Art and creativity in the streets of Bilbao

Last June 7th streets and plazas of Bilbao making them a gigantic outdoor art studio. It was a bright, sunshiny day and a fantastic opportunity to meet artists in a casual atmosphere. There was art to purchase. You could see the artists interpret what they were seeing and talk with them about their work. More specifically, you were able to listen to them about brushes, watercolor paints, the texture of paper while watching their creativity to flourish on the canvases. How delightful it all was! A big thank to all of the artists and in particular to watercolor painters: Gloria Cortina, Mari Mar González and Alfredo Gómez, for their attention and kindness. We hope to attend more events like this one. Here I leave some pictures.

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Walking along the Nervion riverbanks in Bilbao, ahhh so amazing and relaxing!

Yesterday was a pretty nice day out, so I walked up and down the river and stopped a few places along the way. I loved watching joggers, tourists, locals just hanging around and the incredible Guggenheim museum with shimmering and color-changing scales, titanium curves and Puppy, a friendly guard dog. It is a really great way to be outside and still sightseeing but with a lovely atmosphere.

To me, there’s nothing quite like walking on both sides of the river and enjoy at a leisurely pace while exploring how much Bilbao has changed.

And then, before I even realized it, it was dark and the lights came on.

I am very lucky to live in such a wonderful city!

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La Arboleda, a must for understanding what Bilbao is today

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the iron and steel industry helped form the backbone of the industrial revolution in Bilbao and Biscay, its province, playing an important role in shaping the current Bilbao.

Much of what is now Bilbao is thanks to the hard work of thousands of miners that worked in the rich open-pit iron-ore mines in the mountains of Triano, known as the most wonderful hematite mountains in Europe, in the late 19th century.

The region was rich in iron ore. Of all the mining sites, “La Arboleda”, in the town of Trapagaran, is perhaps the largest and best-known mining settlement. It was founded in 1877 to house miners from all parts of Spain, whose social, cultural and economic conditions, even today, can be seen through its wooden houses and a stunning landscape dotted by lakes created at the site of the old mines which surrounded the town.

Those years were filled with much hardship. Men, women and children lived and worked under appalling conditions. They lived crammed in tiny wooden huts which were close to the mines they worked. They suffered many diseases and many died due to the harsh conditions. In fact, life expectancy was only 18 years at some point.

As a result of the poor living and working conditions, new ideologies and political movements came into existence, as mining was often at the centre of working-class discontent in the area. Anarchists, Socialists and Communists struggled for improvement of work conditions such as low pay and less working hours. It’s worth highlighting the role of Dolores Ibarruri, miner-right defender, or “La Pasionaria” as she was known.

In the fifties of the twentieth century, the veins were almost exhausted, and in 1963 stopped the export of iron ore, thus ending the mining activity.

Walking through this quaint small town is like stepping back in time. Miners no longer exist, but we can still find remains of this activity as the place still retains its look as a nineteenth century mining town.
Many of the original houses are still in use by some of the 300 residents who make their home here today.

Nowadays, many of the mining areas have been converted into leisure areas. For example, the open pits, known as Hostion, Parcocha and Blondis, are lakes today that enhance the landscape after years without mining activity. “Meatzalde Goikoa Parkea”, the park that surrounds the three lakes, has been turned into an open air museum with a sample of work from local Basque artists melting into the natural landscape.

La Arboleda is easily reachable from Bilbao, either by car (30 minute drive) or by train (20 minutes from Bilbao Abando Station – RENFE) to Trapagaran. From this town, take “La Reineta” funicular railway. This is another jewel in the mining area. It was opened in 1926 to communicate mining towns with Trapagaran.

Spending a day in the area is not only gaining insight in the mining history, but also enjoying other activities and attractions as hiking, playing golf, horseback riding, and above all, don’t miss the opportunity to eat red bean stew, usually prepared in a clay pot and served with chorizo sausage,  blood sausage and a Rioja wine. It is a must!.

A visit to La Arboleda is a great way to combine culture, exercise and fresh air for all the family.

I’ll leave you here with some pictures from my last visit.

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“El Pobal” Ironworks – Great stop!

This is a gem of a place that can be easily missed.  A green peaceful area on the banks of the river Barbadun a bit off the beaten path (25 Kms. from Bilbao), but well worth visiting.

I love visiting the Ironworks, the mill and the tower-house because it is always great to learn from where we came to understand where we are going. The ironworks dates back to the 16th century, more than 500 years of history. It operated until the mid-20th century and now, it is a museum.

Its old mechanical system still works today using water power. The site offers visitors a unique insight into the working aspects of the traditional iron industry in the 19th century. The ironworks, the forging capacities and the hydraulic infrastructure are very interesting. It is amazing seeing and hearing how they work waterwheels, the forge hammer, the fire, gears, millstones, etc.

Here are some pics from my last visit.

Definitely worth a visit!

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The Ribera Market sitting grandly again

After 3 years of reconstruction, the Ribera Market is sitting grandly again along the riverfront in the Old Quarter of Bilbao. They just opened up the last part that was still being restored. December 7th 2012 was the day and I was there, of course!.

Food holds a special place in Bilbainos’ hearts, and the market is a reference for most of us. I love coming to this place …. I always have to get my freshly fish and vegetables.

The Ribera Market is a great place to visit for anyone interested in food. If you are a food-lover, cook or just a visitor to Bilbao, don’t miss it! It is opened Monday through Saturday.

Here you have some pics. I hope you like them!

Located: Ribera, 20, 48005 Bilbao
Tram: La Ribera stop
Open: Monday – Saturday from 8am

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