Bilbao: sights & museums

We spent a considerable amount of time walking around Bilbao. We only bought one 24-hour metro pass during our three day stay so most of our exploring was done on foot.

Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived so after grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby pintxo bar, we discovered the Arkeologi Museoa was free on Thursdays. We spied some giant puppets in the large open courtyard and decided to have a closer look.

posing w/ giant puppets   posing w/ giant puppets

Many Spanish festivals feature these puppets. One person controls the giant structure with a wooden frame and can see through a translucent veil stitched into the long fabric skirt. Slightly creepy and totally fascinating.

While we stayed in the Old Town, we walked across the Areatzako Zubia bridge daily to get to shopping and bars.

view from Areatzako Zubia bridge

One of the most famous sites in Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum boasts a shiny undulating exterior and a giant puppy covered in flowers!


Guggenheim Museum Bilbao


Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

We opted not to go inside but enjoyed exploring the grounds and seeing how the shape of the building changed depending on where you stood and time of day.

There was a special exhibit going on at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao of life-like sculptures, so we decided to make that our museum visit choice. The materials varied but these sculptures were absolutely fascinating and incredible life-like!

Escultura hiperrealista 1973-2016 @ Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao  Escultura hiperrealista 1973-2016 @ Museo de Bellas Artes de BilbaoEscultura hiperrealista 1973-2016 @ Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao  Escultura hiperrealista 1973-2016 @ Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

Right by our hotel, there was a set of stairs that disappeared uphill. We decided to follow them and do some exploring…

Mallona Steps

scene on the Mallona Steps

The Mallona Stairs led us up past a large soccer pitch and an amusement park to a beautiful church.

Basílica de Begoña

We both preferred the Moyua area to Old Town as there was lots of shopping, bars, and beautiful squares to explore.

Moyua Plaza

Iglesia San José

On Sunday mornings, the El Arenal flower market appears with many locals picking up plants and bouquets for the week.

flower market @ El Arenal

Our last stop before heading to San Sebastian was Azkuna Zentroa. Boasting a movie theatre and swimming pool on the upper floors with a wide open gallery space below, it was a nice spot to rest our feet for a while and admire the unusual columns.

column @ Azkuna Zentroa

One day in Sydney!

Since we had never visited Sydney on our previous Australia trip, we took this opportunity to see as much as we could in our two nights and one very full day.

We arrived late Sunday evening, taking a taxi from the airport to our apartment. This evening was the Cricket World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand, and we had hoped to watch some of the game in a local pub… unfortunately (for us), Australia had already won the match just as we got into our room. Undeterred we went out for a beer at Royal Albert Hotel which did have a few people celebrating the win. They had an interesting range of beer, and Eric went for the Black Dog Brewery Farm Dog saison while Leandra choose the ‘The Dopey One’ from Modus Operandi Brewing.

coaster drawings @ Royal Albert Hotel  coaster drawings @ Royal Albert Hotel
fantastic illustrations on coasters covered one of the walls @ Royal Albert Hotel

The Monday forecast called for midday rain, so we were up early for breakfast pastries at De La France with a ham and cheese croissant for Eric, and a bacon and cheese for Leandra. Good way to start the day! From there we walked to Hyde Park, then on to views of St. Marys and St. James churches.

St. Marys Church
St. Mary’s Church

stained glass at St. Peters
stained glass room in St. Peter’s Church

Next we went down Macquarie St. past the library, then to the botanical garden, enjoying the various plantings. The ibis and cockatoos were also fun to watch, with a large gathering inexplicably under one tree.

cockatoos and ibis

From the northern tip of the botanical gardens we had our first view of the famous opera house.

Sydney Opera House

Note the looming clouds? Yeah, we did too. So under threatening skies we hustled around the quay for more views, took one last panorama, then ducked under an awning just as the rain came down. Looking at the radar we saw that it wasn’t going to stop quickly, so we changed our plans to head indoors. 

Sydney Harbour
just before the downpour!

The Museum of Contemporary Art was closest, so we went there first, ducking under as many awnings and bridges as possible. As a bonus, entry and wifi were both free! We especially enjoyed several of the light installations.

naa (to see or look ) by Jonathan Jones

Automated Color Field by Rebcca Baumann  colored room

Earlier we had noticed signs for an exhibition on Australian pulp fiction at the NSW Library so we headed there next. While interesting, even more entertaining was a set of portraits of shopkeepers in the Newtown suburb and the impressive reading room.

NSW Library
And now it’s sunny! Welcome to weather in Sydney.

The rain had tapered off a bit, but it was still drizzling, so we ducked into the Rabbit Hole for a quick snack of chips and a cider for Eric, with the house white rabbit ale for Leandra. Inspired by the photos in the library we took the opportunity to research Newtown as our next destination. By the time we left the sun was back out so we headed north through a different part of the botanical gardens, then to Cahill walk across bridge for more photos.

view of the CBD from the Royal Botanic Gardens

the famous opera house!

