Camino de Santiago Etapa 9. Bilbao-Ortuella.

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I found my Camino Mojo again, baby.

(I rewatched the Austin Powers mooooovies this week. Sorry for that reference)

After yet another job interview gone wrong, Thursday afternoon, I decided to go ahead and do the next strech of the Camino. There are a few ways to leave Bilbao, and an alternative route is walking along the river until you reach Portugalete as it’s easier, flat, and you don’t have to go through industrialized suburbia. I opeted for the one being marketed as the traditional one. As I have walked all over Bilbao many, many times, I went ahead and grabbed one of Bilbao’s free bicycles and headed toward Termibus. My favourite students live along this stretch of the Camino, which was recently covered with yellow arrows. It looks like someone had an accident with yellow paint. I had heard that the mountain climb was a bit tough, but I mean, after the mountains we’ve conquered so far on the Camino, it’s NOTHING! I stopped at the albergue and got an official Bilbao stamp, important as it has been my home for two very long years.

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I’m leaving Bilbaoooooo

The estastic feeling I had to be leaving Bilbao behind might be giving me a clue about whether I should stay in the rain Capital of the World. There was a lovely stroll through the hidden forest after crossing the Puente de Diablo (Devil’s Bridge).

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Puente de Diablo

I was quite shocked as I had heard stories about how ugly this portion was. I did run into some goats who weren’t too keen on moving out of my way though. I also ran into a camping pilgrim who I chatted with briefly. It was a bit weird doing it in the afternoon, but on nice days like today, I prefer afternoon walking when it’s not too hot.

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GOATS/CABRAS

At Santa Águeda, I was trying to take a good shot of the ermita (hermitage), but a loud-mouth dog kept barking at me. I wanted to play with the Bernese Mountain Dog (I think it was one), but his noisy friend wouldn’t allow for it. I love dogs, but even the Basque doggies are a bit cold until you get to know them.

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Guau guau at Sta Águeda

At one point, pilgrims wanting to head toward the Camino Frances have the option of walking toward Burgos instead of on toward Santander. I’m sure it’s a beautiful Camino too.

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Which way?

The Camino provided some beautiful views of the Greater Bilbao (Gran Bilbao) area, and I began the descent into Las Cruces, a neighbourhood of Barakaldo. The park the Camino goes through was quite nice. It reminded me a bit of the Parque de Oeste in Madrid, but even nicer.

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Gran Bilbao

Then I arrived to the first circle of Camino Hell. I had just crossed the Puente de Diablo, after all. The Camino somehow manages to go through the big shopping centre complex Mega Park. And goes on and on and on and on past a McDonald’s, Toys R Us, Declathon, Eroski, and Ikea. As soon as there was a path along a river, I went along it. Eventually, near San Vicente, I began to see arrows again. Granted, I just crossed that busy street to find them and had to recross it again. Whatever, the Camino crossed the river leaving Barakaldo behind.

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Obligatory selfie

I was hoping to have a café con leche and a pintxo de tortilla to fuel me, but the Camino didn’t really go by any nice ones to stop at. It joins the bike path in Sestao and avoids the town. There are a lot of views of the motorways/highways approaching and leaving Bilbao.

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Highways and by-ways of Euskadi

Following the Camino arrows, I missed the turnoff to Portugalete, which is one of my fave places to visit. Darn. I ended up following the bike trail and found myself having to make a quick decision. Backtrack a kilometre or two, or take the wrong Camino (as there is an alternative Camino that passes through Ortuella) and have no buses or anything for 10 KM. It was about 8:00 PM, so I figured out which one was Ortuella, had a mosto (grape juice) and caught the 20:36 train back to Bilbao Abando.

A good Zen day on the Camino mentally, although not the most beautiful stretch between Las Cruces and Sestao (unless you really like Ikea.)

A contiuación…

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Camino de Santiago (Camino del Norte) Etapa 8: Zamudio-Bilbao

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It was a lazy day today, but I’ve arrived to the Capital of the World, Bilbao.

