La Parte Vieja – Krestina Beshara 7/13/22

“Oh my god, I love anchovies!”, Meghan yelled just a few seconds after explicitly stating that she HATES anchovies. During those few seconds, Meghan had tried the infamous anchovy pintxos from Bar Txepetxa located in the Parte Vieja in San Sebastian. This was a reoccurring theme at each bar we had visited with Professor Zabalbeascoa as part of our Parte Vieja pintxos tour. Many of the dishes we had tried were unfamiliar and we were quite hesitant to try them. After stepping out of our comfort zones, we were rewarded with the delicious flavors of pureed cod, beef cheek, pig ear, and many more. We visited a total of five bars, each one with their own unique take on many of the dishes for which the Basque country is known.

The first bar, Bar Haizea, introduced us to the delicious flavors of salty olives combined with peppers and anchovies. Three ingredients that do well on their own, but they are not as powerful when put altogether. This pintxo combined the saltiness from the olives and anchovies with the slight sweetness of the peppers to create a perfect balance of flavor. The next pintxo, and probably my favorite from the whole tour, is called the “Brick.” I thought, as a pescatarian, that it might be difficult to find enjoyable food that fit with my dietary restrictions, but this dish of pureed cod and chives has made me think otherwise. It was very creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside with fried onions wrapped around the pintxo. The sweetness of the onions mixed with the creamy cod created flavors of which I have never known, and it is currently ranked as my top favorite pintxo. Going back to theme of trying new things, I ate my first ever scallop. I was a little intimidated by this ball of meat, but it turned out to be sweet, buttery, and chewy. It did not outrank the “Brick”, but it definitely made it to the top of the list.

We made our way to the next bar, Bar Borda Berri. With a little luck, we were able to snatch two outside tables. Typically, lines wrap around the Parte Vieja of people waiting to buy the made-to-order pintxos. Fortunately for us, the weather was beautiful, and everyone was at the beach. We tried a variety of pintxos here varying from beef cheeks to a ball of mozzarella with truffle. The mozzarella was flavorful and the tomato wrapped around it added a very nice touch. We also had Salmorejo, which tasted like gazpacho soup. By far, my favorite from this bar. And maybe from this whole trip. It was creamy and very delectable. Dipping the soft bread into the soup is the only acceptable way, in my opinion, to eat the dish. The beef cheek got a lot of praise from my friends, as well as the risotto which Laura describes as “out of this world!”

We eventually hit up Bar Txepetxa, which is a bar I will always remember. Several photos lined the wall of many celebrities who visited solely for the food. This bar is known for their remarkable anchovies. The dish contained an oily and soft piece of toast with a slice of anchovy on top and a variety of flavors to choose from. Staying on theme, I ordered the pintxo with fruit as the topping. Even though they did not have it, I was still surprised by my open mindedness to try new things. I, instead, ordered the salmon topping which turned out to be delicious. Oil was dripping down my hands as I bit into the crunchy bread of anchovy and salmon, and I did not care.

The last two bars we visited, Bar Ganbara and La Cuchara de San Telmo, got us to step even further out of our comfort zones. Bar Ganbara, known for its mouth-watering tiny croissant-filled-ham bites, served spider crab pastries. I never liked crab, but the dish looked too good to pass up. It tasted very fishy, but it was fresh and soft. I am happy to say I have now tried (and enjoyed) spider crab. La Cuchara de San Telmo had one of that tastiest tuna dishes I have ever had. Topped with a warm garlicky oil. It made it to the top of my list. Blood sausage was our last entrée of the day. And what a great entrée to end on! With our full stomachs, we mustered up the courage to have one more bite of the last pintxo. Some were very glad they did, others were not able to keep it in their mouths. Not because it was bad, but because they might have exploded from the amount of food.

Even though we were full, or “over nourished”, as Meghan would say, we still had room for dessert, of course. Basque cheesecake. Creamy, soft, and melts in your mouth. The best way to end our tour as we sat on the rocks overlooking the water and ate Basque’s greatest gift to us.

Mount Iqueldo – Spencer McCrillis – 7/12/2022

The days in San Sebastian are beginning a bit differently than back home. When the alarm on my phone rings off in the morning, there is about 10 seconds of wanting to roll over until I’m self-aware enough to realize where I am, and that I’m not about to get up and drive to work. I’m in Spain and get to go out and explore a city that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been to Europe, so the way the city is set up, and the way the cars are different, is very interesting for me.  For our second morning we are starting to see the routine of how getting to class and back is going to work. I’d say we have another 2 or 3 days to figure out these bike lanes so that we stop almost getting hit by cars or pissing off pedestrians, who have so kindly shared their thoughts with how we are biking.

We haven’t even been here 2 days and have been told probably 10 times by multiple people how lucky we are to be having this weather, so we did not put our afternoon to waste. I went to Ondarretta Beach with a couple friends, and I believe a few others went as well. After a great afternoon, we met Professor Zabalbeascoa for our second excursion of the trip. Mount Igueldo was incredible in its way of presenting the city to us. We took the “funicular”, which was essentially a cable car that brought us up the side of the hill, to the park and viewing area that were at the top.

As an engineering student, I thought this was neat way of getting up; the way the cars were attached to the cable and how old it was, but this was nothing compared to what we saw at the top. The view of the city cannot be understood through pictures. From where we were, you could be looking out at the city of San Sebastian for hours.