Sydney Opera House from the Harbor Bridge

At Circular Quay we purchased train tickets to Newtown, which was a bit confusing, including a transfer at Central station for $8 roundtrip. The video screen didn’t list the train we needed, so we had to deduce the track from the regular static listing next to the maps. The train in Sydney reminded us of Barcelona, where they seem to be more efficient for suburb connections then for getting around the CBD.

Once in Newtown it was a short walk to Young Henrys brewery, where Eric ordered the Newtowner (ale) which had a nice fruitiness to it, and is only distributed in the neighborhood area. Leandra got the darker specialty beer, a chocolate raspberry stout (Edna ale) – brewed by one of their female bartenders. The bartender was helpful with suggestions on what to try, and the overall space was fun with many interesting art pieces on the wall.

beers @ Young Henry's

Next up was exploring some of the local street art in the area around the brewery.

street art in Newtown

street art in Newtown

street art in Newtown (and Eric)

street art in Newtown

As you know we LOVE street art and this area did not disappoint. There was a good variety of styles, paste-ups and sculptures.

dessert-1Working up an appetite, we made it in the door just as Gigi’s Pizzeria opened for the evening. Drinks were served with a pile of roasted in-shell peanuts to munch on. We were surprised at how good our orders were – a really good thin crust pizza, along with a reasonably priced carafe of rose. Since we split the pizza we had room for dessert and went with the special, a mille feuille with figs. Everything was quite tasty.

Fairly tired we decided to head back our apartment to rest our feet and charge our phones. As one last hurrah, and since it was only two blocks away, we went out for pork dumplings from Din Tai Fung later that night. As usual, they were awesome!

Thanksgiving in Europe 2013: Vienna sights II


The morning was fairly cold so we decided to start at the Leopold Museum. We were pleasantly surprised by the collection, especially the impressive Schiele floor, as well as some other interesting pieces. The top floor has nice views over the Museum Quartier and an unexpected bonus- our Austrian Airlines boarding pass = half off the entrance price!

#instagram Leopold Museum

Your Space Has Been Invaded

After a few hours we had to get our blood flowing, so we headed to the Am Hof Advent Market market for lunch. Leandra had a brat, Eric an open face ham and cheese… the peppers were a nice touch.

meat stall!

not for vegetarians!

After exploring the market a bit we made our way to St.Peters Church for the 3pm organ concert. The church is rather compact but quite ornate. We sat in the pews for about 30 minutes enjoying the organ concert and letting our eyes soak in the details.

St. Peter's Church

St. Peter's Church

From the church we walked through the palace back to the ring, enjoying the sunset light even with our cold hands.

carriages and old buildings

Rathaus at sunset

At the ring road we hopped on the D tram to Belvedere to catch a quick look at the palace and Christmas market, beautiful in the waning light.

Belvedere Palace market


After breakfast we made a quick trip to the Schottering metro stop to check out the grafitti walls near the canal and bridges.

street art

street art

On the way we saw ticket checkers for the first time ever in Vienna, then headed back to collect E’s parents and get to the bus station for our trip to Prague.

Texas! exploring Austin, pt I

We started our Saturday morning with a trip to Zilker Gardens.  The signs are a bit disingenuous with a notice in small print that they charge extra if you are not a resident. We started by going left from visitor center, enjoying the different sections of the park.

pink roses (with visitor)

froggy  I have wings!

pagoda and pond  old school

star lily

The Japanese water gardens were especially memorable with some beautiful koi and mature bamboo.

From the garden we drove in downtown Austin, stopping first at The Contemporary which was underwhelming as museum. With only two installations, there wasn’t a lot to keep our attention for more than twenty minutes. However, we were pleased to find the nearby Capital building open for exploration and unexpectedly fascinating.

carved door hinges

door hinge

intricate doorknobs  dome

stars everywhere you look

Texas Senate floor

Texas House of Representatives

a discussion


After lunch we headed to the second location of The Contemporary Museum – a little better, but still not very interesting overall.

art installation

See our further adventures in Austin in our next post…

Summer Euro 2013: Berlin

It felt a bit strange to return to a foreign city just one month later, but also comforting to already know my way around parts of the city.

Leandra’s primary mission on this trip to Berlin was to visit the Pergamon Museum, home to the Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar, so we headed there on rainy Monday morning.

Roman city gate

just a Roman city gate… inside the museum

Pergamon details   Pergamon details

Pergamon detail

Ishtar Gate

the fantastic gate of Ishtar

highly detailed wooden ceiling

temple ceiling carved out of wood

parrot mosaic

parrot mosaic

ancient door

an impressive door

We enjoyed the antiquities, but the busy-ness of the packed museum made it harder to enjoy the place, plus some parts were closed for renovation. From here we walked over to the Radisson Blu, to quickly check out the world’s largest cylindrical aquarium.

walkway on museum island   Han Solo?

sights along the way

Radisson BLU - world's largest cylindrical aquarium

And the Three Girls and a Boy statues along the Spree river.

children by the river

Just a few blocks away is the large Weihenstephaner beer garden; given the damp weather, we enjoyed our beer and pretzels inside.

