''Vintage Europe'' Voyage 7109 Day 5

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Day 5 - May 7, 2011 - Bilbao

By Gordon Corrigan, Military Historian

Co-ordinates (at 1200 hrs): 43 20 20 N. 3 01 26 W.
Weather: grey and overcast, breezy
Air Temperature: 19
Wind: 47 kts

After a smooth and uneventful journey from La Coruna, the Silver Explorer docked in Bilbao, northern Spain, just before 0700 hrs. After the usual magnificent breakfast served in The Restaurant or on the Observation Lounge for those really early risers, most guests chose to board coaches for a tour of Bilbao and the Guggenheim Museum. The museum, one of five established by the Guggenheim Foundation, is housed in a building that represents the highest pinnacle of inspirational architecture. Those critics (and there were some) who described it as looking like a pile of discarded beer cans full of a lot of old junk, have no soul.

Making use of the spiral galactic dislocative style, the building of the Guggenheim Museum, is clad in glass and titanium and was designed by the architect Frank Gehry, surely one of our finest pioneers of pushing building methods to their limits. The museum houses a collection of contemporary and modern art, some permanent, some visiting. For most of us, and certainly for me, the exhibit that made an indelible impression was “Tomato Head” by the American artist Paul McCarthy. Representing man’s constant struggle to rise from the slough of sin towards salvation, the exhibit makes a powerful statement, contrasting as it does the disease, poverty and corruption of so much of the Third World with the conspicuous over-consumption of the West.

For those guests who had been to the museum before, or who preferred to wander round the city at their own pace, a shuttle bus plied to and from the city centre, until we all boarded the Silver Explorer and set sail (metaphorically) at 1400 hrs for Bordeaux.

After a superb lunch in The Restaurant, most guests gathered in The Theatre for another informative talk on French wines by our guest lecturer Bruce Hunter, before afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge where Alfredo once again entertained us with his selection of music and song for all tastes.

At 1700 hrs in The Theatre I gave a talk on The Hundred Years War, that series of campaigns waged between England and France in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a particularly appropriate subject as we approach Bordeaux, which was English for three hundred years (and, many feel, would benefit by still being so).

In Recap & Briefing we heard a most informative description from our climatologist Claudia Holgate of how and why birds migrate, an explanation of the Basque language from Ray Carson Russell, while I brought guests up to date on military sniping before our Expedition Leader briefed guests about the following day’s activities. 

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