My 5 Senses in the Basque Country

An experience a little shy of 21 full days, will forever hold a special place in my memory of the 7,716 days I’ve been alive. I can honestly say San Sebastian, the Basque Country, and its culture touched me in so many ways I would run out of space trying to describe. Starting from my arrival at the Bilbao airport, the sight and smell of the beach , my first pinxto bite, and more, the Basque Country fully captivated every single one of my five senses.


On the day of our arrival a group of us found it imperative we see the beach and it did not disappoint. The sand was a light tan color, the water was as blue as the pictures with sailboats and ships visible in the far distance where Monte Urgull stood in the center creating the perfect panoramic postcard opportunity; and I was standing right in front of it.

I never really understood what people meant when they called something romantic until we stepped foot in Biarritz, France. The streets were lined with beautifully designed architecture, homes with a balcony at every level, corners decorated with Pastry shops and small town cafes, it was scenic. The beach was equally stunning as countless surfers tackled the waves, people sun bathed, others enjoyed the many food options and souvenir shops that surrounded the water; hotels in the shape of castles and we were standing right in the middle of it. Someone described the small city as “romantic, almost as if written by a woman;” which is a very 21st century expression but I think slightly covers the immense beauty and tranquility Biarritz had to offer.

Although many breathtaking sights fill the memory of my iPhone and mind, the last I would like to mention is the fireworks of Semana Grande. I haven’t attended many firework shows in my lifetime; so when my friends and I took our food to-go and ran toward the boardwalk to have a better view and that first firework exploded, I was massively pleased. There were thousands of people watching from the beach, others standing at the boardwalk, many of us finding a spot in “parte vieja” and in those 15 minutes a huge wave of happiness took over me and the city as we watched the sky sparkle from the spectacle.


We were told the Basque Country was well known for their cuisine. They take pride in their history, their language and the unique culture they share with others through cuisine. Then bam, it hit me, and the rest of the group, the smell of walking anywhere near “parte vieja.” The smell of meat, seafood, freshly baked goods, roasted caramelized peanuts, and a combination of every possible dish they had to offer came together in harmony and formed an inviting smell; one that made you hungry and indecisive of where to eat. To be quite frank that feeling of not being able to choose did not go away out entire stay.


I wouldn’t consider myself a picky picky eater but I think that’s what picky eaters say. I was both nervous and excited for pinxtos! We tried the very famous “Gilda,” and it was the perfect mix of pickled and salty that took me by surprised because I am a “no pickles please” girl. We proceeded to try salted shrimp covered in bread crumbs, simply seasoned scallops, pata negra (a very high end delicious ham) and more. Marti buckley shared that in her book she hoped to capture “the essence of basque cuisine. It’s been untouched and is defined by its simplicity: salt, olive oil, flavoring garlic and that’s it.” I can confirm after many meals her description was ideal.

Despite the many memorable plates, I must say my sweet tooth was beyond satisfied with the gelaterias and desserts San Sebastián had to offer. I tried a caramelized torrija with a vanilla raspberry sorbet and my mouth was in heaven. It was the absolute best dessert I’ve ever tried, it was moist yet had a hard caramelized top layer and the perfect hot and cold mixture because of the sorbet; a taste my description can do no justice to.


There are a few “firsts” during the trip that truly stuck with me such as the first time we stepped foot at the beach by our hotel, or the first time we rode our bikes to class, or the first time I ordered a sangria with my meal.

I learned so much from immersing in their culture and enjoyed riding bikes to places rather than sitting in a car. I loved feeling the wind as we crossed the bridge to Lacunza. I liked watching La Concha beach after going through the tunnel and observing the people walking. I also learned to appreciate the time we took walking places. One of my core memories will be walking down the boardwalk and laughing with my friends at how we choose to walk home during a rain storm.

In all of Spain, drinking is a social activity and I wasn’t so much fascinated by the amount of drinking that occurred but more the trust between adults and teenagers. I recently turned 21, but know I will be carded anywhere I go if ever ordered a drink. I was very impressed by the trust in alcohol consumerism. I will never forget the feeling of my first pinxto pote Thursday, and ordering a little burger pinxto with a Sangria.


I’d like to end my blog with what my hearing picked up in San Sebastián. Many American radio hits played as we walked into several stores. In the morning the wind of the waves blurred distinct Spanish conversations I passed by. Between the hours of 4:00 and 7:30 the city seemed to quiet down as it was siesta. But as soon as the clock hit 8:30, conversation flooded cafes and restaurants as people stood around with pinxtos and wine or waited for a table to eat. Ordering food felt like an Olympic sport and I was beyond grateful to speak Spanish because exchanges were very quick since every single restaurant was full of people. In parte vieja there were also many bars playing music and during semana grande concerts and street shows dominated the noise level.
San Sebastián felt so alive, it sounded incredibly alive between the crowds of people, music, fireworks, carnaval and more!
Yet what will always replay in my brain was the first time a store owner of a small gelateria greeted me saying “Kaixo!” All I could think was “OMG HE JUST SAID HI TO ME IN BASQUE,” and for the first time in two weeks I felt like I was doing something right; like I finally managed to fully immerse.
There are countless aspects of the Basque Country I learned about and experienced that I could share, but I would like to end it here. I can confidently say no other trip has taught me and affected me as much as this one and with that:

Thank you and bye!
Gracias y adiós!
Eskerrrik asko agur!

