Friday, November 01, 2013

Now Entering the Basque Country

The Basque Country - there's no better start to a culinary roadtrip in the Iberian peninsula.  Located in the north of Spain by the French border, this region is filled with history, culture, and amazing eating.

After 17 hours of flying from Manila to Madrid via Bangkok, we arrived shortly before sunrise in Madrid.  (Sunrise happens after 8am.)  Straight from immigration and customs, we loaded our rental van and headed 389 km, or 241 miles, north to Bilbao.  The 3.5 hour drive passes smoothly and quickly thanks to the efficiency of Spanish roads and the gorgeous lush scenery - from golden lands, through vineyards, along rocky mountains, and into green forests.

Bilbao is a city to be desired.  It retains its history and culture, while maintaining clean roads and alleys.  The city is full of pride displaying its love and attention to the arts.  Frank Gehry's Guggenheim certainly brought popularity to the city, and Bilbao has flourished since then.

Aside from the arts, the city houses the largest covered market in Europe, the Mercado de la Ribera.  The market is full of fresh fish, meats, and produce.  It is such a clean market, too!  This was the best introduction into the quality of Spanish food and cooking.  If there markets are this clean, then I knew I'd have no worries about questioning the quality of ingredients during the next 3 weeks of restaurant eating.  What a great taste of what's to come on this epic trip!

Driving from Madrid to Bilbao
Immediately boarded the rental car after exiting the airport.  389km/242miles in 3.5 hours.  The roads and the ride was smooth and gorgeous.  Spain has beautiful countrysides, making it ideal for an early fall roadtrip.

Nervion River
Running through the city of Bilbao.

Tree lined city
Lush trees in parks and along the city roads.

Jamon everywhere
And thus commenced my daily diet of jamon from morning to night.

The streets of Bilbao
So clean, so orderly, and yet it maintains its culture and history.

Plaza Nueva
Built in 1821, this former government building now hosts restaurants, taverns, and souvenir shops.

Guggenheim Museum
Designed by the infamous Frank Gehry, this modern museum is an homage to Bilbao's history of shipbuilding and fishery.  Opened in 1997, this immediately brought the city into the 21st century and marked Bilbao as a destination for the arts.

Next up: San Sebastian!

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