I arrived in Madrid and made my way through the metro to the hotel where Mum and Paul were staying. I checked into my room and waited for them to get back from the museum they were at. It was such a great moment finally being able to see mum after such a long time apart. Mum and I set out into the city for a catchup. We looked around a few stores before finding a bar to sit at and have a few drinks. Was crazy to think that mum had just been in NZ only the day before and now we were both in Spain. After another walk around the streets we headed back to the hotel. A quick catchup on the America’s Cup progress and then we headed out to dinner. We found a cute little tapas bar around the corner and filled up on tapas like potatas bravas, anchovies and salads. We headed back to the hotel and got an early night.
The next morning Mum, Paul and I headed to Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum where they wanted to see a few particular artworks. After Mum saw the Caravaggio’s she was interested in we headed to the cafe and bookstore. In the bookstore we seemed to not notice the signs saying ‘Do Not Touch’ and after looking at a bag and then trying to straighten it up when it was back on the ledge I managed to knock over a stand high up making a very loud bang. We thought we had gotten away with it when we saw the security guard go over to the sales girl and she came over and told us off… We purchased the few things we had and then left the museum for some shopping.
First stop was the four storey Zara store where mum and I ended up losing each other. After finally being reunited after about half an hour of mum waiting downstairs at the entrance we managed to try on all our clothes and make a few purchases. Getting back to our favourite hobby of shopping we were very efficient and managed to work through all the stores. Mum treated me to a few items and bought herself a few things, including an awesome Ralph Lauren bag. We stopped off for some seafood paella and then later for some amazing fro-yo, it was such a hot day. After the third Zara store in the space of about 1km we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation. That night we found a busy square with tons of restaurants and ordered another amazing dinner of tapas while we soaked up the Spanish atmosphere around us.
At dinner we were sitting outside the front of the restaurant. While we were eating a beggar came up to many of the tables around us looking for food and money. The patrons seemed to mainly ignore her until the waiter went up to her and got into a fight as he tried to move her away. I haven’t really talked at all in this blog about beggars because over the year they have just become a common occurrence for where I have travelled. In New Zealand the scale of homeless people is nowhere near the same as it is in Europe. Everywhere you look men, women and children are sitting on the side of the road asking for money. I think instinctively I am a sympathetic person and try to help out people wherever possible but on many of my trips, probably mainly my Topdeck where I saw it first, some of the people I was travelling with and locals I met seemed to not be so sympathetic. I was told that some of the beggars are very wealthy gypsys and get a lot of money from begging themselves and sending their kids out to beg and then go home to a house – I’m not sure whether this is actually true… I’m not too sure what point I’m trying to get across but I think at this point I wasn’t shocked when the waiter shooed her away whereas you would never see that scene in Auckland. A very big cultural difference that I seem to have become used to which was kind of scary.
The next day us three were off to Bilbao. By mistake I slept through my alarm and it was a rush as I had to get changed and lead the way to the metro and onto the train towards Bilbao. We were booked into the first-class cabin which ended up being completely empty so we had the whole section to ourselves. The four or five hour trip was a fantastic way to see the Spanish countryside and other little towns going up through the north of Spain.
We arrived in Bilbao and spent a good 20 minutes outside of the train station trying to figure out what direction to head in to get to our hotel. What a cute, little, quaint town Bilbao is. Obviously not a ‘must-do’ on my own travel checklist I was glad to check out a smaller little city with Mum and Paul. We checked into our hotel which was in the centre of town, directly between the Old Town and New Town. We went for a walk along the river and towards the Guggenheim – the main reason we had come to visit. The Guggenheim is the reason that Bilbao is such a popular tourist centre. Known as the ‘Guggenheim Effect’ before the museum was built Bilbao was relatively unknown with little tourism. Once the Guggenheim Museum opened tourism boomed and Bilbao is a busy, little ‘must-see’ tourist destination for many around the world.
As we walked up the river the Guggenheim is enormous, with huge art pieces surrounding it. We stopped for a few sandwiches and a drink as we looked onto the museum. Paul decided to go to the maritime museum while mum and I headed into the Old Town to look around. The streets in the Old Town all mesh into each other and it was quite hard initially to work out where we were. We managed to find a square and decided to stop for some beers. At the same time we ordered my new favourite dish of anchovies soaked in vinegar and a little bit of olive oil (sounds disgusting I know but it was amazing!) alongside some chocolate chimichurris. After another break (seems like all we do is sit, drink and eat!) we had a look around. The little alley ways are filled with small stores selling everything from fabrics to goth clothes to a store just for ham. And sometimes when you turned a corner you were greeted with magnificent, huge churches.
That night we had dinner at a cute tapas bar. We sat outside and ordered inside from the huge number of tapas they had on offer. Was such a great night of catching up, eating, drinking and soaking up the atmosphere.
The next morning we had breakfast in the attic of the hotel – quite odd! We then headed to Ribera, the largest covered market in Europe which was filled with fresh fruit, fish, meats and much more.
Mum and Paul decided to join a bus tour around the city to get them to the Guggenheim. It was taking a while to arrive and so I decided to do my own thing. I walked into the new town part and had a look around. I took my time to take everything in whilst popping into a few stores. I stopped off at a tapas bar and enjoyed a great lunch too.
I walked back to the hotel and hopped on the tourist bus that mum and Paul were on. It took us around the city with a history commentary. Paul got off to do his own thing and mum and I continued on to the old quarter. We walked around the sights around the edge of the city which we hadn’t seen the day before. It was amazing to see how much further the the city went. We enjoyed tapas and a beer in a sunny square which reminded me of Placa Reial in Barcelona.
We headed back to the hotel and after a quick break we went out again for dinner – a really lovely meal! Mum and I had the sea bass. We went back to the hotel to watch one of the America’s Cup races. Mum was falling asleep so I decided to say goodnight and head up to my own room. Wasn’t too sad saying goodbye to mum as was seeing her again in exactly two weeks!