Bilbao, February 2004. WIlkie Tour # 14
Early morning flight to Bilbao, bus into centre for hotel near old town and surprisingly warm temperature for the time of year . We promenaded along the main drag to Bilbao's bus terminus and the San Mames stadium to get our bearings; stopping for cerveza and tapas on route of course. Crossed the River Ibaizabal via footbridge – had another beer opposite the 'shiny' Guggenheim Museum. We took the funicular railway to ascend 200 metres to view an inevitably hazy panorama of the city from the top of the Artxanda mountain. Crossed unusual (modern) design bridge for another beer and tapas (what's not to like!). Back to hotel before trip back out into the Old Town – a lot more people about now, even though temperature had dropped to about 10 degrees. Found local restaurant (Rio Oje) for superb meal.
Day 2 we bought 'all day' metro tickets and set off north for the coast. Metro ran all the way to Plentzia, where we strolled along the beach and then back into the harbour for beer and tapas. On the return trip we stopped off at Areeta and traversed the river on a crane bridge, then the took lift up (50 metres) for the walk back across the structure. Lunch at novelty cafe and metro to Moya for the fine arts museum. Back up to the stadium to buy tickets for Sunday evening's game and take the museum tour – found momento of European Fairs Cup game vs Southampton in the Seventies(established that Bilbao's red and white shirt design was inspired by Sunderland rather than Saints!). Back to old town for supper.
Day 3 we took the 9am coach to San Sebastian, where we searched for Real Sociedad's old ground near bus station but to no avail as it had been demolished; settled for coffee in bar in what would have been the centre circle. Had lunch in old town on promontory and walked across the bay (La Conche) to other promontory for the funicular to the top of the headland for fine views and relaxation in the glorious sunshine. Had supper in the Old Town on our return to Bilbao.
Day 4 - Visited the market in the old town. Picked up hire car at the station, which had a magnificent piece of art-work above the entrance (the station not the hire car). Drove to Santander, parked at the ground early, bought tickets then walked into the centre. Had a meal and took bus along beach back to the stadium before the heavens opened. The home side, Racing lost 1-3 to Real Sociedad in driving rain. We left sharpish at the final whistle to drive back to Bilbao for the evening game. Got to the ground in good time, but we were unable to park near the ground due to an unexpected ‘no go’ zone, after parking some distance away we legged it back to the stadium to arrive about 15 minutes after kick-off. By this time the away team (Real Betis from Seville) were already 2-0 up. In an incredible atmosphere the match finished 4-4.
Another memorable Wilkie Tour culminating in what was probably one of the best football matches and most impressive crowds that we had experienced.