Inside Saint-Jean-De-Luz & Biarritz

Welcome to France! Southern France is a very scenic and beautiful region that includes many French-Basque cities such as Sain-Jean-De-Luz and Biarritz. The aura and atmosphere are immaculate in both of these cities as they encapsulate all the positivity in their little world. The people who live in these cities are the real reason for that which can be depicted by their overjoyous faces. Their city may not be the biggest or richest but they have everything a human could ask for: a beach with beautiful scenery, modern architecture with rich history, and delicious food as well. True appreciation doesn’t come from materialistic items but rather from the little things in life we can enjoy and look back on one day and realize “Wow I did that!”

Saint-Jean-de-Luz was the smaller town compared to Biarritz but that doesn’t make it any less significant than the other. My first impression when getting off in Saint-Jean-de-Luz was it looked like a city where everyone was out and about doing normal things and enjoying their day. That was true but what surprised me was the city’s buildings and “streets.” I thought it would be more of a suburban town where there would be houses and a community. Rather there were stores selling clothes, food, etc everywhere, and on top of these local stores, there were living complexes such as apartments. That is very unusual, especially coming from America where we don’t see that at all. But it’s common, especially in the French Basque Country. Another aspect I loved was the scenery on the Port de Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Picture a small dock with about 10-20 boats enclosed in a small body of water with a fantastic view of the mountains in the mere distance. That’s exactly the Port de Saint-Jean-de-Luz a nice relaxing area where you can sit and eat crepes with your friends and family and appreciate natural beauty. Another piece of modern architecture was the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste which is the Church of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Walking into the church it was massive considering that it has been around for centuries. The interior colors of the church all complemented each other so well making it a sight for the eyes. Very archaic feeling walking inside but I loved every moment of it, having the ability to put anyone’s soul to peace. Saint-Jean-de-Luz was amazing in all of the mentioned aspects and I highly recommend visiting the city for a relaxing and enjoyable time!

Biarritz is a much bigger city compared to Saint-Jean-de-Luz populating about 25,000+ civillians. Biarritz, France is known for its beach and amazing coastline alongside the European Atlantic. By far, in Europe, the best city for oceanic views as you can see the coastline horizon trailing miles all the way into Spain. Biarritz is often known as the city of arrival for surfing in Europe. How this became known is an American film director named Peter Viertel was in Biarritz back in 1957 and one of his friends from California came to visit. The friend’s use of a surfboard in Biarritz is recognized as the first time surfing was practiced in Europe. Since then Biarritz eventually became one of the most popular surfing spots throughout Europe. The waves in Biarritz are very aggressive which is a major reason why surfing is so popular there as well. After walking along the coast of the beach we had the opportunity to venture out into the city for a couple hours. Although it might’ve only been a couple hours it felt like an eternity there. We walked up the mountain slowly taking in the breathtaking views along the way. Some would say the views came straight out of a Microsoft wallpaper screen but I think it’s the other way around, quite impressive. How the rocks were eroded was fascinating to me as well, as it was such perfection which allowed for the bridge to be built for people to stand above the ocean hanging off like a peninsula. Once we made it all the way up we saw the Biarritz aquarium. The aquarium was intriguing cause it had more European fish and animals so it was enjoyable compared to the regular American animals we see usually. We then walked into the city shying away from the ocean which was incredible as well. The scenery all around this city was magnificent regardless of the coast and the people and food there just makes it all that much better!

If I could live in either one of these cities for the remainder of my life I would in a heartbeat. The energy and views are impeccable and vibrant and anyone should be grateful for such a colorful world we live in holding such power in culture and location. Want to take a vacation in Europe? I promise the French Basque Country will not disappoint your expectations.

Four-Day Weekend: Exploring Europe!

The weekend started on Thursday night with one of the most popular events of the week, Pintxo Pote. This social event happens every Thursday night where bars have Pintxos (a finger food usually held together with a skewer) and a drink for 3 euros and you hop around to different bars for the night. The streets are filled with people of all age groups exploring all of the different bars and enjoying various foods and drinks of their choice. As the night goes on you follow the crowd of people at each bar to know where the next pintxos are. It is popular because it is a fun social event for friends and family to bond over their love for food at such an affordable price. My favorite pintxo of the night was a steak with a few fries and a piece of bread. The steak melted in my mouth as I took a bite, it was simple but so rich, a true example of Basque food. Although it was seasoned simply, it brought out the fresh taste and increased the quality of the pintxo overall.

