Just as many assume that New York City is capital of New York State by virtue of its size and fame, so many also think that Bilbao is capital of the Basque Country. Wrong both times. Albany, though tiny next to the city that never sleeps, is the NY state capital and Vitoria holds the same honour in the Basque Country.
While Bilbao draws in visitors by the bucket-load thanks to the success of the Guggenheim museum and the charms of its old quarter, Vitoria features on the itineraries of far fewer people. But, as I found out on a trip to the city last week, it is not short of its own attractions.
It’s old centre, or Casco Viejo, is full of beautiful buildings, many with enclosed balconies common in northern Spanish architecture. There’s no lack of interesting bars and boutique shops as you wander through the old streets on the hill overlooking the more modern neighbourhoods. The renovation of the 13th century cathedral – closed due to structural problems in 1994 – has been opened to the public. Don a hard hat and wander among the archaeologists and stonemasons as they put the place back in shape.
Despite the sub-zero conditions, an admiral number of folk were getting around by bike. It wasn’t, however, the best of days for Venta de Hielo, sales of ice.