Life's little luxuries, as I refer to the fountain of inspiration behind our designs, has many faces: our children, places I have visited and life as it unfolds. When Bernardo and I recently celebrated our fifteenth anniversary, we stopped in Bilbao, an underrated city which we blithely discovered between our trek through the Camino de Santiago and our rendezvous in Greece.
In keeping with the neighboring Guggenheim Bilbao museum, our hotel, Hesperia Bilbao*, adopts a modernist approach like many others in the city. Its quirky collection of multicolored windows offers a surprising twist from within: our room, for example, had one orange pane of glass which converged with a blue one to create a reading nook that evoked a serene or dynamic mood depending on where you chose to be seated. The service was wonderful, as we discovered to be the case in most of the Basque country.
A short stroll away we were greeted by "Puppy," Jeff Koons' imposing floral sculpture of the West Highland terrier that once graced New York's Rockefeller Center, considered by many to be synonymous with Bilbao itself. By playfully juxtaposing elite and pop-cultures (topiaries and dog breeding with Chia Pets and greeting cards) the 40 foot fixture of the city's stunning Guggenheim museum, was the quintessential harbinger of other Koons works that lie within the museum walls. While many permanent exhibits like Richard Serras massive wall sculptures produced with sheet metal are likely to woe the masses, Koons's reproductions of trite objects such as balloon animals and pop icons made from stainless steel and porcelain are presumptively more of an acquired taste.
In a manner covetous to us drought-stricken Californians and conversely tiring to Basques, it rained with a fury on our only day in the city, so I booked a manicure at Miss Pupet, a chic salon run by sisters Amaia and Carmen Muñoz. Upon entering the shop, it was obvious that pampering would be served...straight up! I received a seasonal manicure by Amaia, whose infectious smile made the experience that much more enjoyable. And although I am not one to be attracted to tatoos, I was struck by the simple beauty of hers, which has already inspired some of my upcoming designs.
Who knows when, but we will return to the Basque country to take on the second stretch of the Camino de Santiago, and when we do, we hope to rediscover the friendliness and beauty we enjoyed in Bilbao that wonderfully rainy September day.
*Hesperia Hotel photos courtesy of NH Hotel Group/ Hesperia Bilbao