A day by the sea

Up at eight. Eight! It’s just that there’s nothing to do early in the morning, plus restaurants start serving lunch only at two or so, so we’re shifting our whole day out of whack.

First job is to get the DHL shipment ready, so after a quick run to the bakery and a breakfast of sweet buns we start by filling the 60x40x40 cardboard box. We put all the bike bags inside, dirty clothes, camping gear, basically anything camping related except the tent. We move bike and box (box on bike, rather) to the bike store Ciclos Zubero, where the friendly young lady promised us yesterday to have a box available.

First she comes out with a box that’s a bit too short, so they unpack a new bike especially to give us the box that is a bit longer. It’s smaller than the one we used last year in Copenhagen, so it requires a bit more finessing to get the bike safely in:

  • we turn the steering bar (had to call the Lucien store in Belgium to find out which bolts to loosen),
  • take out the front wheel (called them again to ask about the correct procedure, since there’s an anti-theft bolt and disc brakes)
  • lower the saddle all the way
  • put some acoustif foam (brought it in my suitcase from Belgium, we had some left over at home) around the front luggage carrier
  • lift the bike carefully into the narrow carton
  • lower the steering bar some more to make it fit
  • pad the sensitive bits some more with the leftover foam
  • close up the box and tape it shut

Lots of fun, the bike store people were happy to lend us a tool or two when necessary and seemed to be very proud of us when we finally dragged the huge carton back into the store. We chat a moment still about Eddy Merckx who’s visible on posters and photos in the store, with a picture of him climbing some mountain and following him on the bike, the store owner points out, his father (the owner’s father, I mean). When we insist to pay something for the box and their assistance, they insist to decline and so we leave with a plan to get them some chocolates later.

That’s the working part of the day over, now back to the business of relaxing. Today should be the coolest day, so we decide to switch our program around and head for the coast for a walk. We pass by the tourist office where we learn how to save money on public transport, immediately buy and charge a magnetic token and that our planned walk should be easy and also, importantly, rich in restaurant choices.

Subway line 2 takes 20 minutes to bring us to the first village, on the left bank of the Nervión river. We walk through the narrow residential streets of Portugalete, making our way down to the riverfront. We pass the old basilica, the colorful, former train station and finally to the famous Bizkaiko Zubia or Bizkaia bridge, built by Alberto Palacio, 63 m high and spanning 160 m, in continuous operation since 1893 (with a four year hiatus after it was dynamited during the civil war). The special thing about it is that you don’t drive over it, you ride in a gondola slung under the steel girders. Too cool for words. Only eight of these exist in the world today, of which this one is the largest and oldest.

Picture display options are limited, since I’m working on an ancient iPad which doesn’t always support the more fun slideshows..

Once on the other side, we follow the delightful coastal walkway, basking in the sun, admiring the early 20th C villa’s, chatting and laughing. We’re quite hungry, but we’ll have to wait until after two to find an open restaurant. We aim for Getxo port and arrive just in time. Lots of options here, we pick Parillas del Mar because it looks like it’s popular with locals. No tables available outside, but we are welcome inside, where we sit down to decypher the Spanish menu. We share mussels, anchovies and a turbot, in the typical basque style, where each dish is simply made, served without side dishes and with a total focus on one product. The lady brings the fish and fillets it at the table, handing us each a plate with fish, some of the butter sauce and fine garlic slices fried in it. Delicious! Delectable! Chock-full of flavor. Would eat more but I’m stuffed. No, there’s room for desert, always.

We wrap up around four thirty and decide to walk off some of the wine (also delicious, a Txakoli again but not sweet) on the way to the nearest metro station. We walk by the beach, gratefully take a cable car to the top of the cliff and wander through the old town of Getxo. It’s a town of apartment blocks, with narrow streets and spaces for green and playgrounds, many people out and about, including a GLS delivery lady who has to leave her van at the bottom and drag the packages up a steep street.

Subway line 1 back to Bilbao, we decide to get out at Deustu, to make our way back on foot on the right bank, where we have great views of Euskalduna Jauregia (a congress and concert center), Iberdrola Dorrea (a skyscraper), the Guggenheim museum with its outdoor art pieces, the Zubizuri footbridge and Isozaki Atea (a pair of sky scrapers). On the way we admire many of the smaller, older town houses, it really is a charming city. After a quick stop for some fruit and yoghurt we return to our appartment for a long shower (the only kind when you need to wash of sunscreen), a light dinner and some writing.

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