I slept about an hour and a half after my alarm went off, and I wasn’t sure I was going to go ahead and walk those 8 kilometres or so from Zamudio to Bilbao, where I live. After checking the weather forecast, I decided to go ahead and go for it as who knows when time and weather will coincide again.

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I had my token pintxo de tortilla y café con leche before catching the Euskotren to Zamudio. The grey skies matched my rather blah mood today, which I still haven’t been able to completely shake. It didn’t rain, though. Thank God for small favours.

There are two ways to conquer Mount Avril. I took the one from the center of Zamudio (population 3263) and walked through the streets and past the building I had been seeing from my workplace of the past two years a few kilometres away. The walk was not the finest point of the Camino as it’s a rather industrial area.

There were some nice views of the Txorierri valley and the Bilbao airport as I climbed Avril, a mountain I’ve been saving for the Camino. I saw more angry dogs than people, and I didn’t see a single pilgrim. Granted, I also took off as the Zamudio church bells were chiming noon.

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There was a nice little information plaque where people had written messages to motivate peregrinos. I signed the guest book (¡Hola! if anyone found this through the guest book :)) and felt a bit more encouraged.

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The arrows took off, perhaps by joke, through a small trail to the top of Mount Avril when I thought it was time to be descending. There was barely any room to move through the plants. I should’ve stuck to the Gran Recorrido trail, but I reached the destination all the same.

I crossed the pedestrian bridge over the motorway and admired Bilbao, where I’ve been living for two years. I tried to stick to the Camino, but as I tend to explore random streets when I’m bored, I may have misstepped a bit. I arrived at the Basilica de Begoña that officially welcomed me to El Botxo, Bilbao, Capital of the World.

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I thought I would be feeling excited, or something, to have reached the city where I have lived for two years on the Camino. I didn’t really feel anything. I’ve descended those steps down to Plaza de Unamuno so many times that perhaps that’s why it didn’t feel real.

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I’m going to take a few days to regroup and recharge and remind myself why I’m doing the Camino. It was a short day, June 7, 2015, only two hours and about 7-8 kilometres.  There are two ways to leave the Capital of the World, and I think I’m going to take the prettier, less travel one that goes along the river, as I can leave from my house that way instead of having to go through Bilbao’s ugliest street (Autonomia) and pass the same street I pass every Tuesday to teach a class (yes, some of my students live right on the Camino.)

So…while I have been having a blah day, I am excited about having walked from Irún to Bilbao since last August.

Etapa 9…a continuación…¿cuándo?

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Plentzia-Gorliz-Armintza (with a lighthouse/con faro)

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Right now, I’m waiting for word on various things that are up in the air, and as the weather was so variable, I didn’t want to risk getting drenched on Camino Day 5, so I decided to finally cross off one of my Basque Bucket List items this weekend.

En este moment, estoy esperando para saber de muchas cosas que están fuera de mis manos, y como el tiempo es tan variable, no quería arriesgar estar emampado en Día 5 del Camino, decedí tachar otra cosa de mi Bucket List por Euskadi este fin de semana.

The hike from Plentzia to Armintza is about 10 kilometres (six miles, easy math! I think. I studied journalism and Spanish so that could be off.) along the coast of Vizcaya. Plentzia is located at the end of Line 1 of Bilbao’s metro, although for the next 18 months or so the last three stops (Sopelana, Urduliz and Plentzia) are connected by bus as they work on the Urduliz station. The bus runs from the Sopelana metro stop every 20 minutes.

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La ruta desde Plentzia a Armintza es sobre 10 kilometros por la costa de Vizcaya. Plentzia está situado al final del Línea 1 del Metro de Bilbao, aunque durante los próximos 18 meses los últimas tres paradas están suspendidas mientras están trabajando en la estación de Urduliz y hay que coger un autobus que conecta Sopelana, Urduliz y Plentiza. Este autobus es cada 20 minutos. 