On day two of the four-day weekend my friends and I decided to plan a day trip to Biarritz. Earlier in the week we visited the beautiful town for only a couple of hours, but we just had to go back to fully capture the town for what it is. When we came back we got to walk around and take in more of the French Basque culture. It was so refreshing to have a change in the scenery and language. I speak Haitian Creole and it has a lot of similarities to the French language, so hearing “Bonjour” and “Merci” everywhere reminded me of being around my family and it gave me a sense of comfort after being away from them for two weeks. It was interesting how similar San Sebastian and Biarritz are, considering they are in two different countries, but share the same Basque culture. I still saw just as many Pintxos bars with similar menus to what I would see in Spain and Basque bakeries all around. We ended up spending the day at the beach which was somehow even more stunning than La Concha and I did not believe it was possible. Spending our afternoon at the beach was so tranquil and I felt at peace. This day was a nice reset from a week of classes and other events, it was nice to see a different place with a different change of pace. We ended our day trip perfectly by catching the breathtaking sunset. 

Day three we wanted to explore more in San Sebastian by visiting the San Telmo Museum and learning more about Basque history. They had two exhibitions happening at the time: Clima Ideal(ideal climate) and Voyager Pour Peindre(Traveling to Paint). Clima Ideal conveys all of the advertisements San Sebastian made an effort to get more people to come and explore their beautiful city and beaches with the perfect weather for summertime. The other exhibit Voyager Pour Peindre was about Joaquin Sorolla, who was a painter who loved San Sebastian and spent a lot of time there with his family. He conveyed the city’s beauty in his paintings of the beaches and sunsets that were almost impossibly realistic to what the beaches look like in real life. Both of these exhibits helped get the word out about San Sebastian’s charm and helped it develop into the city we see today. Especially, being here in the summer and seeing how many tourists are attracted to the culture of the Basques, the Pintxos, burnt basque cheesecake, beaches, surfing, and so much more they have to offer.

This leads to the final day of the weekend, the most popular week for San Sebastian in the summer. Every week in the summer the bigger cities in Spain, each have their own themed weeks. This was the start of San Sebastian’s Great Week (Aste Nagusia​​), which has fireworks. Every day a different fireworks show is featured and you have the chance to vote online for your favorite one. The streets of San Sebastian were filled with people from all around the world coming to celebrate their Great Week and enjoy their Basque iconic food. As the time for the show inched closer, the railings at the view of the beach were filled with more and more people. The sky was filled with so many different colors and sparks, with every pause the crowd cheered in amazement. It was a truly fascinating show to watch and think about how people even put shows like this together. I cannot wait to see the rest of the competitors for the week.

This trip has been so special to me because ever since I was in high school I dreamt of exploring the world and starting that journey through study abroad. After years of undergraduate as a nursing major, I had heard how hard it was for us to actually study abroad without falling behind so I put that dream on the back burner. When I learned about the summer study abroad opportunity it gave me hope that it could happen. Fast forward to making it into the program and living in San Sebastian for the past two weeks, the younger me would be so proud. I have been able to learn a whole new bus system in an entirely different country where I do not speak the language fluently and become so confident in myself. Before I would be very hesitant to travel by myself in a new area, but in this case I had no other choice and worked with what I had. It was scary in the beginning, but the feeling of accomplishment is so empowering. I am so grateful for this experience and will take the lessons I have learned along with me everywhere I go.

Marti Buckley: Basque Country

Nestled in the Northern corner of Spain, the Basque Country is a place of unmatched culinary excellence that brings food enthusiasts from around the world. The region’s historical and cultural roots intertwine with their dishes to offer unforgettable cuisines for those experiencing the Basque Country for the first time. Traveling to another country and indulging in the food offers a window to appreciate the local way of life and the stories behind every dish. Being in San Sebastián for the first time the food is like no other. Michelin-starred restaurants are scattered around town and the smells of aromatic food captivate your senses. Choosing a place to eat a meal leaves you both breathless (from the bike ride there) and stunned at the freshly prepared dishes and inviting chatter of the locals around you. As every day passes by I order more unfamiliar dishes to my foreign taste palate, pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.

Meeting Marti Buckey, food expert and author of the culinary book Basque Country, was a refreshing experience as we sat outside and listened to her vast knowledge of the food world and Basuqe culture. Marti Buckley’s story began as a part of a study abroad program in Spain with the University of Louisiana. Where like many undergraduate students, she longed to venture outside of the United States and become immersed in a new environment. After coming back from Spain, having a family, and completing her degree, Marti began working in a kitchen for 2 years. Her love for Spain never went away and she soon traveled back with a program to teach English abroad while living in San Sebastián. What was once only supposed to be a year of residing in San Sebastián quickly turned into thirteen for Marti Buckley. Showing that the pull of the Basque Country never loses its grip on all of our hearts. The process of creating a cookbook is lengthy. Writing a forty-page document proposal, finding an agent, and interviewing foodies, friends, and grandparents is not an easy feat. Hearing about Marti Buckley’s experiences, I was surprised to learn of the lack of cookbooks on Basque food before her book had been published. The steps to creating a cookbook takes many skills making sure that it is easy enough for those with little to no culinary experience to succeed in making the recipes listed on the page. With trial and error, revising each dish till perfected, the pages of food in Marti Buckley’s cookbook have become a concise and clear list of steps for readers of all backgrounds to enjoy Basque food.