With the ocean to the left and the city to the right, there was too much to see in the time that we were there. Going up, my mindset was to get some cool pictures, its my turn to do the blog post, which I eventually did take, but I found myself just starting off at the endless aspects of the view. The view lets you understand how different this part of the world is and builds excitement for the days and weeks to follow. Much better than the windows login wallpapers.

The old amusement park at the top was also something to see. You could tell how much they care about the history of the park because of the age and how well preserved it was. I think it was all of us that ended up going on the old roller coaster that they had, which was one of the big attractions.

Getting on we had no idea of the view that we would have from the other side. After just seeing the large European city, we were literally turned around to look at the coastline and lush mountains, with almost no sign of people having been there. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I was on a roller coaster. I was just looking out into the ocean, from a completely new perspective than back home. I then became quickly aware that I was on a roller coaster when we went down the other side. All of this was great, but it almost seemed like a quick distraction from what we saw behind us. The city and beach we had for the next 3 weeks.

The trip ended by visiting a popular sculpture in the city, “The Comb of the Wind”, by Eduardo Chillida. As one of our first experiences together as a full group, the sculpture was essentially used as a representation of why we were here as college students studying abroad.

Professor Zabalbeascoa explained to us a very interesting interpretation of this art, and how it can be a representation of the past, present, and future. This sculpture itself was 3 iron posts coming out of the rocks, breaking off into curls, or “combs”. The main piece, or most accessible, was in the viewing area. This was close enough that we could touch it and see it rusting and reacting with the water. Another was behind us, towards the city, which would represent the past and where we came from. The third was off in the distance, going forward, meant to represent our future. We realized that we should be mindful of where we are as to make the most of our time here. There was so much to take in, and this could be the only opportunity to experience the city.

Thomas O’Connor – 7/11/2022

I landed in Bilbao Airport at 6:00pm local time, and I began mentally preparing myself for my first ever experiences outside of North America. I had heard the stories of beautiful San Sebastián, seen the photos from our presentations, and most importantly I set no expectations for the journey. Waking up the next morning I found myself with only four hours of sleep under my belt, and jetlagged to an extent that I had never previously experienced, but somehow I was full of energy and enthusiasm. I was absolutely not prepared for the day ahead. I’ll make the summation brief – but as everyone knows, there was never a dull moment. From breakfast to Spanish class, then the sim cards and lunch, then the extensive tour around San Sebastián, the beach, the cheap dinner, I really could go on and on dissecting every moment from the day. But my first 24 hours in Spain is not best illustrated through simple summary – my personal takeaways came from the small moments alone with my thoughts or with my group mates. For example: I was always told that authentic Spaniards had a lisp when they spoke, and this always confused me. I wondered how an entire nation’s population could somehow be born with lisps, a condition that affects roughly 23% of the global population but is somehow 100% prevalent in Spain. While going through letter combinations in Spanish class, the teacher went over the official pronunciation of “ce” and “ci”, both of which involve a “th” sound. It seems like such a small detail – maybe even obvious or moronic to some, but for me it was an absolute revelation. Of course the entire population of Spain isn’t BORN with lisps, it just sounds that way because of those special letter combinations that have different pronunciations. Another example would be the group meeting behind the sculpture on the bay. The subjects of the meeting were relatively mundane as we all remember, but I felt as though I had another mind-blowing moment. I may have spaced out for a few moments, but in that time I truly took in what I was seeing. The vast views of the bay, boats floating calmly within, the masses of people on the beaches looking like ants in a sandbox. I may have been moderately dehydrated and exhausted, but I felt as though I was living in a dream – potentially sucked into a photo of San Sebastián, and I would soon be waking up in my bed in Leominster. But alas I did not – I snapped out of it and came to terms with the fact that this was my new reality for the next three weeks. I have never experienced that form of satisfaction before – it was as though my dream had literally come true before my very eyes. I’m not sure I have the words to explain it fully – I’m sure it’s one of those things that you must experience to understand, a qualia of sorts.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about making friends with my group mates. I had only met one of the twelve other students before. I was effectively walking into the situation blind – but so was everyone else, so that helped ease my anxiety over the situation. In retrospect I had absolutely nothing to be nervous about. I found that a lot of the fun and enjoyment from the day was found in the LACK of pre-existing friendships, and was supplemented by frequent chats with the group mates out of necessity. That sounds like it would be forced or unnatural, but it was actually quite the opposite. Because we had never met before, no questions were off the table: everyone was starting fresh and were in a positive, amicable mindsets. I think it also helps that we are all fluent English speakers while much of the surrounding population defaults to Spanish, putting an inward pressure on us to socialize with one another since we have a common basis of understanding. Around halfway through the day I realized that I was completely comfortable with all of my group mates. I could easily approach anyone without issue, and when plans were being discussed everyone was often easy-going and agreeable. Towards the end of the night it was nice to grab some food and drinks with a small group of us. Even after an exhausting day I was still comfortable cracking jokes and poking fun at them while we ate and drank, and they always reciprocated. It’s crazy to think that just one day together could bring a group so close to one another. It was a pleasure to get to know everyone, and I’m enthusiastic for what the next few weeks will bring for our group.


Follow students as they take learning outside the classroom and are exposed to structured situations and experiences through a Humanities lens in San Sebastian, Spain.

Chosen as the 2016 European Capital of Culture, San Sebastian offers students the best of both worlds: a modern Europe-an city with an Old Quarter that preserves its rich legacy of history and culture.

Students will be immersed in the culture of San Sebastian through field trips and excursions, on-site lectures, an examination of Basque and Spanish history, politics, culture, geography, cuisine, literature, cinema, sport, and art.