I would consider myself a pretty well-traveled individual. I’ve been to Europe several times and toured in placed like Italy, Spain, Germany, and Portugal. I was given these opportunities through my high school exchange trips and with my orchestra. Although I’ve been to Europe quite a bit, I have never stayed in such a small city before, and more specifically, I’ve never been to an area similar to the Basque region. Is it really all that it’s said to be? Are the beaches really as beautiful as everybody s saying? What makes pintxos such a delicacy? I could not wait to explore and discover all that the city has to offer.
In order to familiarize ourselves with the city, we were taken on a walking tour with a professor from Lacunza. Along this two-hour guided adventure, jam-packed with historical background, insider tips, and Julian’s favorite shops, we went to the greatest gelato shop in the entire world (and no, I am not exaggerating). We all stared at the options through the glass container, trying to think of the best flavors to choose. I treated myself to Kinder Bueno and Ferrero Rocher while others tried flavors like Cookies, Oreo, Mango, and Tiramisu. Pictured below is the snack I received, and just seeing the picture makes me wish I had more.
We took our snack to our next stop; La Concha, the fourth most beautiful beach in the world. People were swimming, relaxing, and enjoying the view. The ships danced in the water as the birds flew overhead. As I watched the waves crash on the shore, as the mist touched my skin, as I watched the children run around and play, I came to a realization; I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime here. It is important to note that I’ve only been to Europe through school trips or organizations. While on the trips, we would have a structured itinerary, supervision at almost all times, extensive rules, and sometimes we were not even allowed to be seen without a partner due to safety precautions. To be fair, it was in high school and when the groups comprised of younger people, but overall the trips I’ve experienced have been planned for me. During this trip, however, we are responsible for getting to Spanish on time, participating in the cultural classes, and representing ourselves and the university in a respectful manner. Aside from that, we are free to go about the city as we please. With that comes plentiful opportunities to try new foods, learn about the local culture, and, most importantly, learn more about ourselves. I’d say the independence factor is the thing I look the most forward to on this trip, aside from getting more of the gelato.
The next stop was to a point overlooking all of La Concha and the ships. Here we introduced ourselves and discussed the activities that the trip entails. As each activity was introduced, I could feel myself getting more and more excited about the trip. We get to have a Basque language class, paella making class, and free time, where one could probably find me taking a surfing class or at the shops. Pictured below is just one of many pictures I will collect of the beach. It is easy to see why La Concha was rated so high.
After our group discussion overlooking the beach was completed, a majority of us headed to the city where we tried pintxos for the first time, explored the shops, and just discussed how excited we were for the trip. It was awesome just being able to walk around and see what the city has to offer; there is always something new around every corner! I particularly like the textures, colors, and architecture on the buildings. While we were walking around, I came to another realization; I have some pretty cool people around me. One thing that I learned while traveling is that no matter what destination, what season, or what event, the people surrounding you can either make or break your experiences. I could easily tell from the laughter we all shared, the stories we told, and the excitement in the air every time we discovered something new that this group is going to have a great time.
Day one ended in a flash. Before I knew it, I was laying in my bed, journaling about the day’s experiences. Yet at the same time, the day seemed endless. In a city where the sun does not set until 9:45 PM, it is easy to wonder how it’s only mid-afternoon. The next three weeks hold so much potential and I can’t wait to see what it has to offer.