As part of my role as field researcher within our group, I kept a diary of what we did in our few days in Bilbao as a tool to help keep notes on what we found out. As such, I will write this post similar to diary style.
Friday 3 February
Our journey began in the early hours of the morning with snow coming down from the sky’s and arrived at the airport slightly tired but prepared for some research away from the computer and books. Once we arrived at Bilbao airport, the view from the airport looked like we had arrived at some alpine ski resort with some magnificent big green mountains and in the distance, mountains with snow-covered tops.
My first chance to try some spanish arrived when I tried to ask the taxi driver if he knew how to get to our hotel. This quickly went from the standard “Hola” to “can you take us here please?” and showing the taxi driver the hotel address on paper!
As the taxi driver drove us to the hotel, it was interesting to see us travelling down the winding mountain (if only my camera was not packed at the bottom of my bag!), eventually being able to see the inner city where you could instantly see many high-rise flats, the iconic La Salve bridge next to the Guggenheim, and endless buildings with not much space for anything else. We kept travelling in a winding motion down this mountainous area until we finally hit “old town” where we were staying and again I noted how pedestrian locals appeared to have control of the roads. They would step out in the road……and cars would stop!!! Back home cars will only stop if they have to because the road laws tell them to stop at zebra crossings for example, but here in Bilbao, it looked like cars had no problem stopping for the pedestrians and waiting until they had cleared the road. Once our taxi driver stopped, he told us he cannot get any nearer to our hotel but it is just round the corner, so we paid and got out…….and instantly got lost!! Luckily a local woman saw we were confused and asked us in English where we were trying to go, (we were literally 2 minutes away). My thoughts were how friendly the locals appeared to be as the woman did not have to offer to help us. I guess that’s what I am used to living in a major city in England.
We got ourselves settled and then ventured out to get our bearings on where we will be living and see where to eat locally. We found a few local restaurants and shops we thought we would go to but many were closed and the streets were very quiet. It was only around 4pm and a Friday so we were not sure why it was so quiet. It could not have been siesta as that normally happens around midday, but we decided to go back to our rooms and come back to a restaurant we saw earlier to eat.
When we come back out at around 6pm, the streets are busy and many businesses have reopened! We arrive at our chosen restaurant to find that the cheaper prices we saw advertised earlier had changed and were now quite expensive for an evening meal. As we needed to budget for the remainder of our stay, we decided to find something cheaper, ie fast food. This proved difficult as “old town” does not have many fast food places and as we were hungry and tired we would quite happily settle for anything, eventually eating at a pizza place. Looking around as we walked through “old town”, I could see that the people were quite diverse, Spanish people, African people and Eastern European. I honestly never thought before I came that it would be so diverse as my initial research gave me the impression that it was a very tight community city and so I expected a lot of Bilbao locals with a community of people from mainland Spain.
As with all cities, there were buildings with graffiti:
All pictures taken by Jason Kurmoo
I also observed that Bilbao uses space differently to cities that I am used to. Pathways are very narrow and buildings are tall:
All pictures taken by Jason Kurmoo