I had never heard of Portugalete before I arrived in Spain but Lauren’s friend Begona, whom I would later meet in Madrid, loaned us maps of Basque Spain and told Lauren that to see the Vizcaya bridge in Portugalete was a must. “I’m not sure that it’s worth going all that way to see a bridge,” Lauren told me, “but she was so insistent that we may as well check it out.” I’m all for adventure and taking a trek to a place I know nothing about is all about exploring to me.
It was easier to get to Portugalete than we expected. The day before we stopped at the tourism office near the Guggenheim and they were very helpful in explaining how to get to our planned destinations.
Portugalete is was only a Metro ride away from downtown Bilbao. The Metro station was within walking distance from our hotel so we stopped for café con leche and torta de potatas at an outdoor café on the way.
The Bilbao Metro was clean and efficient. Lauren bought one ticket that we both could use. It was very similar to our BART in the San Francisco Bay Area. We waited about 10 minutes for the Santurtzi train and away we sped.
The Metro stopped in Portugalete and we disembarked into the City at the top of the hill. I adored it right away. Lauren asked for directions to “the bridge” and we headed down toward the sea.
The City was charming and quaint, built on the side of a hill. Soon we reached the Nervion River where people walked along the promenade.
The “bridge” turned out to be Vizcaya Bridge and wasn’t really a bridge at all but a structure to hang the suspended ferry that transported cars and people to the city on the opposite side of the river, Las Arenas.
As we got closer we could figure this out, and it was something unusual.
We were to discover that you could walk across the top of the ‘bridge’ to see the magnificent views for 7 Euros, a relatively new option for tourists, or take the suspended transport for 50 cents. Of course we wanted to take the high road even though I wondered if I would have a fear of heights way up there. Another tourist we met in the gift shop assured us that it was safe and we rode the elevator to the top to begin the walk.
We were the only ones up there.
As we approached the other side of the bridge we could look down on the city of Las Arenas. We had hoped to find a beach in Las Arenas but there was a marina instead so walked along the seawall enjoying the lovely view of the bay.
Then we headed toward the heart of town to find a place for lunch and stumbled across Don Peppone with a large outdoor terrace. It was perfect; families having their Sunday afternoon meal while their kids road their trikes amongst the diners. Funny. From my perspective children appeared to be more independent in Spain, in comparison to California, in that they seemed content to entertain themselves without requiring constant parental attention. I enjoyed witnessing that.
We could have taken the Metro back to Bilbao from Las Arenas but we wanted to experience the gondola ride back across the river to Portugalete. The trip took about 90 seconds. Walking back up the hill to the Metro station in Portugalete the previously busy streets were empty. Where did everyone go? I wondered. Siesta. It was somewhat eerie, the streets were either super crowded or deserted. Definitely something to get used to. It was an amazing day.