Leandra’s foot was feeling ok, so I took her to the street art area near Warschauer Street U-Bahn stop. Unlike my trip in July, this time I had more time to explore, and saw quite a few new murals.

huge wall mural

war tools  street art


ants  what's wrong?

see more photos on Flickr

Later that evening we re-visited the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.

about to get run over by a pack of cylists at the Brandenburg Gate

From there the metro took us to the Gendarmenmarkt, where we enjoyed the Deutscher Dom and Französische Friedrichstadtkirche as the lights came on in the twilight.

Deutscher Dom

Deutscher Dom

Französische Friedrichstadtkirche


Konzerthaus Berlin

Konzerthaus Berlin

We finished our Berlin adventure with dinner at Das Meisterstück, then back to our hotel to pack up for our return to the US the next morning.

A long weekend in London: Saturday

On Saturday we headed up to the retail area in Camden, and are known for an incredible mix of styles, with hard-core leather stores next to sneaker stores next to tourist t-shirts. The storefronts along Camden High Street have some fun eye-catching decorations too:

shops on Camden High Street

shops on Camden High Street

The area is especially popular on weekends and it was bustling with all kinds of shoppers despite the drizzly weather (well, it is London). Along the canal there were some cool benches serving the outdoor food stalls.

reative seating

An increasing drizzle lead us purchase some organic hot chocolate (with marshmallows!) at one of the stalls and find cover in the Horse Tunnel Market for a bit.

Horse Tunnel Market

Along the way we managed to find some good sales, Leandra with shirts at Punkyfish and an outdoor vendor, and Eric with a new scarf and t-shirts.

After wearing ourselves out walking around Camden we took the Tube south to visit the Saatchi Gallery. Finally, a London art museum that had interesting modern art.

modern art @ Saatchi Gallery

modern art @ Saatchi Gallery

modern art @ Saatchi Gallery

We happened to finish up just in time to witness a beautiful sunset…

sunset from the third floor

After a quick change of clothes at our hotel we headed to First Floor in Notting Hill to meet Leandra’s Aunt Kim for dinner. With a table looking out over Portobello Rd and items like muntjac ragout and apple & blackberry crumble for dessert how could we go wrong?

After dinner Kim took us to the Home House on Portman Square for a drink and entertaining conversation. We stayed out too late to catch the Tube home, but after putting Kim on a bus we were able to take a short cab ride back to our hotel. A lovely way to end a full weekend in London.

me with my aunt Kim

A long weekend in London: Friday

After a long first day in London we relaxed on Friday morning, sleeping late then ambling over to the hotel’s included breakfast. Advertised as a ‘champagne’ breakfast they really only feature Andre sparkling wine, but the rest of the spread made up for it: passion fruit juice, croissants and other breads, scrambled eggs, English bacon, fruit, cheeses, sliced meats, granola, etc. Once again we planned our day over breakfast and decided to start at the British Museum.

inside the British Museum

The British Museum is rightly famous for its collection of antiquities, especially Egyptian and Greek. The very first item we saw was the famous Rosetta stone.

the Rosetta Stone

Talk about an entrance! It’s quite amazing to see something so old and important to archeology right in front of you. The rest of the wing was also impressive with large statues, pieces of the Parthenon, and other amazing relics.


admiring a very large head

We wandered around other parts of the museum and were especially impressed with some of the old German engravings.

German lithograph - Saturday, Graveyard of St. Peter's in Salzburg, 1823
we visited this graveyard on our Salzburg trip!

After having our fill of museums we headed to Cask’s sister pub Craft. Though the downstairs was quite busy, the upstairs loft had plenty of seating. Here we tried the Dark Star Golden Gate Seasonal Ale, Mikkeller Clerkenwell Lager (house beer), Hawks Head Brodie’s Prime and Imperial Damson and Vanilla Porter.

still life with red

The weather was relatively warm, in the mid 50s, so we decided to walk around the London Eye area for some photos while we still had some daylight.

Big Ben! Parliment!
Big Ben! Parliment!

just red

Having built up an appetite we headed to Pix, a tapas restaurant in Covent Garden. The croquettes compared favorably to those tried on our recent Barcelona trip, and the other tapas bites were tasty too.

peppers at Pix

Feeling full we made our way back down to the Thames for a few night shots.

lit up for evening

Since the Tate Britain was open late on Friday night we decided to stop in on our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately, our experience was much like the Tate Modern, and we were disappointed by most of the pieces.


After 8 hours of wandering London we ended our evening at a pub near our hotel followed by takeout from Addie’s Thai.