Plentzia is well worth a visit in its own right. It is a town of 4000 habitants with a river and a calmer beach more sheltered than the nearby beaches of Bakio and Sopelana. Last year, I took the trek to the lighthouse in neighbouring Gorliz (in my head, I can’t separate the beaches of Plentzia and Gorliz, but I think technically the beach is all Gorliz) with a friend, which I wrote about in one of my first entries.) This time, I wanted to continue on to Armintza, which I had been told was quite beautiful.

Plentzia merece una visita. Es un pueblo de 4000 habitantes con una ría y una playa más tranquila que las playas cercanas de Bakio y Sopelana. El año pasado, hice la ruta al faro de Gorliz (en mi cabeza, no puedo separar las playas de Plentzia y Gorliz, pero creo que la playa peretence a Gorliz) con un amigo. Este vez, quería seguir hasta Armintza, que me han dicho es preciosa. 

I went to Gorliz, which I had never actually been to, by accident, thinking the route left from a different place than it does. I had a coffee and tried to figure out Wikiloc. I just couldn’t get it to work on my iPad.

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Fui a Gorliz, que nunca he estado, por casualidad, pensando que el sendero empezó de un lugar distino. Tomé un relaxing café con leche y jugé con Wikiloc, que todavia no sé como funciona con el iPad.

After pausing for a picture of the church and being greeted by a friendly dog, I left the town of 5000 through the pine forest and immediately found the correct route to the lighthouse.

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Después de hacer una foto de la iglesia y saludar un perro amistoso, me marché del pueblo de 5000 habitantes por el bosque de pinos y encontré la ruta correcta hacía el faro.

I passed the lighthouse and went on past the bunkers this time. Pasé el faro y seguí por los refugios bunkers esta vez.

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I had heard so much talk about the bunkers that I thought they would be something cool, but they have been abandoned a while and were so graffiti-filled I didn’t bother to even snap a photo. Me han dicho tanto sobre los búnkers que pensaba que serían más, pero han sido abandonados durante mucho tiempo y estaban llenos de grafiti que ni hice una foto de ellos.

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The route climbs Mount Ermuamendi, which is less than 300 metres (180 feet) but still a “monte”. I continued on through the forest to Armintza. After the lighthouse, the route takes a little over an hour, although I wasn’t paying much attention to the time. La ruta sube por el monte Ermuamendi, aun que tiene menos de 300 metros, es un monte. Seguí por el bosque a Armintza. Después del faro, la ruta tarda una hora y pico, aunque no hice caso al reloj y es una estimación.

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I arrived in Armintza just as the gathering clouds decided to start raining over Bilbao 27 kilometres (16,2 miles) away. I had a chance to see the port and walk around a bit before heading back to Bilbao, capital of the world (of rain). Armintza is part of Lemoiz, and the bus runs to Las Arenas in Getxo with stops in Plentzia and Bergano, where you can switch to the metro. Llegué a Armintza justo como los nubes empezó a llover sobre Bilbao a 27 kilometros. Tenía la oportunidad para ver la puerta y pasear el pueblo antes de volver a Bilbao, la capital del mundo (de lluvia). Arminta forma parte de Lemoiz, y el autobus va a Las Arenas (Getxo) con paradas en Plentzia y Bergano, donde se puede coger el metro.

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Another item crossed off my Basque Bucket List. This week or next I should find out if I’ll be moving or sticking around Bilbao another year. If I’m moving, I have a lot of thing to do these next six weeks, including getting to Santander on the Camino! Ah! (My plan is to finish the Camino from Santander in 2016). Otra cosa tachada de mi Bucket List de Euskadi. Esta semana o la siguente debería saber si me voy a trasladar o me quedo en Bilbao un año más. Si me traslado, tengo mucho que hacer durante estas próximas seis semanas…incluyendo llegar a Santander en el Camino! Ay! (El plan es acabar en Camino desde Santander en 2016.)

