Recap session 1

As I am parting ways with San Sebastián I reflect on a trip of a lifetime. My fellow students and I hopped onto a plane and set off to study in a small city in Spain. We would later come to find out we were living in a unique city in the Basque country. Not your typical paella and tapa dishes one could expect upon traveling to España. 

Now I almost do not want to write about how special this place is as I have found this city is so enjoyable because one can immerse themselves into the basque culture, rather than being a typical tourist sightseeing in large crowds. There is so much to learn about the Basque culture and this is because the people that live in San Sebastián want to share all these glorious aspects around town.

As a student that knew minimal Spanish it seemed crazy to pack up and head off to Spain, all though felt very at peace immediately once the Basque people were happy to assist in any way possible. Whether teaching small words in the homeland Basque language to later impress the next bartender you see or special lookout areas along the beaches to enjoy the sunset from. Often times I was greeted by a smile and the questionable hello? to give a warm welcome hoping my language was English. Little things like this are appreciated when in a foreign country. The warmth and lightheartedness felt within the city made San Sebastián feel like a home very quickly. 

Session one did experience the true San Sebastián glories. Waking up with showers in the morning turning to a wonderful beach day come 1pm! A surprise like no other, as if it was meant to happen. Perhaps rain all day which led to exploring old town in which we were on the hunt to try some new pintxos. Whether it was squid in its own ink or the classic gilda pintxo with peppers and anchovies and olives, students were willing to try whatever was presented. Should there of been a question to which was our favorite pintxo or restaurant, most were too busy enjoying their time to remember each great things experienced. But, the spicy meatball at Bartolo is one to beat. Now after a couple days of being adventurous of course there were some trips to the Australian Açaí shop or the Italian restaurant for some pasta. Once there was sunshine and not a cloud in the sky students could not help but run to zurriola to swim in the large waves or even surf with some friends they had made at school. All these treasures cannot compare to another place, the weather can switch up and the basque are ready to conquer it as you should be too if traveling there!

With the city being designed around the wonderful beaches the corners of the city are very far apart in which a bike came in handy every single day. Every day there was a new encounter with these bike rides. Something was bound to happen within the 24 hour day right? Shoe laces and pants were commonly caught in the gears of the bike causing a masacre of grease that one can only laugh at. Maybe even when a shoe lace gets stuck the bike tips over and down goes the person along with the bike. These experiences made traveling around a lot more enjoyable. We laughed while getting yelled at police for riding down the wrong way or attempting to ride one handed to get our cameras out to capture the beautiful scenery on these glorious white and green bikes! 

Now anyone traveling within Europe understands how easy it is to explore within trains and buses. I am very glad I took this opportunity to go and experience new places near San Sebastián. To those who enjoy fiestas and fun the San Fermin festival is for you. Held in Pamplona July 6-14th every year brings great fun and thrill. Bull runs or even if up to it bull fights, those weren’t for me. As well Madrid holds the Royal Palace and many gorgeous Plazas worth exploring for a few days.

San Sebastián will hold a special place in all of our hearts. Maybe even some will return to study more there. Take in the beauties each and every day, something I will live by after having a breathtaking 3 weeks!

Santa Clara Island

The day began at good old Lacunza. We practiced our Spanish, grabbed lunch and headed straight to the beach! 

It was a little cloudy, but not rainy. An absolutely lovely beach day. When evening eventually rolled around, we met up with Julian and his friend Ander, who used to be  representative of the Basque Country in North America. We boarded our boat and we were off to the island!

There’s a small island in the bay of La Concha Beach. It has a tiny beach that disappears with the tide, and some gorgeous views. People paddle board, kayak and even swim out to it every day. Just another amazing thing San Sebastián has to offer!

View of the island from the beach

After hiking up a little ways, we sat in a patch of grass with a view of the ocean. We discussed the differences between life here and back in America with Ander. 

We talked about how the work-life balance is much better here in the Basque Country. It is easier to get time off here if it is difficult for you to work for any reason. Maternity AND paternity leave are both 18 weeks. And everyone takes a break in the afternoon for a “siesta,” which means nap. The life expectancy is much longer here because people are way less stressed out. 

