2022

Bilbao Wow

I just arrived in Bilbao near Spain’s northern coast. Bilbao is the capital city of Basque country and it’s beautiful! Part of its charm is how it seems to have been engineered for humans. Walkers and bikers enjoy the wide path along the tree-lined River Nervion. The city’s mix of old and new architectural styles seem to complement each other, as if to say “of course we get along — we’re all Spanish.” Lots of public transportation, no traffic, sidewalk cafes everywhere. But the real stand-out in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. There are so many reasons to love this museum!

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The Smilers of Seville

Maybe I’m tired or uninspired or expect too much, but Seville, Spain has got to be one of the most serious places I’ve ever been. After a day of cranky shopkeepers, hotel receptionists who don’t look up from their computer screens, and cafe employees who treated me with suspicion, this morning, I went out looking for anything light-hearted, funny, or happy. Here’s what I found in three hours of walking around:

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Plaza de Toros, Ronda

Ernest Hemingway loved Spain. He fought against the fascists in Spain’s civil war against and wrote about it in novels, news articles, and short stories. In one of his less literary moments, he refers to Ronda in Death in the Afternoon, “There is one town that would be better than Aranjuez to see your first bullfight in if you are only going to see one and that is Ronda. That is where you should go if you ever go to Spain on a honeymoon or if you ever bolt with anyone. The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background.”

Ronda certainly is romantic but bolt with anyone?

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Puente Nuevo, Ronda

Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”) is Ronda’s pride and joy. Built around 1760, it’s the newest of three bridges that span “El Tajo,” the 450 foot gorge dividing the city. You can see the water fall of the Rio Guadalevin at the base of the bridge. The small room in the middle of the bridge just beneath its roadbed was once a prison and is now an interpretive center.

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Help Me, Ronda

I am in Ronda, Spain, famous for its bull fighting ring, Hemingway’s stories of the bull fighting ring, the town’s location over a spectacular 450-foot-deep gorge, and its lack of vegetarian options. In my walks through this charming “white village” of Andalusia, I’ve been searching for a pair of size 38 walking shoes, apparently rare in other Spanish cities I’ve visited this month. I found a pair in Ronda! Que alivio!

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Bitter Oranges

The Old Jewish Quarter in Granada, Spain, is full of wonderful murals. I saw dozens of them today on a walking tour with Hadrian, who has devoted the past ten years to the city’s street art. But I want to talk about orange trees. I chose a photo of a mural honoring Syrian refugees because it shows an orange tree. Orange trees line the streets of Granada and many other Andalusian cities. At this time of year, they are full of bright, heavy fruit. The original trees were brought here by either the Romans or the Muslims, depending on who you ask, and modern Spaniards love them. But, they tell you, don’t eat the oranges! They are very bitter! They will make you sick!

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