The most interesting to me was her discussion on the influences of Basque food. Different from other cuisines, Basque food has been “untouched” by other influences of cultures and has stuck to its traditional recipes for generations. Being able to experience truly authentic food, separate from other cuisines is an occurrence to cherish. The Basque people also value their food products. Unlike most, the typical grocery shopping is of purchasing the finest food products to ensure a flavorful meal. Making sure that the product is in season is a step taken before the meal is prepared to thoroughly enjoy a traditional meal of the Basque Country. Not only are the passages in the book about making authentic dishes but there are also a variety of excerpts in the book shedding light on dances, festivals, and pilgrimage walks in the Basque Country. As I read this book for the first time it allowed me to understand the values and traditions of many in this region.

In my own encounters with the culinary experience in San Sebastián, I felt fully immersed in the food lifestyle while going to a pintxo bar for my first time in the city. The event called Pintxo Pote, is my most memorable experience in San Sebastián. This takes place during a specific day and time where people can order a pintxo (small bite-sized appetizers) and a drink for a reduced price than normal. This idea was meant to help boost the revenue of other businesses nearby where people would order one pintxo at one bar and another at the next. The night becomes full of energy in the streets as people rush into shops and owners are quickly taking orders. In this lively atmosphere, I feel fully immersed in the foreign language of Euskara savoring the local flavors and enjoying the company of friends taking in this unique culture.

Marti Buckley described making a culinary book that the Basque people would be proud of, and I believe that this book has not only made the Basque community overjoyed, it has also opened the eyes and broadened the perspective of generations of people to enlighten themselves on the knowledge of the Basque culture.

The Basque Country’s ancient language.  

 Epa! Zermoduz?

That means “What’s up! How are you?” in the Basque language or also known as Euskera. Here in San Sebastian and in a tiny region of southwest France, Basque is the native tongue. One of the oldest spoken languages in Europe, the origins of the Basque language are unclear, which makes it particularly intriguing.

Quick Basque history:

The Basques were mostly able to maintain their customs and laws during the Roman invasion of Northern Spain, as well as during the reign of subsequent invaders throughout history. However, the autonomous Basque country was destroyed by the Spanish government in the 1800s. Later, during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque’s rights were taken away, the language was outlawed, and the Basque city of Guernica was bombed. This led to the emergence of the Basque separatist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) in 1959. They committed terrorist attacks during their campaign because they desired an independent Basque state. By the time the ETA committed its last violent act in 2010, the Basques had already succeeded in reviving their culture.

The Basque country/people now:

I’ve been in Spain for the past week, and Basque culture can be seen everywhere. The names of many restaurants are in Basque, and they serve Basque cuisine, which I have come to love. I adore Basque cheesecake since I have a huge sweet tooth. A handful of my Spanish professors at Lucunza are Basques, and they all have common Basque names. I’ve discovered that supermarket stores also sell food goods in the Basque language.

Eggs with label in Basque, found at a supermarket.

I asked the man who led us on the wine-tasting tour at the winery this past Saturday if he spoke Basque, and he responded that it was his first language, and that Spanish was his second. He also revealed to me that he only speaks Basque to his family, which I found to be both fascinating and astonishing. I have also come to learn that children in San Sebastian are being taught Basque in school so that the mother tongue is preserved. It has become quite clear that the Basque people are not gone and will not be going anywhere, their history and legacy will live on for centuries to come.

Learning the basics of the Basque language:

The session 3 group and I met up with Professor Zabalbeascoa and his friend Stuart on 8/7/2023 after our Spanish class at Lucunza. Stuart is from Scotland and has been learning the Basque language for a long time. A little stack of paper with the essential words and phrases in Basque was distributed to everyone by Stuart. Greetings like Kaixo, which means “hello,” Gabon, which means “good evening or good night,” and (Oso) Ondo, which means “very good,” were taught to us. We practiced pronouncing our names, such as Ni Sarai naiz, which translates to “I am Sarai.” You put your name in the middle of this statement rather than the end, which intrigued me!

In addition, Stuart taught us the Basque word “Zuritoa” for tiny beer. This is so because it’s typical in Basque culture to simply spend a short time at a bar, eat some Pintxos, and then move on to the next one. Since going bar to bar is so common in the Basque country, small beer earned its own word in Basque.

There are many different pronunciations of Basque, which is something that is very important to keep in mind when attempting to learn the language. When you encounter a word with a “Z” in Basque, you should pronounce it with a “S” sound. A “Ts” will sound like a regular “T” when you see one, whereas a “Tx” will produce a “Ch” sound.

Basque bakery in San Sebastian.

