The Best Thing in Bilbao

The Best Thing in Bilbao

Recently I wrote about a spectacular sight during a visit to Bilbao, Spain: architect Frank Gehry’s masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum. If you’d like, you can read about it here.

Awe-inspiring though it was, that view of the Guggenheim may not have been our favorite moment in Bilbao. The best thing happened a few days later, down a little side street, in a neighborhood laundromat.   

When my wife Yvonne and I travel, one of the first things we check is where to wash our clothes, because we’re interested in sightseeing, not sightsmelling. In Bilbao, we learned about a laundromat just around the corner from our hotel. On the final day of our visit, we packed up some clothes and headed there.

Dumping our clothes into a washer, we took a seat in those plastic chairs you find in laundromats around the world. Sitting across from us was a middle-aged woman with a kind face, and we struck up a conversation.

She was from Cape Town, South Africa, where she was a schoolteacher. She specialized in diversity training and went on at some length about her job, which clearly she loved.   

As we were leaving, we asked what had brought her to Bilbao. The San Sebastian International Film Festival, she replied, where her son was premiering a film he had directed. We asked who her son was, and she said Oliver Hermanus (shown here). The film was called “Living.”

“In fact,” she told us excitedly, “tomorrow in San Sebastian I’m having breakfast with my son and Bill Nighy.”   

Our jaws dropped. The British actor Bill Nighy, star of the wonderful “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” TV series and dozens of fine films, is one of our favorites. Starstruck once removed, we stammered our best wishes and left.

A few weeks ago, I finally had a chance to see the film at our local art house, the Belcourt. Nighy was superb, as always, receiving rave notices and an Academy Award nomination.  

The film, with an adapted screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Prize-winning author of the novel Remains of the Day, is the lovely, simple story of a man who, faced with a cancer diagnosis, learns to savor life’s small, ordinary moments.

Such as a trip down a side street to a neighborhood laundromat, and a delightful conversation that we won’t soon forget. 


Blog: Music