Exploring Northern Spain
A Journey Through the Hidden Gems of the Region
After our exploration of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPP), France we drove to Logroño, Spain. The route from SJPP south was on the N-135 through Pamplona and then the A-12 to L ogroño. The N-135 just may be the most switchbacks we have ever driven, and it constant turns as it came down from the Pyrenees.
The N-135 is considered to be one of the "Basque Circuit" highways and specifically the route between Pamplona, Spain to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France. Perhaps not as well known as the Switzerland or Northern Italy "great drives" but it is challenging and pretty as well.
We spent the morning exploring Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and then headed south on the N-135 highway. The N-135 highway, also known as the Carretera de Navarra, is a picturesque and vital route that winds its way through the northern region of Spain, connecting Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Logroño. This journey along the N-135 is a driving enthusiast's dream, offering a wide array of scenic vistas and cultural experiences - as well as numerous switchbacks that are really "u-turns".
As our drive to Logroño took most of the afternoon, by the time we arrived and got settled into the AC La Rioja Marriott Hotel, it was nearly dinner time and we knew we had a long drive ahead of us the next day. So we decided to drive into the old town area, find a Tapas Pub and just do a light dinner and have some Rioja wine. We did not take our camera equipment, which was a pity because this was a picturesque city and as you can see in the above image banner, our hotel was perhaps 3 blocks from the Plaza de Toros de La Ribera (bull fighting ring).
Just for anyone who might be interested in visiting Logroño, the AC La Rioja Marriott Hotel was very comfortable and had underground secure parking. It is located not too far from the old town area and it is quite modern.
The above Logroño image is the property of Despotismo Ilustrado y Barroco via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
We arrived in Bilbao ahead of schedule, and decided to visit the Guggenheim Museum before driving on to Getxo where our hotel was located.
Designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a stunning fusion of cutting-edge architecture and modern art. Its undulating titanium façade reflects the changing light, giving the building an otherworldly quality. As you approach, it's impossible not to be in awe of its fluid form and the way it harmonizes with the river surroundings.
Inside the Museum, you'll find a treasure trove of modern and contemporary art. The museum's ever-evolving collection features works by iconic artists like Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, and Yoko Ono. The vast, light-filled galleries provide the perfect backdrop to immerse yourself in a world of artistic innovation.
Beyond the art, the architectural details are worth savoring. Gehry's genius is evident in every corner, from the soaring atrium to the whimsical glass elevators that transport visitors from one level to another. Don't forget to explore the outdoor installations and sculptures dotting the museum's exterior, seamlessly integrating art with nature.
The Hotel Embarcadero turned out to be a 4-star tranquil haven nestled along the picturesque Getxo coastline, offering panoramic views of the Harbor & the Bay of Biscay. The soothing sound of ocean waves and the fresh sea breeze set the stage for a peaceful getaway. Getxo Harbor is a cruise ship destination (you can see the Norwegian Cruise Lines "Getaway" in our imagery).
Getxo's historical center boasts well-preserved architecture, quaint streets, and lively plazas where you can savor Basque cuisine at local bars and restaurants. The town also hosts various cultural events, including music festivals, art exhibitions, and traditional Basque celebrations.
Getxo's coastal promenade, known as the 'El Abra' promenade, is a picturesque spot for leisurely walks and cycling, offering stunning views of the sea, cliffs, and charming beaches like Ereaga and Arrigunaga. Additionally, the iconic Vizcaya Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site, connects Getxo to the neighboring port of Portugalete and is a testament to the region's industrial history.
The Vizcaya Bridge is a transporter bridge (located approximately 1.2 kilometers south of our hotel) that links the towns of Portugalete and Las Arenas (part of Getxo), crossing the mouth of the Nervion River (same river that flows past the Guggenheim Museum). People in the area, and even the official website, commonly call it the Puente Colgante (literally "hanging bridge", used for suspension bridge in Spanish), although its structure is quite different from a suspension bridge. The gondola can transport six cars (see image # 1 above) and several dozen passengers in one and a half minutes. There is a walkway on the very top of the structure, reachable via elevator in the towers (see image # 4 above).
The Vizcaya Bridge was built to connect the two banks which are situated at the mouth of the Nervion River. It is the world's oldest transporter bridge and was built in 1893, designed by Alberto Palacio, one of Gustave Eiffel's disciples.
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