This trip could not have been more spontaneous. Who knew that three of us snuggled in one room, casually sipping tea and mindlessly browsing through the internet would soon become a frantic search for transport and accommodation for the next day in Bilbao? Sometimes great things happen when you least expect them to and despite the awful weather, this weekend was definitely one of those things!
The first exciting news that I have to share with you concerns our chosen method of transport. After realising that trains and buses were ridiculously overpriced we decided to explore the option of catching a Bla Bla Car. Just in case you haven’t heard of Bla Bla Car – it’s a company that links you to drivers going in a certain direction and then you just chip in for their petrol costs in return for a lift. Kind of like upgraded hitchhiking, I guess. It’s not something that I’d be keen to try alone (even though the drivers on the website are monitored and you can make sure to only travel with highly reviewed people) but seeing as there were 3 of us we thought we’d give it a go!
It turned out to be a great idea! Minus the fact that our driver wanted to meet at 8am in the morning and Alex had been out clubbing the night before, meaning that I had to physically drag her from her bed to make sure we got there on time. Funnily enough, even though I hadn’t been out, I managed to bagsy the backseat with Alex and catch up on some sleep, leaving Ashni in the front to do all of the talking. It’s called BLA BLA Car for a reason…. the drivers love to chat. So, if you fancy a nice relaxing nap on your way to said destination then you’ve got another think coming.
We stayed in a hostel just outside the centre of Bilbao – Pil Pil Hostel – and although it was basic, we were within walking distance to just about everything so it did the job perfectly (and for 8 euros a night no-one is going to complain). What did we get up to then? Well, while we weren’t battling the elements (it rained. A LOT.) we managed to cover all the important sights of the city. Alex was also really great at locating amazing, cheap food. I am convinced it’s her superpower – some kind of inner SatNav for finding the best restaurants and cafés – and it makes me want to take her with me everywhere I go on my travels.
In terms of what stood out in Bilbao, I’d have to say it was the Guggenheim museum. It’s a world famous contemporary art museum which spans across three floors and even some outside areas. We spent hours in there. I’d like to say we were admiring the art work and having intellectual discussions but actually we were just running around, making up games and playing hide and seek in the sculpture gallery. 20 year olds, what can you do?
No, no, I’m kidding – there were some pretty cool displays in there that impressed us a lot. So many thought provoking paintings and sculptures. A stand out piece for me was the video room which played a constant stream of people being filmed dancing to music alone. I’m not sure why it was so fascinating – at least 40 minutes passed before all three of us looked at each other and said ‘What are we doing?’. We still didn’t leave though, we actually sat in there until the entire sequence was over. I have no idea how to explain our obsession with it, instead I think you should go and experience it for yourselves!
Other than the Guggenheim, our Bilbao activity schedule included a trip up the funicular to see the views of the whole city, general exploration of the city centre and going for drinks with one of Ashni’s friends who was studying in Bilbao.
We soon realised that we’d covered quite a lot of the city in just 2 days and decided to plan a day trip for the 3rd one. We headed to the station to make, yet another, spontaneous decision depending on the bus timetables. It turned out that San Sebastian was the winner with a bus leaving just 10 minutes after we arrived, so we stood in the queue for our (ridiculously cheap) tickets and managed to jump on the bus just a few seconds before it’s scheduled departure time.
The town of San Sebastian is actually really nice, it has a very beachy/surfer feel to it and I can only imagine how nice it would be to stroll around in the Summer. Sadly, the transition to Spring wasn’t exactly complete at the time we were there so the weather was nothing short of terrible – not that we’re the kind of people to let this affect our adventures! We still went to the beach, we still climbed up to the viewpoints and we still spent hours sitting on a wall, watching the world go by as the waves crashed at our feet.
It was a pleasure to visit the Basque country and I’d love to return in the Summer when the weather is better! Who knows, maybe I’ll get the chance to or maybe I should make a start on the huge list of other Spanish cities I’m desperate to explore instead… The hard decisions of a year-abroader, eh? 😉
Make sure to keep updated with my adventures, who knows where I’ll end up next!