Final Thoughts:

So far, San Sebastian has been a unique experience for me. While my family is from El Salvador and I grew up listening to my family speak Spanish, the language spoken in San Sebastian is different. Like the rest of Spain, Spanish is spoken by the locals, but what sets San Sebastian apart is that a majority of the locals also speak Basque. Due to the presence of both Spanish and Basque cultures, San Sebastian offers twice as many cultural experiences as other parts of Spain. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my three weeks anyplace else. Before I depart, I’ll make it a point to place a cheesecake order in Basque!

Basque cheesecake with a Basque flag.

Txakoli at The Giantza Winery

Txakoli, pronounced “Cha-Kuh-Lee” is an acidic white wine produced in the Basque Country. In traditional basque culture, people eat by the season, for example txakoli is a summer wine and red wine is for winter. This is done to get the most out of its flavor.

On Saturday morning, the session three students gathered together in our best outfits to visit The Giantza Winery in the Gipuzkoa province of Spain. The ride was approximately 25 minutes and the weather was beautiful compared to the day prior. Upon our arrival I was immediately in awe of the sights before me, vibrant green hills planted with grapes and The Atlantic Ocean in our midst.

We were greeted by the great-grandson of José Antonio and learned that the vineyard has been family owned for four generations. Each family member holds a different job at the vineyard, for example his brother is the engineer and his mother is in charge of shipping the wine globally. The grapes are manually picked during harvest by the family and five other workers, and to determine the best grapes for the txakoli they observe the size of the grapes or sometimes the color of the branches.

The vineyard being by the ocean is an integral part of txakoli, it allows for the wine to be slightly salty. However, it can also produce too much humidity, especially with global warming on the rise. Humidity may cause the grapes to be infected with diseases such as mildew, preventing the family from turning it into wine.

We were then taken to a bodega where the grapes are pressed and separated from its skin and seeds. Following that, we were led into a temperature regulated room (14 degrees celsius) where all the tanks are held and where the grape juice ferments into alcohol. The fermentation process takes around 25 days, each tank having its own world of microorganisms. At the end of the fermentation process, the family samples each of the tanks’ wine to ensure the taste is uniform amongst each other. We then were led to the bottling room, where we learned that all of their packaging is environmentally sustainable and observed the evolution of their wine bottles. At first they started out with no labels on their bottles which made it hard to distinguish among other wineries.

Now comes my favorite part of our day trip, the wine tasting! We first tried the original txakoli, a young wine produced in 2022. It was yellow in color and held an apple aroma. Grapes and apples have the same acidity, so they’re often paired together. When pouring the txakoli you have to do it from up high, this allows the wine to aerate and give a semi-sparkling taste. With my first sip of this wine I could taste the salt from the ocean, as we drank this wine we had anchovies and bread to eat it with.

The second wine we had was Cepas Centenarias produced in 2020, the color was a dark yellow due to its older age and held a pear aroma. One thing I noticed about this wine was the taste lasted longer and I preferred it over the first. We paired it with the white tuna and it was muy bien (very good).

The last wine was my all time favorite, the rosé. It held a sweet and cherry aroma, we paired it with an amazing christmas chocolate called Turrón. The chocolate was sweet, salty and crunchy and went perfectly with the rosé. For this one we were allowed to pour the wine into our glasses ourselves and I can definitely say it’s harder than it looks. Many of us missed the glass and got it all over the table. One fun fact about this winery is that 80% of the rosé produced here is shipped to the states and I can see why.

We ended our short day trip with lots of photos and many of us bought wine to bring home to our families. I’m so grateful that my first winery experience was in the great Basque Country, going to the winery perfectly tied off our first week in San Sebastián. I’ve already learned and grown so much from my short time here and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have to offer.

Pintxos in Gros: Bites of Happiness

What Are Pintxos?

Pintxos provide an exciting opportunity to experience Basque culture. But who offers pintxos? What are they? A pintxo is a class of dishes that are very small – sometimes bite-sized – and often offered in bars. Pintxos have become a part of Basque culture and contributed to the practice of bar hopping. The word pintxo roughly translates to toothpick, referring to how the early pintxos were served with toothpicks. An early pintxo, the gilda, was formed in the mid-1900s in the bars of San Sebastian. Consisting of peppers, anchovies, and olives skewered by a toothpick, the gilda rose in popularity after it was compared to the film Gilda, which was famous at the time. Both the dish and the titular character, Gilda, were considered salty and spicy. As other pintxos formed in Spanish bars, people began bar hopping.

The Gilda.

When bar hopping, a group of people spend the afternoon or night eating and drinking, moveing on to another bar for each pintxo and drink combo. The main purpose of pintxo-eating is not to fill one’s stomach (although that will happen after a few bars), but rather to socialize. The people of San Sebastian are very communal; couples and even whole families often roam the streets together to shop, play, or eat. As such, visiting a set of bars will take several hours as everyone in the group eats their pintxos and talks together. A pintxo-eating trip is very social.

