Bilbao Matiko – San Sebastián Amara Donostia Irun – Irun Ficoba

I’d pre-booked my visit to the Guggenheim, though as it turned out it was quiet when I arrived. That gave me a good opportunity to take some photos of the interior of this astonishing building before looking at the artworks.

I started with the Miró exhibition. It’s odd to stand in front of a picture you had on your wall aged 20, and know intimately, but have never seen for real.

A lot of his stuff is great fun, but other works take some deciphering, as he developed a code for many of the elements in his work a so I was grateful for the audio guide, which was accessible on my phone.

What I saw next I had absolutely not expected, and was just amazing. The impact of Richard Serra’s “The Matter of Time” is quite magical. The artist says that it exists to stimulate reactions, and that the physical objects are not the artwork, but the people around it are.

On a basic level it is huge chunks of steel, curved, welded and arranged into the space (they were designed for this gallery and are permanently here, indeed there is a second display about how they were created and installed) but watching people react to them was just wonderful. They are simple yet playful, intimidating, stimulating, all sorts of things; and I adore them.

I’d spent over 2 hours in the museum and not even left the ground floor! Upstairs a mix of temporary exhibitions, of which I particularly enjoyed the pop art, with one of the larger Andy Warhol Marilyn montages, and a huge Gilbert & George piece.

Before leaving, I couldn’t resist looking at the Yayoi Kusama infinity room. I’ve seen a couple of them before at Tate Modern, indeed the exhibition there has just been extended. They are lovely spaces so it was worth the queueing time.

My final stop was a look at the Zero exhibit, which is a mirrored room displaying both artworks and the story of the gallery as a film. The main photo of this post was taken in there, with a gorgeous Rothko work seeming to surround me.

I could have spent a full day in the museum, but did need to move on.

The next journey was by train, but not part of the Interrail network. What is effectively an extended metro system weaves its way through the hills towards the coast, criss-crossing a river and the road which share the narrow steep-sided valley.

It was a long journey to do on metro-style seating but very interesting and worthwhile, and the prize at the end was San Sebastián, an absolute joy of a place, that deserves to be better known. There was nowhere to leave luggage so I hauled my bags around with me (wearable baggage has saved me more than once on this trip) and spent a couple of hours exploring the bay, with its harbour, as well as the beautiful historic town centre. Along with Bilbao, my favourite place visited in Spain, I think.

From here is was another 45 minutes on another line of the metro system, to my hotel at the border. When I say at the border, I mean exactly that. After checking in, I walked over the bridge into France to check out the station for my early morning departure, pausing at the middle to take a photo, half in one country and half in the other. The bridge is differently named at each end.

There are two stations here, one is the terminus of the Spanish metro service that had brought me from Bilbao and the other is the French SNCF station, putting me back onto the Interrail network.