The day started with an hour of packing exercise – packing and re-arranging and re-packing my things to optimize the arrangement. It is amazing how many ways you can stuff 31 Litres of stuff into a bag and still not be satisfied.
I swung it on my back, fastened the hip belt, clicked the sternum strap, picked up my map and wandered out into the streets of Bilbao. Poles stayed strapped on the sides as I don’t quite feel like a pilgrim yet. This is an attractive, busy and prosperous city (90% of the passenger on the flight from Munich were men in suits who appeared to have important business to transact.)
The Guggenheim Museum is a beautiful building perched on a curve in the river. €6 got me in (seniors price) and included a free audio guide. Wandering in and out of the building was a pleasure. Watched a couple of classes of young children behaving perfectly as their teachers talked to them in the Basque language. The actual art exhibits were second fiddle to the architecture. There is nothing more effective than a tour of a modern art exhibit, reading and listening to the explanations of the artists’ “concepts” and inspiration, to clear one’s brain of the clutter of modern daily life and prepare for a medieval pilgrimage. A building like this could be stocked with, say, the contents of my back pack and still be worth a visit (and might be more interesting). Maybe they were looking for potential material when they put my pack through an x-ray machine on its way to storage in the cloakroom. “Cloakroom” is so medieval too.
Two hours on a bus got me to Pamplona where I was met by Istvan and Barbara, owners of Corazon Puro and my charming Hungarian hosts for the night and the morning drive to St. Jean Pied de Port. It is odd to be whizzing along the route that I will be walking (in the other direction) over the next few days. I was the only guest as they are closing this week for the winter.