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Malmasín.

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I was debating a return to Gorbeia to go to the summit, but as I am still recovering from jet lag after a week in the States, I opted for an easier option closer to Bilbao to inaugurate 2015 in the mountains.

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Estaba pensando en una vuelta a Gorbeia para caminar a la cima, pero como sigo recuperando de jetlag después de una semana en los EEUU, he decidido en una opción más fácil y más cerca a Bilbao para inaugurar 2015 en las montañas.

Granted, the tradition is to climb mountains on the first day of the year, but I was spending that day on planes. So the first Monday of the year, after recovering from the trip back and taking advantage of a day off. I did some research of different routes near Bilbao on the excellent Basque hiking blog Bien De Altura (in Spanish) and found the perfect morning route: Malmasín, located in the Bilbao suburb of Basauri. I woke up late, but I made my way to Basauri via metro.

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Bueno, la tradición es para subir montes en el primer día del año, pero como estaba pasando el 1 de enero en aviones, no pude. Entonces, el primer lunes del año, después de recuperar del viaje, he aprovechado de un día libre. Hice alguna investigación de rutas distintas cerca de Bilbao en el blog de senderismo vasco genial Bien De Altura (en castellano) y encontré la ruta perfecta para una mañana: Malmasín, situado en el suburbio bilbaíno de Basuari. Me desperté tarde, pero al final fui a Basauri en el metro.

The instructions on the web site were excellent, and I had no problem finding my way to Parque Montefuerte where the trail to the peak left off. It gave me some amazing views of Bilbao, Capital of the World and a chance to disconnect and get the year off to a great start. Sunny weather is hard to find in Bilbao. Any time we’re blessed with it, I have to take advantage and discover more of the beautiful place that is Euskadi (Basque Country/País vasco).

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Las direcciones del blog eran excelentes, y no tenía ningún problema encontrar el camino a Parque Montefuerte donde el sendero a la cima empieza. Me dio vistas preciosas de Bilbao, la capital del mundo, y una oportunidad para desconectar y empezar el año en buen pie. Buen tiempo es raro en Bilbao. Cuando tenemos buen tiempo, hay que aprovechar y descubrir más del pasiage bonito que es Euskadi.

Fitness. We keep fit in Spain, too.

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Me with Body Combat guru Dan Cohen in Nov. 2012

Once upon a time, I weighed 265 pounds, or 120 kilos.

Yep, you read that right. Between the years 2005 and 2007, I lost 100 pounds (45,5 kilos) by walking a lot, situps and pushups and giving up pop/soda/refrescos/fizzy drinks/etc. During my six years in Spain, I’ve weighed as little as 65 kilo (145 pounds) and as much as 78 kilo (171 pounds), but I’ve never gained much more than 20 kilos back. I would much rather be drinking Coke than water, but I know it’s not good for me and one Coke is a slippery road, so I just abstain all together.

2010 was about as rocky of a road as 2014 has been, and at the end of the year, I was at that 78 kilo edge. By no means fat, but I sure felt fat. After reading A 3 Metros Sobre Cielo by Federico Moccia and reading about the main character’s obsession with the gym and then seeing Mario Casas’ abs in the film that December, I made a New Year’s resolution of joining the gym. I was in Valencia at the time, and when I finally got paid for January, I went ahead and signed up for the gym.

My first gym was Abastos in Valencia, and it is one of my favourites. It has an incredible price (I think now it is about 35€) with top-notch instructors and top of the line facilities. What’s more impressive is it’s not a private gym but a polideportivo, a city-sponsered gym. The price is high for a polideportivo but you get so much more than many private gyms here.

