Bilbao: The Cliff Notes Edition

Detail of the Guggenheim BilbaoWow!

I had read the stories of how a gritty, shipbuilding city in Spain had reinvented itself as an arts and cultural center built around the signature Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum. I had seen the pictures. But I wasn’t ready for the reality.

We spent Sunday in Bilbao, Spain – after a drive through the lovely heart of the Basque country – and Candice and I found the first city where we are set on finding a way to return as soon as possible. Bilbao in the 1980s saw the closing of an iconic shipyard and had the foresight to think creatively and boldly about a new future which blended new and old.

It is the last part – the blending of new and old – that is often missed in the write-ups about Bilbao’s renaissance.  You get the impact of Gehry’s Guggenheim, along with the works of Calatrava, Norman Foster and other modern masters.

But what is often missing is the context for these works: a walkable and vibrant historic city dating back to the 14th century.

I took over 160 pictures on Sunday, so with spotty internet connections this will be the Cliff Notes (or whet your appetite) version of our visit. Return over the weekend when we’re home with consistent connections that make uploading easier, and I’ll recap Bilbao and – in fact – the entire trip.

Until then, enjoy two pictures of the Guggenheim, a shot of the Calatrava bridge (yet another in my collection), and one teaser for the great, yet unheralded, historic district in Bilbao.

More (definitely) to come…


Gehry's Guggenheim

Calatrava in Bilbao

A Glimpse of Bilbao's Historic Center

Santiago de Compostela: Our Visit to the Final Destination of the Camino de Santiago

Camino de SantiagoSaturday of our European Coastal Civilizations tour took us to Santiago de Compostela, the famous destination of the medieval pilgrimage trail Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The morning began as we docked in La Corona, Spain, after sailing past the Tower of Hercules, the oldest Roman lighthouse in use today.  It makes for a dramatic entrance into the port city and set the stage for what was in store.

Tower of Hercules 042713 (4)

After an hour-long bus drive, we arrived at Santiago de Compostela, with its cathedral of St. James.  The picture at the top of the post marks the official end of the Camino de Santiago, and we had a chance to talk with pilgrims who were arriving in a steady stream – many on very nice road bikes!

The city’s importance came from a visit by the Apostle James to this outpost in Spain to convert people to Christianity.  Centuries later, in 813, a hermit saw a vision of a shining field, and from the Latin “Campus Stellae” (field of the star), Compostela – and an important pilgrimage site – was born.

The Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela

The cathedral dominates its end of the city, with facades from four periods and surrounding plazas, chapels, and shops.  French Romanesque, Baroque, and other styles can be found throughout the complex.

Enjoy the photos from our visit to the final destination of centuries of pilgrims walking the Way of St. James.

More to come…


St. James

The Cathedral Tower

A Plaza in Santiago de Compostela

Porto, Portugal – A Great Start to Our Tour of European Coastal Civilizations

Bell Tower, Church of St. FrancisCandice and I just completed the first day of our European Coastal Civilizations tour, spending a delightful day in Porto, Portugal.  After setting sail from Lisbon, our ship headed north overnight and docked on Friday morning at the Port of Leixoes which services the city of Porto.

Quoting from the ship’s news,

The city of Porto, built along the hillsides overlooking the mouth of the Douro river, is an outstanding urban landscape with a 2,000-year history. Its continuous growth is linked to the sea (the Romans gave it the name Portus, or port). It is the second largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, and one of the major urban areas of Southern Europe.

Porto’s history goes back to pre-Roman, Celtic times, and it was during the Middle Ages that it developed into one of Portugal’s most important trading cities.  It was in the 18th century that Porto became an important link between the Douro Valley wine producers and wine importing countries like England.

The old city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is where we spent most of our day.  Two outstanding interiors, the Stock Exchange Palace and the Church of St. Francis, were off-limits to cameras, so you’ll have content yourself with click-throughs on the links.  We were able to take some exteriors around the city, which will give you a flavor of an extensive center city that is struggling, under difficult economic conditions, but nonetheless remains lively and attractive.

As we enjoyed a beer and sangria in an old city market with new friends from Texas, Candice and I agreed it was a great start to our trip.

Center City, Porto, Portugal

A Street in historic Porto, Portugal

The textured history of Porto, Portugal

More to come…


Opening Day Finally Arrives!

Nats Opening Day 2013A quick lunch break shout-out for the arrival of opening day!  Let’s go Nats!!

I’m part of a season ticket group, so the “coordinator” of the group gets – as it should be – the opening and closing games of the season.  Tom’s photo from 20 minutes ago is at the top of the post.  But come Wednesday night, for game #2 of 162 (and more!) this year, Candice and I will be in these same seats ready to cheer on Gio and the rest of the boys of summer.

I know that the first day of the season was actually yesterday when the Astros played the Rangers, but it was just weird to see the Astros as an American League team. I was glad to see former Nat Rick Ankiel get the key home run.  Maybe when a recent N.L. doormat roughs up a recent perennial A.L. playoff contender, it just shows that the N.L. has passed the A.L. in playing quality baseball.  But I digress.

It has been a long winter since our season ended much too soon last year…but expectations are high and we’re ready for another great year of baseball.  For as Annie Savoy once famously said,

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. And the only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball.

Play ball!

More to come…