I very often wake up with a song or a tune in my head and start singing it. I know most people would find that hard to live with, but Pietro amazingly doesn’t mind. Today it was ‘Blue Skies’ by Irving Berlin, which we ended up listening to (thanks to Spotify and Doris Day) over breakfast.
Perhaps my subconscious turned ‘Blue Skies’ up because of the great weather we’ve had here over the last two months. There has been some rain, and a few very grey days, but not as much as we’d expected, given Bilbao’s reputation for rainfall (50% more on average than in Oxford) – though October to April is when we can expect most rain, apparently.
Last week, the temperatures dipped down to something that felt a bit like it might be approaching autumn (I actually had to put a pullover on one evening at about 11pm!), but currently it’s hot again.
There are, it seems, two kinds of weather in Bilbao: shining blue skies and glowering grey skies, and not much in between. If the sky is blue or grey in the morning, it will almost certainly stay that way for the day. Rain when it comes, is not generally heavy – it’s usually drizzle: they use the lovely word ‘sirimiri’ for it here. But so far, it’s mainly been blue skies, and they are spectacular, set against the green hills and river valley of the city.
The only thing is that I don’t get to see those blue skies that much. The Casco Viejo, where we live, is lovely – atmospheric, full of life, old – but it’s also dark and cold. Narrow, densely built medieval streets with six storey buildings don’t allow the sky much of a look in. This can be a huge advantage when the weather is hot. When it was 40 degrees and blazing hot, you only had to dive into the streets of the Casco Viejo to escape the heat, and our flat was a refuge.
So getting out to explore the city at weekends and in the evenings is when I get to see the skies and be dazzled by light. Bilbao is not a classically beautiful city, but when the river sparkles and the hills and buildings shimmer beside it, the beauty it has is very striking.
The time I most enjoy the Bilbao setting – the skies, the hills, and the river – is when I go for my run in the mornings. This takes me through town along one bank of the river, then back along the other bank, and it’s a really inspiring route, My run in Oxford was also a lovely route along the river – down to Iffley and back again, always with the reward of seeing one of the most beautiful Norman churches in Britain at the half-way point of the run – but this is quite different: a much more urban route, but surrounded by green hills.
I start off by the beautiful 15th century church of San Anton by the river at the bottom of our street, which is where Bilbao began. There was a church here long before Bilbao was founded in 1300, with a small fishing village on the other side of the river. Until the nineteenth century, this was the centre of the town, rather than the outpost that it now is.