Biscay ~ Bilbao

Friday 13th July ~ Across Biscay!!

An Early Start!

We set off from La Rochelle at 6am on Friday 13th July – a questionable decision some might say given the reputation of Biscay?

A visitor!

No problem, Musetta relished the challenge and once the wind arrived, after several hours of motoring I might add, we were able to put up the cruising chute and for the next 22 hours and all through the night, Musetta ate up the miles!  We had a visit from a racing pigeon who obviously needed  a rest! I don’t know whether he would have stayed if the D400 had been whizzing round? 

Goodnight France!

 Saturday 14th July ~ 08.30am

Finally the Spanish Courtesy Flag is aloft!

Unfortunately the wind died away to nothing in the morning and so down came the Chute and on went the motor again!  At least we were able to lower our French courtesy flag and hoist  our Spanish one in it’s place safely! We were once again visited by dolphins who stayed with us for a while as we made our way to Bilbao.

After several seasons and more especially the last two years of sailing in French waters it was quite a heady sensation to have finally arrived in Spain, into the Basque country with Bilbao as it’s unofficial capital!  

The Basque Flag!

The mountainous coast line suddenly emerged out of the mist that shrouded it and after 33 hours and 210.8 nautical miles we arrived in the enormous port of Bilbao! We motored into the  first marina in the harbour at Getxo, and were greeted by friendly staff who unfortunately didn’t speak a word of English (why should they?!) but we managed to make ourselves understood!

A house from a bygone era – Getxo!

Being out of town it was quiet and not at all busy, we were the only British boat moored there!

An elegant city hotel!

From the outside the city is a vast sprawling metropolis of concrete, very industrial and with a large commercial port as well as a ferry port. Brittany ferries come in here from Portsmouth. It was not very attractive at all but we soon discovered that once through all the horrid stuff that we associate with industrial towns, Bilbao had a certain charm with some beautiful buildings of it’s own.

15th July ~ The Guggenheim Museum

We had promised ourselves that we would visit this much vaunted attraction in Bilbao and so we found our way into the centre of the city by Metro. it was very easy!

One of the facets of the building ~ Truly beautiful!

The museum was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. It houses modern and contemporary work but it is the titanium-clad building that grabs the limelight and it certainly caught our attention, it was incredible and if I’m really honest, I found the design of the building and the materials used absolutely fascinating, much more so than the exhibits inside?!?!

Some of the outside exhibits which we found eye-catching!

The Chinese section which took up the whole of one floor I didn’t ‘get’ at all?  In one section there was a film being shown of a procession of scrawny, NAKED young men and women on a mountain top. They were about to demonstrate that by lying face down on top of one another they could raise the height of the mountain by ONE metre???

This is Art???

No photography was allowed so I couldn’t take photos of this and or much of the rest of the Chinese exhibits but I did manage to sneak this photo of one of the bizarre items we puzzled over.


This one went on and on upwards!



Here are some photos of other exhibits….!  What constitutes art? Well I guess it is all about the individuals interpretation of what they are looking at?  I loved the works by Chagal and the beautiful needlecraft in the outsize colourful tapestries. 

Amazing embroidery and appliqué work!




I could take photos of the beautiful needlework exhibits which wound their way around the pillars and ceiling in the atrium.



However, having said all that, the museum was fascinating and we were both very glad to have been able to go and see it.

Alan trying to make sense of it all!!


16th July ~ The celebration of the Virgin Carmen

The Virgin Carmen, according to the legend, is responsible for keeping the waters around the shore clean and safe! Many believers of the legend used to refuse to swim until after July 16th!

Amazing celebration of the Religious Festival!

Our visit coincided with the annual festival of the Virgin Carmen who is the patron saint and protector of all seamen.  The day is celebrated in many coastal towns and villages throughout Spain with processions carrying a highly decorated image of the Virgin Carmen, through the towns and villages by groups of the local fishermen and leading to the sea front. When they reach the sea, they are usually met by a flotilla of illuminated and decorated boats, all sounding their horns. After prayers are made for all those at sea, the custom is that the statue is taken on a boat, around the local harbour as the fireworks and bands accompany her journey.


I found this beautifully made image of the Virgin Carmen in the Basilica in Llanes, further along the coast.

Each town or village will adapt their celebrations according to their own traditions and now the celebrations extend to scuba divers placing a statue on the seabed!  Some places release doves as the virgin is taken onto a boat and out to sea.  The 16th July celebrations, as with many of the Spanish festivals, manage to combine seemlessly this religious devotion to the day with an endless capacity to party well into the night!!  We know because in Getxo we could hear it and see all the fireworks!!

This was our first experience of staying in a port in Spain which we thoroughly enjoyed!

The official Spanish Ensign!

Westward we go now…..!


13 thoughts on “Biscay ~ Bilbao

  1. amazing detail Ros, I so enjoy reading your posts.
    You really are ‘eating up the miles’ it must feel fantastic after all your preparations. May the winds be with you! Xx

    1. Thank you Rosie, it’s so nice to know people are reading the blogs! I very much enjoy writing them too! All love. Ros xx

  2. Good to hear you’ve made it to a second foreign country. Save sailing. I went across the Solent to the Island in a friend’s day boat and I can honestly say it put paid to any designs I might have had of owning any kind of aquatic craft! Strictly ferro via for me.

  3. Our culture… our tradition… our heart there… you’ve taken some of our heartbeats with you!!! Thanks for mooring here, you are my family, you know that!! Big kiss, Carmen

  4. Welcome to Spain. Are you also flying a Basque flag? After our Biscay crossing some years back we much enjoyed coast hopping south to the Med and you are sure to also. Not sure about the current heatwave though! Looking forward to further posts.

    1. Hi Bill and Chris, yes we have made it Spain! Not flying the Basque flag, it didn’t seem to be an issue and we’ve moved on now and on the Asturias coast, a tiny little port – aria de Navia! You can see us on the Yellow Brick Tracker!! More posts coming soon! Hope you and yours are all well?! Ros xx

  5. Thank you Ros for your Blogs, always a treat to read about your adventures.
    As someone wrote earlier, “may the winds be with you”. The weather has broken here so it may be better/cooler for you now.
    Lots of love to you both
    Phil and Jo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.