After our talk, we walked back down to the ferry. It was a beautiful evening and a very enjoyable ride back. 

After the boat ride, we had hake in green sauce for dinner, which is a very popular dish around here. Then we spent the rest of the night walking around the city! Just another perfect day in San Sebastián 🙂

Free Weekend

Along the coast of northern Spain, on the beach of Zurriola was where you could find the waves sending each and every one of my classmates and I into the “washing machine”.  After taking a very brief lesson we headed into the ocean to attempt to surf some waves.  Few were successful, many had tumbles, but there were laughs to last a lifetime. Will was lucky enough to escape post-washer machine hair, unlike the rest of us.  We had a fantastic instructor who taught us the basics of surfing and helped us onto the waves that were very rarely surfed once we got into the water. Going into this experience, I hadn’t expected it to be as challenging as it was, as for the past couple of weeks we’ve been watching many surfers out in the waves during the days and into the evenings on Zurriola. The professionals truly make it look easy.

Regardless of our surfing abilities we all had the best time and again, tons of laughs. However, by the smiles on everyone’s faces and by the fact that we were all able to walk away on our own two feet I’d say our success rate was through the roof!

Some honorable mentions include Will and Maggie, they are on the road to pro!!

Just outside of the bay where the beautiful city of San Sebastián lies would be one of the coolest experiences of my life with a few of my friends. We decided to see the landscape of the breathtaking Basque Country from a new perspective on a sailboat letting the wind lead us on our next adventure. Our cruise was guided by a man native to San Sebastián, who also finds himself spending time on his family farm out in Pamplona. Thanks to his knowledge of the area and love for sailing we learned a lot, saw lots of beautiful sights and had ourselves a night with some gorgeous weather.

Emma had some time at the wheel, but don’t worry, she has her sailing license!

The sun began its descent as we entered back into La Concha bay. Our guide set up an amazing dinner for us.  The display highlighted some of the most famous pinxtos of the Basque Country including the Gilda pinxto and a wide variety of meats.

One of our favorite parts of our cruise was the gorgeous sunset we were able to watch at the end of the night.  We knew how much we were going to cherish this night, it’s not everyday you get to watch a sunset like that.

We had an early morning the next day, rode our bikes to the train station, hopped on a bus and five and a half hours later would find ourselves in Madrid.  We didn’t really know exactly what to expect after spending the last two weeks in San Sebastián, but found Madrid to be just as exciting. There was a lot to see with such little time, as we were spending just over twenty four hours there we first came across Plaza Mayor.  The Plaza was a bit overwhelming at first, the atmosphere had a completely different vibe than San Sebastián.  But the vibrant colors and beautiful architecture was unique in its own way and we ended up enjoying our time in Plaza Mayor.  The Plaza was also where we would later clear our firsts plates of paella, an authentic Spanish dish.  Maggie loved it so much she got it for lunch the next day!     

That same night, trying to make the most of our time in Madrid, we attended a Flamenco dance show.  The theater was stunning, the walls decorated from top to bottom and the stage illuminated by a garland of lights. It was already a sight to see and the show hadn’t even started yet!  There wasn’t an inch of wasted space as people filed in waiting for the dancers to come on stage.  There were five performers: three dancers, one singer and one guitarist.  Watching from our table we were mesmerized by the talent, passion and energy each of the dancers brought to the stage.  There were so many intricate details within the Flamenco dance, from the stomp of their heels to the movement in their fingertips, to say we were impressed would be an understatement.

We ventured to the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Almudena Cathedral for our last day in Madrid.  The Royal Palace was breathtaking, not only for its appearance, but also the fact that it contains over three thousand rooms.  Inside the palace was stunning, the walls were covered in embroidery and the ceilings painted and sculpted to form beautiful works of art.  The Almudena Cathedral would also be a place I would never forget.  There was something to see in every corner and once again the artwork in the stained glass and architecture was picturesque.  Pictures truly couldn’t do these places justice.