That first week was tough. I started going every day, hitting the elliptical hard. The hottie monitor told me to try a bunch of classes and come back to him with which ones were working and which ones weren’t. I was nervous, but I did what he said. Body Balance, a mix of yoga and pilates, was kinda boring. The monitor laughed at my ineptitude of never having lifted weights before at the age of 29 when I tried Body Pump. But Body Combat was just right. The best monitor, Sergio, motivated us warriors to be the best we could be and also worked hard to make sure the class was boring (something my current gym would be keen to learn. We’ll get there in a moment.) I was only here for a few months, but I have fond memories. I got back down to 65 kilos extremely quickly, although I was still super scared of lifting weights. Alas, my destiny then was not Valencia and I found myself in Madrid.

I was in Madrid for two years, and when I had to move halfway through that period, my main thing was that it had to be close to Fisico. I think now the gym has changed hands and Oscar Peiro, the BEST COMBAT MONITOR EVER and his wife Sara Rodríguez (congrats to them on their new baby) are owners of the new Smart Club. I’m pretty sure they kept the awesomeness of Fisico. Oscar is friends and has trained with Dan Cohen, the guy in charge of Les Mills Body Combat and who choreographs the class. Cohen is responsible for a new release every three months and has visited the gym on occasion. I still am excited about that class I had with him in November 2012. It might have been the highlight of two hellish years in Madriz.

In addition to awesomely led group classes (shot out to Mario’s Combat and Pump classes, as he’s the only one who doesn’t make me feel ashamed to go to the Pump classes!) , Fisico/Smart Club has state-of-the-art equipment and is at the forefront of any fitness trend in the world. I began to build muscle thanks to Nieves and her awesome tablas she made for me, and I kept around 70 kilos during my time there. I have to admit the stress of my job made it harder for me to stay away from the sweets, but 70 kilo is a good weight for me.

While Bilbao is an amazing city, the “Capital of the World” you might say, it has yet to show me a gym that I truly have loved. I have been spoiled by Fisico I guess. My first month, I went to the polideportivo at the Alhóndiga, a truly fantastic achievement of a building I have to admit. However, their lack of Combat meant it was not to stay. I signed up for a new gym just opening, iFitness, at 29,99 a month. I’m not a fan. Being a cheaper club meant that everyone and their brother and their brother’s ex girlfriend’s ex boyfriend’s boyfriend joins. It’s always crowded, and their classes left much to be desired. The sound system, ever so important for motivation in a Combat class, was worse than my own personal one. I stayed there the three months I had paid for and left. I haven’t been at TwentyFit, another popular low-cost gym in Bilbao, but from what I hear, they are better organized. However, it’s even more crowded. Also, partly due to the medication I was on and partly due to my lack of motivation to go to iFitness, I found myself back at 78 kilos.

At the moment, I am at Metropolitan. It’s about 80€ a month, but the accommodations are incredible. You get what you pay for. However, I feel that I am always being sold some product or something. I sprained my ankle this year at the time I was taking advantage of two free sessions with a personal trainer (it was on my off day between the two sessions), and I feel the personal trainer was more concerned about landing me as a client than the recovery of ankle. He never was able to tell me how much regular sessions would cost, but I’m sure as much as a month at the gym itself. Their schedule also conflicts a lot with mine, and I am only able to make it to one Combat class a week. The Combat class is severely comprised because the Zumba people are impatient and don’t want to give us the needed wind-down time. They also keep the same Les Mills choreography for three months at a time instead of switching it up, and switching it up is what keeps us Combaters motivated to come back. Despite this, I am relatively content with the gym due to the facilities. I hear the new one in Begoña is even nicer and has a better schedule, but this one is just five minutes from my house and the one in Begoña is a good 20 minutes’ walk.

While traveling around the Greatest Peninsula in the World, I tend to wake up with situps and pushups, and I’m now throwing in some squats and lunges too. I’m currently 68 kilo and am learning to make healthier eating designs. I do miss those doner kebabs though…but a Menú del día is healthier and keeps me energetic for the afternoon of seeing the world.

How do you keep fit while on the road?

A relaxing cup of café con leche in Bilbao.

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You can take a relaxing café con leche in Plaza Nueva! 

