On Thursday I packed up and left the hostel with bag in tow, caught the tram to the Guggenheim. It’s a hard building to describe because it is just so different from any building I’ve ever seen. For a start the outside is completely covered by thin stainless steel panels which reflect the day, and anything near-by depending on your view point. The building is also surrounded by water, adding to the reflective element and integrating the river running alongside it. A giant welded steel spider lurks near the river – this work of Louise Bourgois lovingly (??) inspired by her Mother. Out the front entrance of the museum is a giant puppy made of pansies by Jeff Koons.
As far the the architecture goes, It’s hard to understand how someone could even come up with such a design and then furthermore make it work so that it doesn’t fall down, especially since it’s three storeys high and every inner surface is curved.The main exhibition consists of a roomful of giant steel works by Richard Serra called The Matter of Time Huge sheets of steel are arranged in elipses and spirals, supported by their own weight. You can walk in and around these shapes, the edges leaning in and away from each other above you creating a disorientating sensation. There are a couple of other interesting works on the first floor including one by artist Jenny Holtzer and another by Jeff Koons.
Glass elevators carrying people from the 1st floor to the 3rd remind me of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately the Cy Twombly painting exhibition on the second floor wasn’t to open for another couple of weeks and the third floor was an exhibition of traditional German Chamber art which is not really my cup of tea, so I spent the morning mostly just wandering around the inside and then the outside of the building, relaxing in the artistic surroundings.
In the afternoon I caught a bus to Santander where I would be flying out of in a few days. Flashes of ocean out the bus window promised lazy days on the beach but when I reached Santander I found it to be much bigger than I imagined. My room was not far from the bus stop and after leaving my luggage I went for a quick wander, bought myself an interesting selection of supermarket food and settled in for a night of exciting Spanish television.
On Friday I went shopping at Bershka, my favourite Spanish shop and bought a large supply of jeans, enough to keep me going for the next couple of years. Which meant the afternoon’s mission would be one of a postal nature. The Correos (post office) was big enough to require one to take a ticket and wait in line. When I made it to the counter I did very well at stating my requirements except for the country of destination. I had to say New Zealand in English before the woman understood me. “Nueva Zealanda” looks simple but there’s a hidden and vital ‘th’ in there somewhere.Goods posted and I decided to go and try and find a beach.
There are at least 5 beaches in Santander and I was determined to find at least one of them. So I headed towards the water and started walking. It took me about an hour to walk around the coast past Playa los Peligros, Playa La Magdalena, Playa Los Bikinis, Playa El Camello, Playa La Concha, Playa Sardinero, all beautiful but small and deserted beaches and with large boxy buildings adjacent to the beach a constant reminder of the city. As it was coming into evening I caught a bus back to the central city and my room and tuned into Spanish Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The following day I was determined to spend a day at the beach. Rather than stick close to the city I caught a ferry across the way to Somo, a peninsula sticking out into the harbour with a surf beach on one side and a bay on the other. I went straight to the surf beach and found freedom at last. No buildings, no rubbish, just surfers and beach walkers. And dogs. This was obviously the place to bring your dog. There were dogs of every kind. A greyhound ran around me in circles then followed me for 200 metres when it realized I had food in my bag, oblivious to its owners demands. I’m not sure if the best way to get rid of a hungry dog is to hand over the food or not, but I had a feeling once this dog had a taste of my delicious cheese on stale bread, he just wouldn’t quit so I had to delay my lunch until he was distracted by another dog. There were big dogs and small dogs. Long haired and short haired. There was one of those hunting dogs that lift their paw and point their tail. There was one of those black shaggy dogs with long dreadlocks. (As you can tell I don’t know a whole lot of dog breeds). The greyhound had a great time teasing them and outrunning them all, the owner having long given up catching up to him herself. The beach was a long stretch of yellow sand several kilometres long with a small surf break to the left, and a larger one about 4-5 foot on the right. Near the small break I saw what I thought was a pile of rocks and I went to check it out – if Im going to go for a surf I want to know if Im going to be surfing over sharp jagged rocks or not. Turns out it was the sharp jagged rusty remains of a shipwreck stuck in the sand.
Reassured, I went off to find a board. The local surf shop had a 7” board and wetsuit for 10euro a day, and an English speaking shop assistant so I didn’t have to use my surfing mime moves. I’ve never hired a wetsuit before and I can tell you now there’s nothing quite like climbing into one knowing that probably over a hundred people have worn it before you and probably over a hundred people have peed in it.. Nothing like it except perhaps picking up a hundred snotty tissues.
I chose the smaller break, steering well clear of the shipwreck and found I had almost the whole beach to myself. It seems Siesta applies to the beach too. The water was comfortably warm though the wind was a bit cold. I lasted what seemed like two hours out, but when I went back to the shop they were still closed for the afternoon so I went back out for a second surf, this time I went with the bigger break since the swell had died down a bit, and I had probably the best surf I’ve had all year which is a testament to the terrible summer Ireland has had.
When I had completely exhausted myself I took everything back to the shop and walked back along the beach to the ferry. The shipwreck had disappeared under water with the incoming tide, making me very glad I had arrived when the tide was low and thus knew what lay beneath. Back in Santander that evening I walked through town to my room just in time for my favourite Spanish TV Game show Password, followed by Spanish Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
And that brings my Spanish adventure to an end. Off to the airport early the next morning while it was still dark. I spent most of the plane trip reading or pretending to read a Spanish magazine I bought for the journey (mostly I just look at the pictures). The weather from the plane window was fine all the way until we descended into a murky grey and were greeted at Dublin airport by rain and gale force winds. Ahh Ireland, sure why would anyone ever want to get away?