POSTED ON October 5, 2007 | IN Spain's Wine Country | BY joe

A couple of blog posts back, we wrote about our visit to the Bodegas Marques de Riscal designed by Frank Gehry. We mentioned the word “gaudy”and suggested we did not care for the design of the Bodega. We have to admit that was a very premature judgment. After all, we did not see the bodega close up and were only able to view the top portion of the building.

After visiting the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao we have a much different opinion of the works of Frank Gehry. The Guggenheim in Bilbao is mesmerizing. The more you gaze at the structure, the more you are drawn to it. The titanium façade and various forms and shapes are almost hypnotic. Somehow Gehry’s ultra modern design fits perfectly into the landscape of the city. It is fascinating, astonishing, and beautiful.

Not only is the outside a wonder, so is the inside. Even though our visit was limited to the first floor (the other two floors were closed due to some unknown project), we viewed unusual supports, structures. and walls that were startling. The building is so amazing and interesting that art exhibits themselves are secondary. If the entire museum had been open, it would’ve been worth a whole day’s visit. There is a store, a café, and a classy restaurant for a rest or lunch break.

We chose to dine in the upscale Kursaal Restaurant in the Guggenheim. All our guidebooks rave about this restaurant. The décor is fabulous, the service impeccable. Too bad the meal did not match. We spent 300 Euros for the six of us for a lunch that was very inconsistent. We were disappointed. Maybe it is because we live in such a fabulous mecca for restaurants in the S.F. Bay area, but no meal in Spain has yet to “knock our socks off.”

Our advice is not to try to drive to or into Bilbao by car. There are buses that leave every half hour from San Sebastian, and they are the easiest way to get there. The trip is worth it for the Guggenheim; otherwise, as far as we could see, Bilbao has little to recommend itself to the traveler.

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