·         The Holy Grail and the Valencia Cathedral

 

While there are many contenders to the cup or the Chalice Jesus used during his Last Supper, the one preserved through the centuries in Valencia’s Gothic Cathedral, actually dates back from Christ’s time and bears some authentication.

·         Plaza de la Reina

 

Or the Queen’s plaza, is a fun town square to wander around and take in the authentic sights and sounds—and the taste—of this magnificent Basque city.

The Silk Exchange

·         La Lonja

This 15th century stone and marble building was the Silk Exchange, where Valencia’s traders conducted mercantile trade in the booming city. The building is elegant and magnificent, with its twisted pillars, high vaulted ceilings and an aura of opulence that to this day permeates it.

 

·         Outdoor Life

 

Valencia boasts of some fabulous beaches and national parks. Of note are El Saler and El Cabanal, with their pristine sand dunes and wide patch of deep sand. Albufera Natural Park has Spain’s largest freshwater lagoon and is worth a day’s visit.

Baetic Mountains

The Iberian and Baetic mountain ranges in the Valencia vicinity offer spectacular Spring hiking—by the way, Spring is the best season for hiking in most of Spain.

One of the striking sights you will see is on the trail of Gorge of Infern and Gorge of Racons---- dazzling white stones and lined by smooth water-worn boulders.

 

Articles