Monday, December 3, 2012

Peripatetic Us

Me and the Puppy outside the Guggenheim

So let me see. Last post we were heading into Spain on the wine cruise, but today I am in Cancun Mexico two days after having a lovely (albeit chilly) evening walk along the river bank in Zurich Switzerland. It all sounds a bit odd, I suppose, but it does make sense.

The very best airfare we could get to take us where we wanted to go was an around-the-world fare from Swiss Air. To get anywhere in Europe, we had to fly to Zurich and then take a short flight to, in our case, London. Leaving England when the cruise ended we had to get back to Zurich and get on a flight to the US. In this instance, Miami. I'll get to the Cancun bit a little later but I want to finish up writing about the cruise stops first.

We had a fantastic two days in Bilbao Spain. Famous for the Guggenheim Museum there, it is also a classically lovely Spanish city. The Guggenheim is an amazing building by Frank Geary and deserves all the accolades it has received. Jeff Koons's "Puppy" was sitting outside the museum when we approached, which made it feel kind of homey since that sat outside the Sydney Museum of Modern Art a few years ago.

Inside, it's really not a very large museum with only three floors of exhibits and more open space than art works. Which, to this little philistine's taste, was OK. Their main permanent exhibit is by Claes Oldenburg and I told LK my conclusion after viewing his stuff was that he was the sort of person who made me stay away from art students when I was at university.

We were with our friends Peter and Coralie, and Peter and I were pretty much sure the naugahyde replicas of french fries and hamburgers were more pretension than art. LK seemed a lot more knowledgeable about what was going on with the stuff, but didn't seem to like it much. Coralie called it one of the great moments of her life. Given that the art world feels much the same, I don't think I can knock her for that.

The top floor had a temporary exhibit of 100 of Egon Schiele's sketches and paintings. This completes our art tour of the patron saints of Jason and Lora's cats, Klimt and Schiele, and also was far more interesting than the soft toilets and rubber sinks on the floor below. Although I have to add that it is a bit creepy to look at erotic paintings of nude, early-teen girls done by an adult man. But I guess that's art and at least it made more sense than leather french fries to me.

Seems we could walk far without finding a table and having a drink
After the museum we all agreed it was time for a drink and lunch. After lunch we agreed it was time for another drink until later that evening when we agreed it was time for a drink and dinner. But that's the kind of thing you do when you catch up with old friends you haven't seen for a couple of years. And it really was wonderful seeing Peter and Coralie.

They fit into that great category of people who accept that we are lazy, slack tarts who don't do enough to stay in touch but they are happy anyway to pick up the conversation where it was three years ago and just enjoy spending time together. And we did enjoy our time with them.

Love this night shot of LK and Peter from the hotel roof

The ship was leaving Bibao mid-afternoon the next day, but we somehow all managed to get up, drink a gallon of coffee and get together in the morning to take a drive up to Guernica. This town was levelled by Franco and his friend Hitler in the Spanish Civil War in the 30's - and I do mean leveled as the strafing destroyed almost everything in the city.

As a result of the destruction, there isn't much to see from a tourist point of view, but there is a museum devoted to telling the history of that atrocity and promoting peace. And there is a mosaic of Picasso's famous painting of the attack, which is probably the reason that the world still remembers the horrors of Guernica while collectively losing memories of most of the thousands of other atrocities that have bedeviled our world since then.
The mural in Guernica

Not a very cheery place to visit and a pretty somber way to end our time with Peter and Coralie, but it was good to do. Some times traipsing through the world has to include remembering the important things that have happened and not just checking out old buildings and beautiful landscapes.

From Bilbao we cruises to Porto, Portugal, home of - what else - port wine. It was a very windy day and we (OK, I) was a bit weary after a big night so we opted to take a tour of the city and area on a hop-on, hop-off bus. We neither hopped on nor off, though, but saw plenty of this beautiful city. I must say that Spain and Portugal have some of the world's most beautiful cities. And as LK points out, they both easily qualify as having some of the world's best-dressed people.
The beach by our ship before we left to go back to the UK
Two days at sea after leaving Porto and we arrived back at Southampton to temperatures a notch below freezing. Which was slightly warmer than it was in Zurich later that evening when we took a train into the city and walked along the river into the beautiful Old Town in search of a restaurant for dinner. I grew up in much colder temperatures than this, but I can officially certify that I don't want to grow old in much colder temperatures than this. Brrrrr!

The chill came off, however, when we found LK's restaurant of choice, Swiss Chuchi, which enabled us to live a cliche on our only night in Switzerland. That's right, 70's lovers, we had cheese fondue with enough bread to feed the proverbial army. It was every bit as good as melted cheese and bread can be (which is pretty good), and it warmed us up enough for a quick walk back to the train station and an early night in the hotel before our morning flight to Miami.

We had a longish layover before the flight to Cancun, and chose to walk outside to the terminal we needed to be at. There are few better sensations than going from cold to warm in less than 24 hours, as the temperature was more than 50F (10C) from the day before.

And now we are Mexico as the guests of our friends Robert and Jaki. Our Catching Up With Family and Friends Tour continues as we hop around the world, and it is every bit as good as we had hoped it would be when we left Tasmania.

Mexico report next time and, hopefully, pictures on Shutterfly in a day or two if the connection here is good enough to enable it.

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