The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

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On our way across northern Spain we drove through Bilbao, the home of the Guggenheim Museum.  We had several hours to spend exploring this extraordinary contemporary building.

Again, Northern Spain looks a lot like Oregon.

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In my opinion, the modern art (no pictures) plays second fiddle to the building, designed by architect Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. 

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This big Puppy, a giant topiary, greets you in the plaza in front of the museum.  Originally intended to be temporary, the community loved it so much that they bought it.  The artist was Jeff Koons.

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The museum is all glass, titanium, limestone and space!  Because of the complexity, the curves in these materials were designed with the aid of computers. 

The stunning atrium (180 feet) is the heart of the building.  There are 20 galleries on three floors.  Most of the exhibits are temporary.  The collection rotates among the three Guggenheim galleries in Bilbao, NY and Venice.

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The building was inspired by silvery fish and evokes wind-filled sails.

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“Tulips” are another piece by Jeff Koons.

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“Tall Tree and the Eye” by Anish Kapoor is 73 reflective spheres.

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This spider, called “Mamam”, is by French artist Louise Bourgeois.  It depicts her mother (a weaver) spinning a delicate web of life. ??? Kind of creepy…..

Yoko Ono has created a piece called a Wish Tree.  It is inspired by the Japanese tradition of hanging prayers from a plant.  This installation alternates between periods when visitors can write down their wishes and when they can whisper them to the tree.  We whispered.

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The museum was built on the bank of the Nervion River in Bilbao.  The museum’s terrace pool incorporates the river into the museum.  It’s a fabulous setting.

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The Guggenheim in Bilbao was more than we expected and we are so glad we made the stop!

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Santillana del Mar – a medieval village

The town of Santillana Del Mar, on the north coast of Spain, was introduced as the Town of Three Lies: it is not a Saint (Santo), not flat (llana), and not by the sea (mar).  It is inland a few miles.  It was named after Santa Juliana whose remains are kept in the Colegiata, a Romanesque church and former Benedictine monastery.


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Santillana,developed in the 8th century, now looks like a storybook village.  Its picturesque cobbled streets are lined with historic medieval buildings.  The Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela passes through here too.

By the way, driving along the coast of Northern Spain looks a lot like driving along the coast of Oregon.

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We arrived in Santillana del Mar in mid-afternoon which gave us several hours to explore this pretty town.

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A peek inside an antique (junk) shop

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The collegiate church of Santa Juliana

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The Plaza Mayor

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The 15th century Torre de Don Borja is one of the oldest buildings in town..

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Cobblestones really tire your feet out.  They are not as smooth as they look!

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We topped the day off with a gourmet dinner!

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