Turkey, Bulls and Frank Gehry
June 23, 2008 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Travel three-fer: Istanbul, Pamplona, Bilbao...

Part one: I've got about 3-4 days free in between some work travel in Istanbul next. I love Istanbul and Turkey and have been before so feel like I've covered most of the tourist basics in and around Istanbul (and noted previous ask posts), but any recommendations for really interesting places or activities, ideally ones that requires some physical exercise like kayaking, hiking, yoga, swimming?

Part two: Then -- and recognizing in advance that its a tacky drunk-fest and apologizing for the fact that its needlessly cruel to the bulls and admitting that I'm at least 15 years too old to be doing this anyway -- Pamplona for the running of the bulls for 2-3 days. Suggestions for how to get there, where to stay, if and how to run, what to do if gored, how to recover, etc. would be appreciated.

And part three: Bilbao. To reintroduce some culture and refinement to my life, the Guggenheim art museum. Any suggestions, can't-miss spots or ideas for other places to visit in the region or along the way? Or is it worth it to hike the Santiago trail?

Tesekk├╝r ederim, muchas gracias and eskerrik asko.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
Everyone I've heard from who has visited there has said that Bilbao is an absolute hole and the presence of the Guggenheim is barely enough reason to justify going there for a single day. Apparently, San Sebastian is a much-preferred destination.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:47 AM on June 23, 2008

Not true! Bilbao is a delightful little city and I've been there several times, including once for a week-long conference (I think a week is a bit longer than you'd want to stay otherwise, but there's plenty to do for a few days). It's very walkable, public transportation is great, there are a handful of other museums and things to see, the old town is fun for wandering, and there are great bars and restaurants all over the place.
posted by judith at 9:52 AM on June 23, 2008

You won't find accommodations in Pamplona this late in the game unless you're willing to lay out some serious scratch. People book stuff up for months ahead of time. The opening day of the encierro is the one with the big fanfare that you see on TV, but they continue doing a running every day for the rest of the festival. Your best bet would be to try to catch the tail end of it.

There is a lot of advice on how to handle the course on the web, and you should definitely check out the website run by the city.

I ran down Telefonica twice and it seemed to be a good spot. The truly insane line up not far in front of where the bulls are released.

Transpo to/from: The big fast trains will be packed and booked up. Take advantage of the Spanish regionales train system to get in and out of Pamplona via secondary cities.
posted by Brian James at 10:04 AM on June 23, 2008

I thought Bilbao was lovely and well worth a couple of days at least. The Silken Hotel across the street from the Guggenheim is a work of art itself and wonderfully pampering. I highly, highly recommend it.

When we were there the bus drivers were on strike so we did not get to visit the Altamira Cave. That looks like a great daytrip. You can't go into the cave itself anymore but the replica is said to be very well done.
posted by acorncup at 10:07 AM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I had a few hours to kill in Bilbao a hotel clerk recommended Getxo, which is to the north. The subway will take you there. If you go, check out the Puente Colgante (hanging bridge). There's a tall steel bridge with a suspended trolley that ferries cars back and forth over a river. For a small fee you can take the ferry over, go up to the top, walk over (enjoying the awesome view) and come back down. I know this isn't exactly earth-shattering, but I thought it was a nice little side trip.

I also did not think Bilbao was a hole.
posted by O9scar at 10:46 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

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