Art, Behind the scenes, Photography, Travel
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Photo Essay | Northern Spain

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll have noticed my Spanish sojourn and over the next couple of weeks I thought I’d share with you some of what I saw. Starting in Bilbao at the northern tip of Spain in the Basque region, the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry takes centre stage and must be visited, even if you only see the exterior and none of the modern art exhibitions inside. Artist Jeff Koons’ gigantic Puppy sculpture made entirely from living flowers announces your arrival with all the fanfare of a summer party.

Close up of the flowers on Jeff Koons' Puppy at the Bilbao Guggenheim MuseumJeff Koons' giant balloon dog

When I visited there was a retrospective exhibition on Jeff Koons’ wacky modern art such as this giant cerise Balloon Dog as part of his ‘Celebration’ series.

Jeff Koons at the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum

More Jeff Koons’ shiny, happy installations.

Frank Gehry designed Hotel Marques de Riscal in La Rioja

If you can’t get enough of Frank Gehry’s architecture pay a visit or, even better, stay at the Hotel Marques de Riscal in La Rioja. Set amongst the rolling vineyards of Spain’s famous wine region, the hotel, which is itself one of the oldest Rioja wineries founded in 1858, is magnificent. You can take a wine tour, learn about its history and drink some of their wine.

Hotel Marques de Riscal, La Rioja

Made from coloured titanium and designed to represent elements of wine and the vineyard’s bottles, the exterior of Hotel Marques de Riscal was a major feat of construction.

Elciego, La Rioja

Cross the river – and the ‘border’ into the Basque region – and venture into the small medieval village of Elciego, where its church is in stark contrast to the modernity of Hotel Marques de Riscal.

Cycling in La Rioja

Or cycle through the vineyards to really earn your glass of wine.

Urederra National Park in the Valley of Amescoa, NavarraUnknown to most but locals and only a few foreigners, Urederra National Park (Nacedero del Urederrain the Valley of Amescoa, Navarra is a hidden gem. If it wasn’t for some pre-planning research and the discovery of the blog Young Adventuress I would never have known about it. Making it part of our drive from La Rioja to San Sebastien, it is a windy trip towards the mountains into the 100-man village of Baquedano where you can park your car. You then walk through the village and into the national park. Along the approximately 2-3 hour hike in beautiful mountainous forests, there are stunning aqua blue pools and waterfalls.

Urederra National Park

Note: these photos are the real deal! Best to visit on a sunny day to get the full colour experience.

Baquedano, Navarra

Beautiful geraniums colour the little village of Baquedano.

San Sebastian port

One and a half hours away is the beach side locale of San Sebastian – a city that is full of life, boats, beaches and pinxtos (their tapas-style specialties).

Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona

You can’t go to the northern part of Spain and not visit Barcelona. And you can’t visit Barcelona without at least one trip to a Gaudi-designed modernist building, such as this one (above and below), Casa Batlló, on the city’s chic street Passeig de Gracia. While avant garde and highly innovative at the time – the early 1900s – Gaudi’s architecture still stands out today. Read about more of his work at Globotreks.

Casa Batlló, Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona

For regal with a touch of the tropics , Placa Reial just off Las Ramblas is a lovely spot for a coffee but not one for the bird-phobic.

Placa Reial, Barcelona

Narrow medieval lanes and Gothic cathedrals give Barcelona’s centre an eery, history-filled vibe. Construction of the Catedral de Barcelona, seen in part here, began in 1298 and like all its churches is still in use today.

Barcelona cathedral on a medieval street

The most amazing jewellery store I’ve ever seen, featuring innovative jewellery, wearable art and crazy installations. La Galeria Basilica is in the Gothic Quarter near the cathedral.

La Basilica GaleriaI was both fascinated and repulsed by this exquisitely made purple glass cockroach necklace. You can’t really tell from the photo but at its base are hundreds more cockroaches. Not sure if I could wear it. Could you?

La Basilica Galeria, cockroach necklace

Next week tune in for a taste-bud tickling tour of what much of northern Spain is really known for, its food.

Visit the Who'd Have Thought store


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