Last weekend I took my first trip to the Basque Country, located in the north of Spain. My friend Jo and I visited the beautiful cities of Bilbao and San Sebastián. We took the train on Saturday morning from Madrid and it was a five-hour journey with some of the most incredible landscape views I have witnessed. Madrid is a very dry place and it was so refreshing to see hills of green, lush plant life, rural towns, and open space again. After dropping stuff off at our hostel Ganbara, we found a spot to enjoy some yummy pintxos. Pintxos are different from tapas because they are more filling and rich and are truly little works of art. Sorry Madrid, but pintxos are waaay better than tapas. Next, we walked over to the Guggenheim museum, which is the main tourist attraction in Bilbao. It’s a futuristic building that resembled the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The museum consisted of three floors and as Jo and I were listening to the audio guide, we loved hearing the stories behind each painting. Many of the artists were inspired by wars, important historical and social events, and spirituality. This museum is a must-see if you are in Bilbao.
As we walked around Bilbao on Saturday I found the city’s eclectic bridges and urban planning to be very striking. The city is so clean and well-designed! Residents of Bilbao rank high on overall quality of life because of this and I can see why. As the sun was setting, we took a lift up to this viewpoint of the city and watched the sunset. There was a little park up top, a skating area, and lots of flowers and plants. If I lived in Bilbao, I would watch the sunset there everyday. There’s something so peaceful about admiring a city from above and just chatting about life with a friend.
On Sunday we took a bus to San Sebastián and spent the day there. The trip was a little over an hour and the views were incredible! So much green, beautiful lush mountains, and small towns. When we walked out of the bus station, the river and bridge reminded me so much of Florence that it felt like we were in Italy. I swear, it was almost identical! We walked along la playa de La Concha and it was mesmerizing. The ocean was a mixture of greens and blues, people were walking or out in the water paddle-boarding, or on their boats. Another fun detail about San Sebastián is that all their benches are white and the city is sprinkled with tulips and flowers in every color of the rainbow. My absolute favorite part of the day and the entire weekend was lying down on this grassy hill beneath a palace overlooking the ocean. Jo and I just lied there soaking up the rays of sunshine, staring at the sky, admiring the sea, and we did some yoga too 🙂
When we returned back to our hostel in Bilbao on Sunday evening, we met an American girl and a guy from Italy who were both staying in our room. Hostels are always an adventure because you never know who you’ll share a room with, but its such a fun way to connect with other travelers from all over the world, and fortunately they were both kind people.
Before catching the train back to Madrid Monday afternoon, we took a historical walking tour in the Old Town quarter of Bilbao. Our tour guide was amazing and it was so fascinating to get a taste of the city’s roots. The people of Bilbao have such a fierce spirit and it is shown through their saying “Bilbaonada”. It means Go Big or Go Home and that is how the people of Bilbao have carried themselves throughout their history and in the present as well. Bilbao has a rich history of mythology too and they have this beautiful flower of prosperity called Eguzkilore that is supposed to protect you from evil spirits and other dangers. This flower is seen in various jewelry items and I picked up a keychain with this symbol for myself 🙂
The north of Spain is known to be cold and rainy, but Jo and I lucked out during our visit because we had nothing but sunshine and warm weather. I love the sense of peace, lush nature, open space, and the people of the Basque country. Immersing ourselves in the Basque culture was a delight and I can’t wait to visit again. Traveling with Jo was also a treat! She is human heaven and I loved wandering, taking pictures, chatting about life, and enjoying it all with her.
Lastly, I went to an Atlético de Madrid match this past Tuesday evening and it was electric! I forgot how much I missed watching live sports and it left me itching to play tennis again. My mom’s boss in LA was visiting Madrid with her son and they had an extra ticket, thank you again Stephanie! Lots of chanting, screaming, and craziness from some hard-core fans but it was entertaining.
you are only at war/
with what you don’t surrender to/
/// chris ferreiras