Traditional Pintxos

One of the classic pintxos is the aforementioned gilda, but there are several other pintxos typically found in bars. One such pintxo is the croquetta. Eaten by hand, the croquetta is a delicate, deepfried ball of potato puree and meat. Slightly crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, the croquetta is a must-have for any pintxo newcomers.

A Row of Fresh Croquettas.

Another pintxo, potato salad, is not exclusive to pintxos. However, I have to mention it because the potato salad here is made with a spin. Tuna is added to the salad, turning it into a hybrid between potato salad and tuna salad. Having eaten many potato salads, I’d say this potato pintxo is quite tasty. The tuna elevates it beyond the average potato salad, and I plan to start adding tuna to the salads I make myself.

Potato Salad Pintxo.

Pintxos with a Twist

The pintxo scene is constantly evolving, and as new bars open and aspiring chefs try to make their own mark on pintxo history, exciting new pintxos arise. Some of these are new takes on classic pintxos, while others are unique to the pintxo platter. One of the pintxos I tried in Gros was a gilda-themed sushi. The thin seaweed casing of of the gilda-sushi held a slice of pepper nestled in rice. Olive- and anchovy-flavored caviar balls rested on top of the roll alongside a dollop of mild wasabi.Although it looked quite different from the outside, the gilda-sushi tasted almost exactly like a gilda.

Gilda…with a Twist!

The Most Fun Pintxo

I had a lot of fun trying out new foods, but the one I had the most fun with was squid in it’s own ink. Most of the squid and ink pintxos I heard of involved serving squid in an ink sauce, but the pintxo I had was fried. It had a beautiful crunchy exterior and a gooey inside. This pintxo was very similar to the croquettas, but with a slightly more bready interior. I quite enjoyed this dish, and would rate it second to only the potato salad (which was my favorite pintxo). Little pieces of squid were embedded in the inside, and had a similar chewy, meaty texture to the ham in the croquettas. It was fun to eat as well; I had a good laugh with the other kids when we realized my mouth had turned black from the ink. It didn’t stain, though, and a few seconds after finishing the dish, there was no black in sight. However, the same may not be said for clothes; although this is not a messy dish to eat, keep it away from anything that could be stained.

Squid Ball in Ink. I almost forgot to take a picture!

The Desserts

No great outing is complete without desserts! I tried a set of three desserts: blue cheese, cheesecake, and brownie. The brownie was warm and chocolatey, and the cheesecake was packed with cheesy flavor. The blue cheese was also a big hit among the group, and we left only crumbs of all the desserts on our plates. The desserts were a great end to the tour, and I can assure that they tasted as good as they looked.


Final Thoughts

A pintxo trip is a great way to spend time with foodie friends. There are countless bars in San Sebastian, and many are right next to each other. Pintxos encompass a wide variety of foods, so there’s something for everyone. If you feel like trying something new, have a pig’s foot or a squid dish. If you want something more classic, choose a gilda or a croquetta. At the end, gather around some tasty cheesecakes, or venture just past the bars and get some of San Sebastian’s delicious gelato.

Mount Igueldo and the Combs of the Wind

Visiting San Sebastián, Spain, for the first time as an American studying abroad has been an exhilarating experience so far. I’ve been immersed in the vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery, and rich history of this Basque city. The moment you step off the first bus ride and onto the charming streets of San Sebastián, you’re greeted by a unique blend of old-world European charm and modern vibrancy that immediately captures your senses. The smells were something I’d never experienced before.

As you wander through the cobblestone streets lined with historic architecture, you’re surrounded by the warm embrace of the local community. The aroma of freshly baked pastries and food from cafes and restaurants is on every block. You’re welcomed with genuine smiles and the fast-paced Spanish language. The unfamiliar sounds and syllables of Basque, the region’s native language, are a testament to the city’s distinct identity.

The highlight of my journey so far was the ascent up Mount Igueldo yesterday evening, which is a vantage point that offers a panoramic view of San Sebastián’s stunning landscape. The journey to the mountaintop is an experience in itself — a sketchy but safe cable car ride that shows a unique perspective of the city’s coastal beauty of the Bay of Biscay. With each passing moment, the anticipation builds if today is the day it stops working. When you finally reach the summit, the view leaves you speechless, or in my and my friends’ case, loud and excited.

Once we finished taking our new Instagram pictures on the ledge, we moved on to the rest of the amusement park up on this mountain. The rollercoaster similar to the ride up had a couple of us wondering how long this ride can go before breaking. After you sit down and realize there were no handlebars or straps, it really sinks in. Finally, it starts moving and you suddenly forget all safety precautions and grab your phone out to take in the view. It’s simply breathtaking and we got to see the sun break through the clouds over the Atlantic. 

The ride itself is under a minute but was worth every penny. We next moved on to the bumper cars. The urge to drive bumper cars on top of a mountain with an entire view of San Sebastián was honestly unlike no other. Mixing fun with scenery is indescribable.

