Bilbao & Pintxos

Hola todos!

Long time no see 🙂

I have been in Bilbao for a few weeks now so here are some updates on what I have been up to in the city I’m calling home for three months. I am living in a three bedroom apartment with two other girls from my program. Most of the U.S. students studying abroad with us live in Getxo which is about a 20 minute metro ride from the heart of Bilbao (where we go to class). Our apartment also happens to be blocks away from the beach (pictured below)!!

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My spanish class is my favorite so far because it is more conversational and pretty useful when I am talking to locals or filling out paperwork. Often, I will learn a word like codigo postal (postal code or zip code, as we call it in the States) before we talk about it in class because, in this case, I needed to know my codigo postal to register for a metro card and library card.

My favorite day of the week is Thursday because there is this thing called Pintxopote where you can pay around 2 euros for a drink and a pintxo at any restaurant or bar. The base of the word is “pintxo” which is the basque word for tapa- like a small appetizer with cheese, veggies or meat on a piece of bread. (Basque is the language spoken in the Basque Country located in the north of Spain and including Bilbao and San Sabastian and some of southern France). I love trying different pintxos with interesting toppings like raw salmon (yes, it’s raw) or jamon. Here is a picture of some pintxos you might find at a bar:

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Here is a picture of my cute, sweet roommates when we actually had time to wake up and get cafe con leche from our favorite restaurant, one block from our apartment, before class. Cafe con leche is a MUST, especially on Mondays. This restaurant is always packed with locals after 8pm (when they finally start serving dinner) and they have 1.60 euro pintxos, 1.25 euro cafe con leche and you can get 7 scoops of ice cream for 5 euros. The best part is most restaurants have similar pricing for pintxos and drinks in Getxo (it is slightly more expensive in the heart of Bilbao vs. the quieter area of Getxo).

The first week in Bilbao the program advisors gave us a walking tour of Bilbao where we walked by the Guggenheim Museum (which is on my list of thingst to do) and ended at the Mercado de la Ribera which is this fun indoor fish and meat market with a whole level of pintxo bars!

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Here is a cool church in the middle of the city near the Guggenheim Museum…

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It has been pretty rainy here and the weather is extremely unpredictable so I have learned to pack an umbrella wherever I go (gasp) because one minute it could be 75 and sunny and the next there could be torential downpour and intense wind.

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Despite the unusual weather, last week we caught some sun and walked a few miles from my apartment to el Puente de Vizcaya, which is this massive bridge over the main river that runs from Bilbao to the ocean. It costs about 1 euro to pass under the bridge on what seems like a hanging ferry that floats over the water…We’re still not sure how the engineering works but it was impressive! I have not fact-checked this, but someone told us that the bridge was designed by an American around the same time as the Eiffel Tower (kind of cool if it’s true).

Last week a group of us went to see Maluma in concert (he is a Spanish pop singer). It was a BLAST and I recognized more songs than I expected to (although they were all in spanish so we mostly just danced around all night).

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Overall, I have been loving my time here in Bilbao so far. The metro is super easy to use and very clean. The people here can seem cold at first but if you approach anyone and say buenos dias, they will light up and are very warm and helpful. Most people speak both Basque and Spanish and would identify as primarily Basque and then Spanish, in terms of nationality. In fact, the Basque Country is the richest area of Spain and they collect the majority of their taxes and spend them within the Basque area. The culture here is very family oriented which is fun to be around. Past 6pm or so, everyone is out and about at bars, parks and restaurants enjoying each others’ company and no one is in a rush. It is a beautiful way to live! Most people my age live at home while attending school and end up working in the same area they grew up in. There is really no reason to move out of your parents’ house until you are married, actually. This is different from the States where high school graduates are highly encouraged to leave their parents’ home to go to college in a different city.

I’ve also noticed that as my spanish has improved, my english has gotten so much worse, so I apologize for any typos haha. I will have another blog post coming soon about my time in Munich, Germany!

Hasta Luego!

xoxo Delaney

Madrid- la primera semana

Hola a todos!

I am, in fact, alive and well! I apologize for the delay in my first post, it has been a crazy week or so (also apologies for any typos or if this doesn’t make sense- I have been trying to write this post amidst everything that’s going on).

My first week in Spain was spent running around Madrid (quite literally since we walked 10+ miles a day) and I am now moved into my apartment in Bilbao (classes start Monday). I will be posting about Bilbao soon 🙂

Below are some pics of my adventures in the different areas of Madrid. My favorite was Segovia because it was very the most charming little town I’ve ever been to and the castle we got to visit was gorgeous!

Here is a picture from the window of our hotel room in Madrid. This is your typical street (yes cars will drive in this alley, even though it is tiny).

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El Plaza Mayor (the largest plaza in Madrid) was poppin’ at around 2pm when the locals (and tourists) were having what they call “a la comida” (aka lunch) that lasts until about 3 or 4pm and is the largest meal of the day. The locals eat much later than we do in the states. This means that in Spain they eat a small dinner between 8 and 10pm and nightlife typically starts at midnight or 1am, ramps up around 2:30 or 3am and lasts until 6am (yes, you read that correctly).

Buen Ratiro Park

This was such a beautiful park! It reminded me of Central Park in NYC because there were so many different walks of life out and about and this park covered a large part of the city. Something we noticed at this park was the amount of PDA happening all of the time- it seemed to be normal to see couples getting really intimate in the grass of the park.

Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace was gorgeous and massive! I think there are around 2,000 rooms in this palace so it makes sense that they have separate rooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner and separate rooms for each person to change etc. How glamorous!

Museo Nacional de Prado

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I believe this museum is the third largest in either Europe or the world with over 2,000 pieces and multiple levels to explore. We didn’t have enough time to see everything but there were a lot of cool pieces by El Greco and Raphael. Most of the collections were large paintings of either Spanish royalty or of Spanish life- there was a lot of Catholic influence on the paintings too.

Puerta del Sol

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Segovia

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Segovia was by far my favorite place we visited. It was so beautiful and you could really get a taste of the culture of Spain by walking the streets. The architecture was amazing and the aqueduct was amazing- it is crazy to think it is still standing thousands of years after it was built by the Romans!

Toledo

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Toledo was very similar to Segovia except it had a large Muslim, Catholic and Jewish population all living in one small town (although there isn’t a Jewish population there any more). It was beautiful and quaint. You could get lost VERY easily in these streets because there were so many winding roads that led different directions.

Clearly pictures don’t do these places any justice- maybe one day you can visit Spain (which I highly recommend) so you can see it for yourself.

The people here are stand-offish at first but if you approach someone and give them the opportunity, they light up and are so helpful and welcoming! I have made friends with some locals and other students coming from across the U.S. and from Europe as well! It has been an eye-opening experience so far and I know I’m going to learn so much about other cultures and people while I’m here.

Stay tuned for more inside scoop on my time in the Basque Country, specifically in Bilbao!

Hasta Luego!

xoxo Delaney