Saturday had been a very full day thanks to arriving so early, but Sunday is our only bona fide full day here. Not only that, but our little guidebook says most things are shut on Mondays. Thus it was a day which needs seizing, which started with me writing a blog post while Helen popped out on a hunter gathering expedition.
Having discovered the supermarkets and most other shops to be closed, she returns with mystery bakery goods she's immensely proud of having ordered using no English at all, but the perfect Spanish of saying "dos", pointing at stuff, and shrugging when responded to with a torrent of Spanish or Basque. In the hotel room we discover she has bought some delicioso ham and cheese croissants.
I finish my blog post but can't actually publish it, because hotel room wifi signal is so poor. I nip down to reception but the same is true there so fuck it, I'll take the iPad with me and publish when I find wifi later.
Our first item on the agenda is to get one of the cool modern looking trams up to near the RENFE train station and then walk a couple of blocks to a museum of art reproductions, i.e. fakes. Across the bridge and at the tram stop, the timetable informs Helen that there isn't one for ages so we set off on foot, immediately after which a tram arrives. Damn it.
It's cloudy but warm out, and the streets and park by the riverfront are very empty and suspiciously clean, the only evidence of last night's festivities is the smell of piss which makes our nostrils twitch every 50 yards or so. The pop-up bars are still popped up but not yet open, though a few cafes are.
Just past the bridge from near which we watched the fireworks last night there's a stunning grey building with a marvellous facade, and a cafe inside selling cider-infused chorizo and stuff. The menu is all in comic sans, however, which detracts somewhat from the awesome.
We don't stop for anything, however. By now it's about 11am or so, and the museum's only open until 2pm. Up alongside the station's side, then down to the river and Puente de Merced, then up a very steep residential street and left along Kalea San Francisco to the museum.
There is a permanent sign in Spanish, Basque and English detailing opening hours, and a temporary sign only in Spanish and Basque. A friendly man in a neckerchief, of course, points at it and says lots of words which we take to mean "this sign says it's shut". It's definitely shut. Later, I wield my phone to translate the text - closed for renovation. I suppose doing that during the week in which the whole of Bizkaia descends upon the city makes sense. Eh?
OK so we've had wifi fail, tram fail, and museum fail, but my schadenforeman is strong. Back down to the bridge and across, then turn right to skirt round and into the parts of the casco viejo we had yet to see.
There's a large grey building which is apparently some kind of upscale shopping centre and then, hmm, lots of people lining the street for something. Seems we've stumbled upon a happening, but we have no idea what it is and there are no clues. So, next to an over-exposed church, we wait.
After ten minutes or so there's a whistle, and then some applauding, and the sound of skidding, and around the corner comes someone in a homemade go kart soap box racer style thing. Eh? Then, 90 seconds or so later, another. Then another. It seems to be a time trial of folk riding homemade vehicles. Not all of them are go karts, some are bikes, some are kinda like street luges. It's entirely not anything we would have predicted. It seems like one of the rules of the vehicles is that brakes aren't allowed, because pretty much everyone skids around and pulls emergency u-turns in order to actually stop.
By the time we leave, this square will be heaving. A good 30% of folk will be wearing Atheltic Bilbao colours; turns out they're playing Barcelona at home tonight, and people like to start their drinking 8 hours before kickoff.
PIntxos: Iberico ham sandwiches, super-hot spicy fiery chorizo sandwiches, and amazing cheesy mushrooms w/bread on sticks. No idea what the beer was. Spiced wine comes served as you see here.
Topped up with some gilda pintxos: olives and peppers. Plus some "natural cider", which was apparently nice. The smell made me want to throw up.
It's a right weird shape is this place. What were they thinking?
There are shiny balls. I put this on instagram and twitter and the next morning am rewarded with a "like" from the official museum account. Yay?
Also there's a massive spider.
That's basically everything there is to see on the outside, so we walk up past the live jazz being played by a tourist trap cafe and start our pub crawl. A couple of streets away from here are two craft beer places, Singular and Residence. Both the internet and our guidebook have told us about here, and Google says that Singular, at least, is open but not very busy at 3.30pm on a Sunday.
Residence is shut. Singular is shut. The schadenforeman is still strong but there are chinks in my mental armour by now. We walk back to the tram stop and miss one by 20 seconds; the next one is in 15 minutes, and this time we're going to wait, damn it. I want my public transport fix.
Two stops back to comic sans cafe becomes three stops because we want to go over the bridge and fuck it, casco viejo is the only part of town where we've really had any actual success at doing stuff so far. We're both in the mood for beer and some more food and go in a likely looking venue, called Oddity. No matter which of us says "dos cerveza", we get nothing but blank looks so leave. I am somewhat crestfallen by the idea that our single go-to phrase has been knocked back.
Every bar is heaving with people inside and out, the majority wearing AC Bilbao colours, still. Most venues with food have long tables set up for proper food and they are all full, seemingly of people who are genuinely out eating in parties which are 12, 16, 20 people strong.
A few streets later, we find some open tables outside Cafe Lago and grab one with a menu. There's a waiter serving people while he smokes, but he doesn't come up our end until literally the moment Helen suggests we give up and go elsewhere. I'm proper grumpy now, but the beer we order comes quickly. We also ordered chips, and more chorizo. A moth comes to examine Helen's wine.