I have a problem. Well, not really a problem per se, as I think it’s under control. My problem is I like coffee. A lot. I also like discovering new places to have my preferred method of poison, café con leche. (White coffee, coffee with milk, whatever you want to call it. In the United States, most of the time I see it as either “café con leche” or the French “café au lait” to describe this amazingly delicious nectar of the gods, a delightful blend of espresso and milk.) I’ve tried to do “cortados”, espresso with a splash of milk. It just doesn’t do it for me. I need the full mix, whether with normal milk or with soy milk, with ice in the summer. For me, there is nothing better than that “relaxing cup of café con leche”. (I would like to point out that in my three years living in Madrid not ONCE did I ever go to Plaza Mayor to relax with one…that’s never going to get old I’m afraid.) Tengo un problema. Pues, no es un problema tecnicámente, porque lo controlo. El problema es que me gusta el café. Mucho. También me gusta descubrir sitios nuevos para tomar mi preferido café, café con leche. En los EEUU, se llama “café con leche” o “café au lait” para describir este espresso con leche. He probado cortados, pero no me gusta tanto. Necesito la mezcla de café y leche, y la leche puede ser normal o de soja, con hielo en el verano. Par ami, no hay nada mejor que el relaxing cup of café con leche. (Quiero decir que aviví en Madrid durante tres años y ni una vez fui a Plaza Mayor para tomar un café. No me voy a cansar de “relaxing café con leche” nunca.)

Lucky for me, Bilbao has so many cool places to have this delicious treat. Here are a few of my favourite place to indulge. Most of them come with free wifi if I want to sit and write a while. I also like to grab a table on a terraza to read a great book on those three days of sun per year in Euskadi. These are not in any particular order of greatness, but they are all pretty awesome in my opinion. Tengo suerte, porque Bilbao tiene muchos sitios chulos para tomar un café rico. Aquí tenéis algunos de mis sitios preferidos para tomarme el café. La mayoria tiene wifi gratis si quiero sentarme y escribir un rato. También me gusta leer en una terraza en estos tres días de sol de Euskadi cada año. No hay un orden a cual es el mejor, pero todos están geniales en mi opinion. 

Café Nervión

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Although there is no terraza, you can sit in the windows on nice days. It’s gay-friendly (and straight-friendly), the baristas are nice, and there is free wi-fi. A café con leche costs 1.40€, 1.50 if you want it on ice. Most baristas know me by drink as I frequent the establishment to work on my writings so much. It can be found at Calle La Naja 7. Aunque no haya terraza uno se puede sentar en las ventanas los días buenos. Es gay-friendly (y hetero-friendly), los cameros son majos, y hay wifi gratis. Un café con leche cuesta 1,40 y 1,40 si quieres hielo. La mayoria de los camareros me conocen por mi bebida porque voy allí para escribir tanto.

Bar Marzana 16

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A short walk from the Café Nervión along la Ría Nervión you’ll find the Bar Marzana 16, located at Calle Marzana 16. I like the retro atmosphere inside, and the terraza is almost always packed due to the views of the river, especially on weekend afternoons when the weather is cooperating. A café con leche is 1.50€, and there is wifi. This bar has a bit of a bohemian vibe, but the clientele is varied from bohemians to pijos in their Zara to little old ladies. Cerca del Café Nervión a lado de la Ría Nervión se encuentra el Bar Marzana 16, situado a Calle Marazana 16. Me gusta el ambiente dentro, y la terraza siempre está llena de gente dado a las vistas de la ría, especialmente por las tardes de los fines de semana cuando hace bueno. Un café con leche cuesta 1,50, y hay wifi. El bar es un poco bohemio, pero los clientes son varios, desde bohemios a pijos con su Zara a las señoras que les gusta su café por la tarde.