From this elevated vantage point, the coastline of San Sebastián is in full view. The crescent-shaped La Concha Beach, popular for its elegance, stretches along the coastline, with its golden sands attracting everyone.

The harsh weather made some ridiculous winds propelling humongous waves toward the island, and the ancient Combs of the Wind. The rhythm of the waves crashing against the wall can be heard, as well as seen. Although the weather wasn’t great when we visited, we saw in full effect the city’s relationship with the sea. To your discretion, you can walk up as close as you want to these holes that shoot up cannons of water. On a normal day, that’s all you’re going to get, but yesterday was special. The power of the wind brought waves crashing over the barrier onto everyone watching. Whether you want to or not, you were getting wet.

The sun appears and we’re straight back into the city. You get on your bike, or walk, and slowly memorize your way through the beautiful coastline into the packed crowds awaiting their delicious food orders.

As the evening progresses, the city transforms. San Sebastián’s reputation as a food haven becomes evident as the smell of pintxos drifts through the air. Locals and visitors alike gather in, where narrow streets are lined with bars and restaurants. Sharing pintxos and sipping on local Txakoli wine, you feel connected to the place.

The beauty of San Sebastián isn’t limited to its physical aspects, but the feeling of being embraced by a community that takes pride in its traditions and welcomes newcomers. The city’s passion for life is infectious, and you’re almost compelled to partake in its celebrations no matter how late they go.

Unfortunately, our time in San Sebastián will come to a close in a couple of weeks, but the memories we’ve made linger on. The experience of studying abroad here in Spain  in this captivating city has broadened my horizons, deepened my appreciation for different cultures, and I will miss it as soon as I get home to Boston. The view from Mount Igueldo serves as a reminder of the heights we’ve reached, both literally and figuratively.

Pintxos in the Old Part

Prior to arriving in San Sebastián, I had heard all about the food culture here and its importance.
I had read Basque Country by Marti Buckley and thought I knew everything I needed to know. I knew the foods that I was looking forward to eating, and that “pintxos” are small bites common in bars of the Basque Country. They are also typically served on skewers. After the first day of classes, I went on a pintxo-tasting tour of the Parte Vieja (Old Part) of San Sebastian and quickly realized that what I had read about was worlds away from experiencing the food culture of the Basque Country in real life.
To start our day, we rode our bicycles to class. This was the first time that I had ridden a bike in
many years, so I was a bit apprehensive, especially on the narrower bike lanes. Despite my worries, I biked alongside my newfound friends to Lacunza, our Spanish language school. After class, I had initially intended to go off on my own to reflect on my first days in San Sebastián, but due to a last-minute change in plans, my friend Suhani and I were asked to switch to today’s pintxo tour.
Last-minute changes typically make me anxious, and this was no exception. I was worried about
having to use the GPS while on my bike, and about being rushed to arrive in La Parte Vieja. We
overcame our concerns though, and Suhani and I carried on out of our comfort zones. We arrived at the first spot, Haizea Bar, which is an older Basque bar. We enjoyed five dishes from here; the first was Guilda, which is a skewer with green olive, anchovy, and green chili peppers, drizzled with olive oil. We also ate bacalao, which is cod fried in a croquette form. After these two dishes, we each had a skewer of fried shrimp, a skewer with grilled shrimp and scallops, and some jamón. The bacalao was my favorite dish from here, with a close second being the jamón, which left a buttery feeling in my mouth.

Guilda pintxo
Bacalao pintxo

We then walked around La Parte Vieja toward our next destination, Paco Bueno. We stopped in
to quickly try their beer-battered shrimp, and I learned a fun fact about this dish: the owners of Paco Bueno refused to give Marti Buckley the recipe for it. The shrimp was amazing, and it had just been cooked when we ordered, so it was hot and fresh. The light, airy beer batter elevated the shrimp, somuch so that it did not need any sauce. In our discussions, we spoke about how sauces are not customary in the Basque country, as they hide the taste of the food. Despite this being so different from American cuisine, I hardly noticed the lack of sauces in each dish.
Following this, we went to a more modern restaurant, Itxaropena, that had recently changed hands to a Latin American chef. Although he is not Basque, the restaurant has been quite successful in the brief time he has been running it. We spent most of our time on the tour here, eating both savory and sweet dishes. The first dishes to come out were fried asparagus, Basque Ropa Viejas—which, unlike Cuban Ropa Viejas, is a runny omelet—and the restaurant’s prize-winning artichoke salad. I noticed that these
dishes were light and refreshing, while our second batch of dishes to arrive were a bit heavier. This consisted of fried txistorra (a Basque sausage), a steak pintxo, and pan de hongos, or mushroom bread. Toward this point I could feel myself begin to slow down after all the dishes, but I was still really enjoying the food. Just as I began to feel full, the sweet pintxo was served. We ate torrija, a brioche soaked in cream and served with raspberry gelato. The first bite I took of this pintxo was extraordinary. The brioche was warm and buttery, and when combined with the cool and refreshing gelato it surpassed
all my expectations for dessert. I am looking forward to going back to Itxaropena in these coming weeks to get a full torrija to myself.

