Big wheels keep on turning

March 29, 2018

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 The transportation card provided by the Bilbao tourist office included two free guided walking tours of the city. I am not a big fan of guided tours, but the tourist rep seemed so genuinely aggrieved by my demurral,  I caved and accepted both signups, even though I knew I’d at most make it through one.

  The first tour was through the old city, most of which I’d seen on my own the day before. Again though, the guide was so cute and earnest with those thick black eyebrows, I didn’t have the heart to bear left when she and the rest of the group bore right.

  When the tour mercifully ended after an hour and half, and my back from standing so long felt like poured concrete, I knew there was no way I was doing a second tour. I hopped the tram to settle myself and look out at the now quite familiar surroundings from the comfort of a
sitting position.

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  I guess this qualifies me as a crank and contrarian, but this is my thoughts on guided tours: why are we persuaded to take them, with the accumulated wealth of detailed minutiae that we have no intention of ever using, save to be annoying at parties? Michener, in describing every nave, apse, transept, stone block and mortar layer in some crumbling old church he’d happen upon can get away with it because he’s Michener. But the rest of us? We’re likely never going to see that opera house or judiciary headquarters again,  but there I was dutifully making my copious
notes, while back at home I continue to blissfully ignore the water stain in the corner of the living room ceiling.

  Maybe it’s just those dancing eyebrows I wanted to make sure I’d never forget. I wound up doing solo tours of Bilbao by bus and funicular for the remaining time I was in the city, and was much happier. The people all seemed happier too. The public conveyances were all clean, efficient and spacious enough to provide seating for all. It seemed I saw as many red busses here in Bilbao as I’d seen in London.  At one point, I was just about to write a specious and ill-informed note to myself about how a well-run and funded social democracy can eliminate traffic gridlock, when I came upon a street of snarled traffic and blaring horns.

  When my tourist card timed-out. I bought the one the regular-riding Basque buys. It was amazing how cheaply I’d be able to get around town, ride the funicular, take day trips out to Guernica and the coastal town of Bermeo, and even use the card to travel to San Sebastian two
and a half hours away later that week.

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  And then I found that same card was also valid on San Sebastian busses as well. I won’t make the obvious social comment here, because I think you all know what it is. I’ll just suffice it to say, I still feel good about getting rid of both automobiles, because I’m finding places in
this world where owning  a car is a complete waste of money.

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