Coffee Break

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Before Starbucks opened in 2015, Coffee Break was called the Starbucks of Bilbao.There are tons of baked goods on display, and they have various types of overpriced coffee. There is free wifi, and at their location in Plaza Nueva, there are plenty of places to plug in your laptop as you work or surf the net. The other locations are a bit smaller, and I’ve never been. (There’s one on Gran Vía and another in Indautxu that just opened.) While their café con leche is a bit expensive at 1.60€, it does come in a bigger glass and with the option of soy milk and “sin lactosa” for those lactose intolerant people. It’s almost always packed due to its prime location in Plaza Nueva. Antes de el Starbucks por Gran Vía abrió en 2015, Coffee Break era el Starbucks de Bilbao. Hay muchos pasteles y tiene varios tipos de café demasiado caro. Hay wifi gratis, y en su ubicación en Plaza Nueva, hay muchos sitios para enchufar el portatil mientras trabajas o navegar por internet.  Hay otros Coffee Breaks en Gran Via y Indautxu, pero nunca he estado. Son más pequeños. Mientras su café con leche es un poco caro a 1,60€, viene en un vaso más grande y con la opción de leche de soja y sin lactosa. Siempre está lleno de gente dado de su situación por Plaza Nueva.

Café-Bar Bilbao

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One of the classic bars in Bilbao, a bar that takes its name from the city offers great pintxos and a great old-school vibe. By old school, I mean 1911 when it opened. Although it was restored in 1992 during the renovation of the entire city of Bilbao, it still reminds me of the days of yore. There is service on the terraza. A café con leche is 1.40€, and it’s located in the heart of Plaza Nueva. (You can’t miss the bright blue.) Uno de los bares clásicos de Bilbo, un bar que toma su nombre de la ciudad ofrece pintxos ricos y un ambiente clásico. Se abrió las puertas en 1911. Aunque lo renovaron en 1992 durante la renovación de la ciudad de Bilbao, todavía me recuerda del años pasados. Hay servicio de terraza. Un café con leche cuesta 1,40€, y está en el centro de Plaza Nueva. Busca el azul.

La Reina del Arenal

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Located at Sendeja Kalea (or Calle Sendeja) 3 across from the plaza Arenal near Casco Viejo is my favourite bar to curl up with a café con leche (1.30€ or 1.50 with soy milk) and read. They have the best pintxo of tortilla con jamón york y queso in Bilbao, and the establishment is gay-friendly (and hetero-friendly too.) They have a terraza. The place may look familiar because it was apparently featured on the Spanish cooking reality show Pesadilla en la Cocina in 2012, a sore subject with the bar’s owners. Who knew? They also have a killer tostada con tomate for breakfast (along with Opila). The owners also manage Opila next door. (Closed april 2015/cerrado abril de e2015). Situado en Sendeja Kalea 3 enfrente de Arenal cerca de Casco viejo es mi bar preferido para tomar un café con leche (1,30 o 1,50 con leche de soja) y leer. Tiene el mejor pintxo de tortilla con jamón york y queso en Bilbao, y es gay-friendly (y también hetero-friendly). Hay terraza. Salió en un programa de cocinar español, Pesadilla en la Cocina en 2012, que es un mala tema con los dueños. También ofrece una tostada con tomate. Los dueños también tiene Opila, una panadería a lado.

Opila

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While La Reina is more known for pintxos and drinks, the café and bakery next door Opila, at Sendeja 4, offers some of the best pasteries and bread Bilbao has to offer.  The prices are the same for a café con leche, and I sometimes go here if I need to buy some bread (I usually get the baguette de 8 Cereales, and if I have to translate that into English…) They also have a killer napolitana when my sweet tooth is taking over my brain. The upstairs is great for reading on rainy days, and it’s also great to chill with your friends. Mientras La Reina es más conocida por sus pintxos y copas, el café y panadería a lado, Opila, en Sendeja 4, ofrece algunos de los mejores pasteles de Bilbao. Los precios son iguales para un café con leche, y voy aquí para comprar pan (usualmente el baguette de 8 Cereales). 

