A wOw of a Detour: Bilbao, Spain

wOw’s Gypsy, Mary Wells, brings us her favorite places in the world … and this time it’s all about Frank Gehry.

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September is a wow of a vacation month if you’re not in grade school. Almost anywhere in the world that you would like to go for a vacation has good, sexy weather in September. And this year there are hotel and travel deals galore. Many people are heading for China and India but a lot are dreaming of caipirinhas and wiggling to the Gilberto tunes on their iPods. Brazil is now the hot spot for cool kittens. The Fasano is the hotel of choice when you touch down in Sao Paulo on your way to the beaches and believe me – there will be a lot of Fasanos in our lives before long. It has a style of its own that is hard to leave.

However, before you get into those caipirinhas, I beg you to take a detour this September to Bilbao in Spain to see one of the WOWs of life, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum. This is a MUSTWOW. This is the building Frank built that is alive. You know that when you drive down the narrow old street in Bilbao and see it at the end of the street. You see right away that it is about to take off and you know right away that you must hurry to get into it so that you can take off with it. To Mars maybe, to Jupiter, who cares, you just must get into that building and go. Almost everyone has that experience at first sight of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I have seen dramatic slabs of limestone, wings of titanium and thousands of glass walls but nothing like these. Nothing that surges with life like these. There are always great collections inside the museum, key works of Anselm Kiefer, de Kooning, Motherwell and Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor and Henri Rousseau are being celebrated there. But it is the life Frank Gehry has given to this building that will stun you and thrill you and will leave something inside your head that says anything is indeed possible.

Just lately I had dinner in the lovely restaurant that is in Frank Gehry’s other building designed with a similar style and similar materials in Los Angeles. Where Bilbao needed a major spiritual lift to attract the world to its doors and fit right in, Los Angeles needed a core for the city, a symbol building that stated forcefully that Los Angeles IS the city, not Hollywood, not Beverly Hills. So Frank took his panels and walls and created another titanium wonder, but this one stands firmly on the ground and isn’t going anywhere. It’s The Walt Disney Concert Center. It is a shame you can’t see these two buildings side-by-side to see what the man has accomplished with the same materials. A winged spirit building in Spain and a firmly fixed symbol of creation in Los Angeles.

After you see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao there is also a dessert – another titanium delight that swoops and swirls and is another good reason to go Spain. But this one is pink! A short distance from Bilbao, tucked into the Spanish wine country, floats Frank Gehry’s Hotel Marques de Riscal (a Luxury Collection Hotel). I spent a night there. When I first saw it I wanted to dance. It resembles a Spanish flamenco dancer with a vast ruffled skirt in action. At first I wondered how comfortable a hotel so spectacular could be. But believe me, Frank and the hoteliers brought warm woods and smart furnishings and great comfort inside this hotel as well as an all-star restaurant – and the best idea any hotel ever had – an upstairs after-dinner lounge where you go for delicious Spanish coffee and wine. What a room. Wonderful books you didn’t know existed lie all over low tables. Pillows you want to steal are tossed all over the deep lie-down sofas. If there was ever a place to seduce, it is in that after-dinner lounge above the restaurant.

September is a wow of a vacation month if you’re not in grade school. Almost anywhere in the world that you would like to go for a vacation has good, sexy weather in September. And this year there are hotel and travel deals galore. Many people are heading for China and India but a lot are dreaming of caipirinhas and wiggling to the Gilberto tunes on their iPods. Brazil is now the hot spot for cool kittens. The Fasano is the hotel of choice when you touch down in Sao Paulo on your way to the beaches and believe me – there will be a lot of Fasanos in our lives before long. It has a style of its own that is hard to leave.

However, before you get into those caipirinhas, I beg you to take a detour this September to Bilbao in Spain to see one of the WOWs of life, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum. This is a MUSTWOW. This is the building Frank built that is alive. You know that when you drive down the narrow old street in Bilbao and see it at the end of the street. You see right away that it is about to take off and you know right away that you must hurry to get into it so that you can take off with it. To Mars maybe, to Jupiter, who cares, you just must get into that building and go. Almost everyone has that experience at first sight of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I have seen dramatic slabs of limestone, wings of titanium and thousands of glass walls but nothing like these. Nothing that surges with life like these. There are always great collections inside the museum, key works of Anselm Kiefer, de Kooning, Motherwell and Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor and Henri Rousseau are being celebrated there. But it is the life Frank Gehry has given to this building that will stun you and thrill you and will leave something inside your head that says anything is indeed possible.

Just lately I had dinner in the lovely restaurant that is in Frank Gehry’s other building designed with a similar style and similar materials in Los Angeles. Where Bilbao needed a major spiritual lift to attract the world to its doors and fit right in, Los Angeles needed a core for the city, a symbol building that stated forcefully that Los Angeles IS the city, not Hollywood, not Beverly Hills. So Frank took his panels and walls and created another titanium wonder, but this one stands firmly on the ground and isn’t going anywhere. It’s The Walt Disney Concert Center. It is a shame you can’t see these two buildings side-by-side to see what the man has accomplished with the same materials. A winged spirit building in Spain and a firmly fixed symbol of creation in Los Angeles.

After you see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao there is also a dessert – another titanium delight that swoops and swirls and is another good reason to go Spain. But this one is pink! A short distance from Bilbao, tucked into the Spanish wine country, floats Frank Gehry’s Hotel Marques de Riscal (a Luxury Collection Hotel). I spent a night there. When I first saw it I wanted to dance. It resembles a Spanish flamenco dancer with a vast ruffled skirt in action. At first I wondered how comfortable a hotel so spectacular could be. But believe me, Frank and the hoteliers brought warm woods and smart furnishings and great comfort inside this hotel as well as an all-star restaurant – and the best idea any hotel ever had – an upstairs after-dinner lounge where you go for delicious Spanish coffee and wine. What a room. Wonderful books you didn’t know existed lie all over low tables. Pillows you want to steal are tossed all over the deep lie-down sofas. If there was ever a place to seduce, it is in that after-dinner lounge above the restaurant.

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