Yup, you read the title correctly. I visited four cities (in this order), Santander, Bilbao, Pamplona, and San Sebastian, in the North of Spain over three days with a friend from Hope, who is also studying in Seville for the Semester named Danielle Portfleet, and it was very relaxing. To you this may not sound very relaxing because it seems like a lot of travel, and it was a fair amount, but it in all truth this vacation happened to be one of the most relaxing I have taken while abroad. The north of Spain is called Basque Country, and the major draw to the area is the food, the scenery, and the different language/culture - of which we took in large amounts of all three.
All four cities we visited are located near or on the coast, and are situated amongst the mountains. This creates a gorgeous combination and therefore the hour long bus rides between cities were not boring wastes of time but instead beautiful countryside tours. It was also very convenient because the cities were relatively small and close together so we could see/stay as long as we wanted in one city and once we were finished simply hop on a bus and head on to the next.
Out of the four locations, Santander and San Sebastian were the most beautiful. Unlike the south of Spain, everything is green, due to the fact they actually receive rain, and in each city of these cities we spent an afternoon on the beach. I was especially fond of Santander because it reminded me of Michigan, and on the bay there was a lot of fisherman.
Sunsets are My Favorite. Sorry this isn't a picture of one of the beautiful beaches.
Each night we feasted. We went from restaurant to restaurant eating tapas recommended from my reliable Rick Steve’s Guidebook. In case you don’t know, a tapa is similar to a small appetizer and they range in price depending on the restaurant and size: usually they cost between one and three euros. So, at each restaurant we would split one or two tapas and then move on to the next. This was a really fun slow and delicious to eat, and at the end of each night our stomachs would smile.
Some of the most unique tapas we tried were eels, clams, stuffed peppers, cheese, mushrooms, and talos. A talo is a wheat tortilla filled with meet and I will talk a little bit more about this eating experience later
As I said, the Basque country has a different language and culture. They speak the Basque language and therefore even though I was in Spain at times I felt like I was in a different country because the majority of signs are in Basque. The people do still speak Spanish but I never really knew, and also often times they speak French as well because this culture extends into France. One interesting fact about this area is that lots of the people actually want to break off from Spain and create a different country but Spain won’t allow it. As a result, there is a lot of tension between the government and a small terrorist group has formed.
I witnessed the Basque culture the most by simply observing the people in the street. The natives typically wear berets and it is common for the youth to have dreads, but I also witnessed the culture by the two concerts we stumbled upon. The first took place while looking for a place to eat. We saw a sign that said Two for One Talos and a restauranted packed with a crowd of adults singing along with the men on stage playing the piano. We didn’t know what a Talo was, but we quickly decieded we were going to try. The second time we ran into a concert was in the streets of San Sebastian. There was a brass band playing and tons of people in people dancing. Neither time we knew what was going on but after asking we learned they were playing typical local songs and the people learned them from an early age. This is why everyone was singing along and enjoying themselves.
Other Trip Highlights:
- Visiting Pamplona, the city where the Running of the Bulls takes place.
- The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This building is an architectural masterpiece.
- El Camino de Santiago in Pamplona