Postscript on Bilbao

Portugalete Bridge in Bilbao

Portugalete Bridge in Bilbao

Travel is an Adventure—if you allow it to be. Luckily, I was open to adventure and possibilities while we were in Bilbao, which opened us up to some extra special expereinces at the end of our stay.

After we decided to add Bilbao to our itinerary, I was pleased because I actually knew someone who had lived there. Almost forty years ago, my family hosted a young exchange student for the summer. Since I was somewhat close to her age and I spoke Spanish, I was the official hostess. Beatriz was a fun companion with an infectious sense of humor. She studied English, loved going to the nearby beaches and was game for any new adventures. She adapted easily to our somewhat chaotic household and never complained about a thing.

We had a fun summer together and kept in touch for several years, but eventually, we lost contact. Before traveling to Spain, I tried every resource on the internet to find Beatriz, but I had no luck. So when we arrived in Bilbao, I thought I might try the local phone book. However, I couldn’t find one in our apartment, so I almost gave up the idea of finding her. After all, Bilbao is a fairly large city with a population of over 350,00 people.

Old City Library

Old City Library

The third day of our visit, we explored the beautiful city library in old town Bilbao called Il Casco Viejo. The library has a beautiful interior with stained glass windows and elaborate woodwork. On the second floor, I noticed a lady sitting at the Information Desk and decided to use my best Spanish to ask her for the Bilbao phone book. She said that she was sorry, but she didn’t have one and then asked why I wanted one. I gave her a brief explanation about trying to find an old friend that had been an exchange student in the US. She then said that she could look up the name in the “white pages” of the Internet. When I gave her the full name, she stopped. She said that she knew someone with that exact name. After we both exchanged some more descriptions (that Beatriz was tall and beautiful and had many brothers), it seemed that we had the same person. The kind lady told me to come back the next day and she would have some information for me.

Las dos Amigas

Las dos Amigas

I was still hoping that we might have the same Beatriz. The next day I had a phone number and email address for the Beatriz that had been our exchange student. She had moved to Seville, in the south of Spain, so I was hoping that we would at least be able to chat and perhaps reconnect. After one phone call, Beatriz decided to fly to Bilbao and show us around her home town. Luckily for us, her older brother still lives in Bilbao and always has room for any siblings who return to town.

Bilbao's famous surf spot

Bilbao’s famous surf spot

Needless to say, we had a fanstastic reunion and enjoyed a lovely time with Beatriz, her brother Anton and his wife Christina. One evening, they introduced us to their favorite Tapas bars (called Pinxtos in the Basque Country).



For our last day in the area, we explored the beautiful fishing villages, the Basque Countryside and had the best Basque meal ever at Baserri Maitea near the town of Gernika (Guernica). But best of all, I’ve reconnected to a special person that I might have never seen again. So when that little voice says, “I don’t know…” or “Maybe I shouldn’t…” replace it with “Why Not?” and see what happens.

Bob &  "tour guides"

Bob & “tour guides”

About msraaka

I am an artist, writer and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there and other countries in Europe. We love to travel, but especially to stay in one area and get a better sense of place. I love learning languages, so I continue to study Italian, French and Spanish so I can communicate a bit more with the locals. Even learning the basic greetings can make a big difference.
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