The itinerary had us flying from LAX to Philadelphia to Madrid to Bilbao. Damn. It was going to be a long couple of days.

Day 1: Mike, me, Wallace and Gromit prepare for our grand day out.

Always the scholar Mike enjoys Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.

Enjoying the last American food I would taste for a week: yes, California rolls.

Welcome to Madrid International Airport.

Day 2: We have been in the air for 14 hours, Spain is hot and smoky, plus we have a layover of a few hours in Madrid. Mike sums it all up.

Beautiful clouds over Northern Spain.

Outside the Bilbao Airport I watched a couple of kids kicking a soccer ball around. I would come to see this sight repeated all over Spain. It's all about futbol in Europe.

Mike on the airport bus as we head to the Bilbao city center.

The first thing we see in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum by architect Frank Gehry, the same guy who designed the Disney Music Hall. The Guggenheim is alleged to resemble a ship or flower. The other Guggenheims are in New York, Venice and Berlin. 60 tons of titanium was used for the facade but it is only 0.1 inch thick.

"Puppy" by American artist Jeff Koons has a coat of flowers irrigated by an internal system. Originally a temporary feature, the sculpture's popularity with Bilbao's residents earned it a permanent spot.

The front of the Gugggenheim.

The front with our intrepid explorers.

A rear view with Ria de Bilbao to the left.

Mike and the giant spider behind the Guggenheim.


Another view of the spider.

Arachniphobes, avert your eyes.

First food in Spain... Subway, baby! Prepared by the lovely Enara who had no idea why this strange foreigner was taking a picture with her.

We took the Bilbao metro to a bus terminal where all the busses looked like bulls due to the placement of the mirrors. It turns out that most charter busses are designed the same way, even in the States.

We took a 50 minute bus ride to the town of Estella. The dumbass that I am I forgot the paperwork that included directions to the campsite in which we were staying. I spent the next 45 minutes running up and down the streets looking for an English speaker but to no avail. It was getting dark and the streets were emptying.

While Mike was guarding out luggage while I made a fool of myself he was approached by a Russian girl named Katya who also spoke English and Spanish fluently. She had called a cab and invited to a Roman festival in somewhere that was not our campsite. Instead I had her ask the cab driver if he knew of any campgrounds outside Estella. He did so we split the fare with Katya and were driven right to it. The first problem of the trip was solved. Don't worry, there would be more.

It was 10:30 by the time we found the camp and we hit the tent by 11:00. It was the end to a very long couple of days.

But not so fast, Mr. Sandman. Shortly after lying down for a well-deserved and much-needed night of sleep, the kids arrived. A pack of approximately a dozen pre-teen vacationing Spanish kids discovered our presence in the tent and proceeded to mock us with catcalls and strategically-thrown articles. I chased them away (literally) but this only invigorated them for the "game." I finally walked away from the tent so the kids would follow me. At least Mike could get some shut-eye. I eventually made contact and talked with them for about half an hour (their halting English was quite impressive, reminiscent of my first period English 3 class). A couple of the Aussies arrived on the scene (Duff and Emo were their nicknames) and entertained the kids. I headed back for sleep but a few minutes later the Aussies decided to instruct the kids on the rudiments of Australian football (rugby) - yes, that is correct, right near out tent. This went on until 2:30 a.m. Fack! We ended up sleeping in until 11:30 that morning. So this was Spain. Tranquil Spain.