Blog: Simon WarburtonUnintended tour of the Basque country

Simon Warburton | 23 June 2010

To Bilbao then - a first for me - at an unfeasibly early hour yesterday morning at Stansted airport - which even at 5am resembled a war zone for ANE's Congress.

Landing at the northern Spanish city - anyone who thinks pilots earn a huge salary for little effort (well OK, they do in the main), should imagine putting an aircraft safely down in fog and rain having negotiated Bilbao's tortuously mountainous terrain. Not easy.

Anyway, we survived and after the grimness of a Stansted hotel the night before - which did its best to poison me with that great British contribution to world cuisine - ham, egg and chips - we are now billeted in the much more salubrious Melia hotel a stone's throw from the extraordinary twisted steel icon of Bilbao's world-famous Guggenheim museum.

Last night's entertainment - laid on by our fellow publishers at Automotive News Europe and the Automotive Intelligence Centre - was an interesting affair particularly enlivened by the coach driver's decision to get so lost as to give us an unintended tour of what appeared to be most of the Basque country.

In classic Spanish style, no-one even thought of sitting down in AIC's hugely impressive building until 20:30 and guest speaker Opel CEO Nick Reilly didn't take to the stage until way beyond 22:00.

All good stuff but in to the meat of the conference now in a vast auditorium in the middle of downtown Bilbao - one bedecked with vast copper sheets that lend the place terrific acoustics.

Ford Europe's John Fleming kicked off proceedings this morning with a lively discourse on his company's outlook, while Ian Robertson from BMW board has just taken the graveyard 14:00 slot, but his confident and engaging style has not led to anyone nodding off. Update later while I try not to imagine what torture England are putting their fans through - including me - in the World Cup.

Addendum: Easyjet's in-flight mag says Athletic Bilbao not only refuses to allow foreign players but doesn't even allow any from outside the Basque region. Are you listening Arsenal?



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