Thursday, May 05, 2005

Madrid vs Bilbao

What a difference Bilbao is from Madrid!

My Spanair plane took off from hot dry Madrid around 7.00pm and 30 minutes later it was banking over mist-swathed green mountains on a rainy evening.

Bilbao is in the Basque region and doesnt feel Spainish at all. It is green, lush, mountainous with half-timbered houses you might expect to find in Bavaria or maybe Northern Italy.

Elvira, the Brooklyn-born librarian of the American School of Bilbao, met me at the airport. Although shes been here thirty years and has been married to a Spaniard almost as long, her accent is still unmistakably New York. She drove me through the rain to a town north of Bilbao called Getxo, pronounced Getcho. I was going to be staying with a family for two nights. We found their apartment house in a posh area of this pretty, rain-washed suburb. Edurne and Juan Bosco are both psychologists and their nine year old daughter Maria is a fan of my books.

They welcomed me into their smart, modern apartment. Their cultured neighbours from upstairs were there, too, because they speak excellent English. After a glass of red wine, some cheese and the inevitable jamon serrano we ate dinner. Edurne had prepared tortilla patates, which is a kind of egg flan with potato. Im not usually keen on egg but it was delicious. She served it with two salads and mini baskets of bread. We had strawberries for dessert.

They had prepared a little guest room for me with four lilies (chosen by Maria) in a glass vase.

Im still fighting a cold, so it was great to get into the tiny clean bed and let the sound of the rain lull me to sleep.

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