Bread and Coffee

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Bread and Coffee is a small, cozy café and bakery located near the Alhóndiga. It may be small, but the service and quality of food are both excellent. Every time I take books back to the Alhóndiga, I stop here to read a while and play on the wifi. It’s located at General Concha 7. A café con leche is 1,30, and if you want soy milk, it’s only ten cents more. El Bread and Coffee es un sitio pequeño y cómodo café y panadería cerca a la Alhóndiga. Aunque es pequeño, la atención al cliente y calidad de la comida es excelente. Cada vez que devuelvo libros a la bilbioteca de la Alhóndiga, siempre paro aquí para tomarme un café y leer un rato y navegar con el wifi gratis. Está ubicado en la Calle General Concha 7. Un café con leche es 1,30, y 10 centímos más para leche de soja.

Karola 

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I’m mentioning this bar more for the location, although the terraza is quite nice to sit and read on those three days of summer. It’s located in the Olabeaga barrio (Muelle de Olabeaga 22), which is the old Norwegian neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bilbao past San Mamés (Aupa Athletic). It’s well worth visiting just to check out the unique part of town, and the terrace allows you to sit and contemplate la Ría Nervión. A café con leche is 1,40, and there is wifi, although I haven’t used it. I plan to frequent this bar more in the future. Hablo de este bar por su situación, aunque la terraza está bien para sentarse y leer en los tres días de verano. Está en el barrio de Olabeaga (Muelle de Olabeaga 22), el barrio noreiga antiguo en las afueras de Bilbao pasando San Mamés. Vale la pena vistar para ver el barrio único, y la terraza te permita sentarse y contemplar la Ría Nervión. Un café con leche es 1,40€, y hay wifi. Espero ir allí más en el futuro.

Baobab Bar Tetería

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Baobab is a bit of an African bohemian mecca in the centre of Bilbao. Located on the river banks at Calle del Príncipe 1, Baobab is more known for its large variety of different teas than it is for its coffee. However, I still prefer my café con leche, and at 1.40€, it’s cheaper here than some other trendy cafés in the city. There is free wifi, and it is a good place to go to read in the afternoons. At nights, it’s usually packed. Soy milk and rice milk are both available. Baobab es un meca africano bohemio en el centro de Bilbao. Está ubicado en la Ría en Calle el Príncipe 1. Es conocido por su variedad de tes más que su cafe. Como prefiero mi café con leche, y como cuesta 1,40€, es más barato aquí que algunos cafes de moda. Hay wifi gratis, y es un buen sitio para ir para leer por las tardes. Por las noches, hay mucha gente. Leche de soja y de arroz está disponible. 

Café Iruña

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Any best of list of Bilbao wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the oldest café in Bilbao and one of the most famous. This was my first café in Bilbao in my first visit here in 2010 as it is mentioned in nearly every guide book. The café, located at Calle Berástegui 4 outside the Abando metro stop, keeps its original 1903 flavour and is the oldest café in Bilbao still running. A café con leche is 1.60 as you’re paying for the atmosphere, but it’s well worth it. They are also famous for their Pintxo Moruno, which comes in either beef or lamb, for those wanting to make a meal of it. Cualquier lista de los mejores cafés de Bilbao serían incompleto sin mencionar el café más antiguo de Bilbao y uno de los más famosos. Era el primer café donde fui durante mi primera visita a Bilbao en 2010, como se lo menciona en todas las guías. El cafe, ubicado en Calle Berástegui 4 a lado de la parada de Metro de Abando, sigue con el estilo de 1903 y es el café más antiguo de Bilbao que sigue abierto. Un café con leche cuesta 1.60 como pagas el ambiente, pero vale la pena. También es famoso por su Pintxo Moruno, que viene en carne o cordero. 

With so many cool places like these, it’ll take me forever and a day to find all the great bars and cafés in Bilbao. Con tantos sitios chulos como estes, me va a tardar siempre para encontrar todos los bares y cafés en Bilbao.