Ropa Vieja and Artichoke Salad
Steak and Mushroom pintxos

Finally, as our tour was coming to an end, we stopped by La Viña for the famous Basque
cheesecake and then in Zaporejai to pick up some slices of Pata Negra jamón, which is known to be one of the highest quality meats here. As kitchens and dining rooms were closing, we opted to take these bites to go. Our group of six ended up eating the jamón and cheesecake along the Urumea River outside of La Parte Vieja as it drizzled. We reflected on our day while we ate and watched the tides crash into
the breakers.
I cannot imagine a better ending to my pintxo tasting tour. As we sat in the rain, I said to the
group how the weather we were having was perfect for eating the warm cheesecake. If it had been any warmer or any rainier, I would have preferred to eat somewhere else, but the mixture of the light rain and breeze was picture-perfect. I am grateful to have taken advantage of the opportunity and joined in on this pintxo tasting tour, even though it was a last-minute decision. This experience has inspired me to
further step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself, which is what this study abroad opportunity is all about for me. I am so excited for what is to come in these next two weeks and the surprises it will bring.

Our pintxo tasting tour group walking alongside the Urumea River

First Days In San Sebastian

This has been the trip that I have always dreamed of. Ever since I was little, I have known that I wanted to study abroad. I wasn’t sure where, how, or when, but I knew it was going to happen while I was in college. When this opportunity from the Honors College arose, I knew I had to try. I am not apart of the Honors College, but it was worth a try. I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity and it didn’t hurt to take the risk of applying. When I got that acceptance email on a random day in February, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. A new opportunity was arising for me and I couldn’t believe I was finally going to live out this longtime dream of mine. 

On July 29th, a new door of my life was opening. One that I have been looking forward to and ready for. Landing in Bilbao was when this opportunity truly hit me. We landed around two in the afternoon and we had all night to start exploring the city. One thing I was nervous about was connecting with everybody. While I thought that was going to be difficult because of my shyness, I stepped out of my comfort zone and made those connections. We are all new to this and figuring it out together. While just arriving in this beautiful, full city, we had no idea where to go. With a new city in our hands, seven other girls and I set off on this journey. Knowing no place around and no food in our stomachs, we had to hunt for a perfect place to eat. We wanted not too expensive and also cultural which made our search challenging as most of us cannot speak the native language. After finding the best option for us, we all ordered to native spanish speaker. Personally, that feels difficult for me because I am intimidated. With this intimidation, it drives me to want to get better and not be afraid to talk to people the best I can. I ended up having a great meal while bonding with my classmates. 

After the meal, we walked around the city some more. Walking on the beach, experiencing the European culture, trying to find local convenience stores, and much more. We ended up in many different places. We went to Covirán and experienced a small European convince store which was interesting. They had pretty much anything you could need, but it was pretty crowded. There wasn’t too much flow to the store which I did not expect. After that, we got the best ice cream I have had so far. A creamy cheesecake ice cream with the softest to eat cone. I was experiencing the culture I have been dreaming about for years. 

On day two, after sleeping in after the long journey to get here, we met up as a group for the first time. Everyone joined together as we had our first lesson under the sculpture, Construcción vacía. Starting out our classes under a popular landmark was a great starting point. After about an hour, I gained an even stronger excitement for these three weeks. Getting to experience all of this while in college is an amazing privilege. I especially enjoy how we can go off on our own. After the meeting, a few of us went to the beach and it felt great having that sense of freedom. I can do anything I set my mind to here. I will definitely come out of this trip with a new sense of independence and maturity. After relaxing on the beach for a long while, we all met up once again for dinner. Taking on the city for the second day felt just a little bit more comfortable. We searched until we found the right place for us to eat. 

I have always been an extremely picky eater to the point where I order the same thing at different restaurants. Coming here, I knew I was going to have to expand my horizons and San Sebastián has not disappointed so far. I ended up ordering certain foods and I wasn’t sure what it was made of. I took that leap of faith and knew I was going to try whatever was out in front of me. I realized early on that I don’t go to Spain often and if I don’t try new things, I am holding myself back. I tried these new foods that I ordered and I can honestly say that I would order it again. I would have never known I would have liked something if I never tried. This was a huge step for me in the sense of growing. 

After that long night of walking and eating some ice cream after dinner, we tackled public transportation to get back to the hotel. I find that the public transportation here is clean and organized which always says a lot about the city. Also, I am loving the bike lanes and definitely feel safe in this city. They accommodate for every kind of transportation and that makes a city more popular and well kept. This was definitely the first night here that felt true to the culture and way of the city. It made me extremely excited for what’s coming in the next weeks on this trip. I see myself gaining new knowledge and appreciation for the life we have. Way of life is so different here and they appreciate what they have more. I feel that will rub off on me which makes overall life more enjoyable. I will be a more confident version of myself and these experiences in the last two days have helped me start on that journey.