My last blog post was the 29 of October and I am so sorry I haven’t been keeping things consistent, but I’ve been so busy. Pais Vasco is, and as it is in English: Basque Country; located in northern Spain near France.
On Halloween, we left for the trip to the Basque Country on a tour bus with everyone from Erasmus who signed up. We arrived at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe at about 6:30am, it was still dark out and pretty cold so we waited on the bus for a while to have the sun rise. When it was time, we had to try to find the way down to the beach. Lydianna (from my Spanish and film class) and Elina (we met her on the bus) started walking in the direction we thought was the way to go. Everyone else took their time, we had about five hours to spend here.
We walked a long way down a paved road, found some slugs that were as big as my boot! These huge slugs were everywhere and they were kind of gross to keep seeing because of their slime, some were smushed on the roads because of cars. We kept walking a bit farther, past a closed construction road into a neighborhood. Turns out that road goes down to where we could find the church. We walked that way, but we’d find out later we could’ve taken a much easier and faster way. It was cool to see houses in the countryside, with lots of gardens and floral fauna. It was in this area that I saw holly for the first time growing naturally! It was beautiful in its contrasting colors of green and red. As we walked down the upturned road, we noticed more people were following us down the trail, apparently they didn’t know where to go either. The walk down the hill was far and was a noticeable difference in elevation.
Pictured is Dragonstone Island from Game of Thrones. The winding staircase was used multiple times in the series starting with season 7, episode 1. However, it is mentioned since season 1. We walked up the iconic bridge and stairs to the top where there is a view point over looking the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a quaint little church and has a bell, that if you ring it three times and make a wish – it will come true. We saw a bride and groom taking their pictures on these stairs, and honestly I couldn’t blame them. The view was incredible and was definitely a great location to shoot the series.
We got back on the bus and headed toward Bilbao. The winding roads (even though they’re a little sickening) and the beautiful views of the mountains and landscape was so refreshing. In Bilbao, we checked into the Bilbao Hostel; very clean and honestly a 5 star rating should be given. The facility was very clean. It was nice to have other Erasmus roommates (Lydiana and I requested each other), coincidentally Elina was in our room along with another girl named Theresa. We were lucky because there was a couple of rooms with larger amounts of people – I think the most on this trip was 10 or so.
After we settled in and freshened up from the long overnight ride plus the trip to the city, we went to get food. It was a lot of trouble to try to find places since it was All Saints Day (1 Nov, or Dia de los Muertos) so we ended up going to restaurante India Town. The food was well worth the wait, and if I ever went back to Bilbao – I’d go back. Tip for any overnight bus trips: bring snacks, and lots of them.
After we ate, we went to the Guggenheim art museum, they had all these crazy projects set up. My favorite was the Matter of Time by Richard Serra. It is a permanent part of the museum, the pieces are huge and seem like the building was built around them. Walking along the curve of the first one, I felt as though it would never end. Each time it felt like it should have ended, the steel around me showed me that it persisted. Click the link of the museum or the installation to see more, this block quote is taken from the the piece website. I have underlined my favorite part of this piece located in description below.
The Matter of Time ( The Matter of Time, 1994–2005) allows the viewer to perceive the evolution of the artist’s sculptural forms, from the relative simplicity of a double ellipse to the complexity of a spiral. The last two pieces of this development are created from sections of bulls and spheres that generate different effects on the movement and the perception of the viewer. These transform unexpectedly as the visitor walks and surrounds them, creating a vertiginous and unforgettable feeling of moving space. The entire room is part of the sculptural field: as in other of his sculptures composed of many pieces, the artist organizes the works with determination to move the viewer through them and the surrounding space. The distribution of the works throughout the gallery creates corridors of different proportions (wide, narrow, elongated, compressed, high, low) and always unforeseen. In the installation there is also a progression of time. On the one hand, the chronological time it takes to travel it and observe it from start to finish; on the other, the time of experience in which the fragments of visual and physical memory remain, combine and re-experience.
After the museum we walked back to the tram stop and took it to the nearest stop to our hostel, still lots of walking. When we got back, we decided to take a nap before we went out to some bars. When the two hour nap was up, we decided to just stay there and sleep before the next day.
When we woke up, we got all of our stuff ready and took everything down to breakfast. It was interesting because there was nothing really super substantial that anyone wanted to eat besides cereal and baguettes. We loaded back onto the bus and continued the journey. We arrived to Mundaka, a small coastal town that is known for the left hand waves that came into the shore – obviously with that comes surfing. The way our guide brought us was twisting and winding through the street and was impossible to try to remember. It was raining and cold when we arrived so we had to break out the umbrellas. We walked around until we found a bar that was open that had pinxos for them to eat. Pinxos are like tapas – small food stuffs up on the bar counter, freshly made everyday. You get a plate, load what you would like onto it and pay at the register, sit down and enjoy. I was lucky enough to find a supermercat open across the street so I could buy some snacks for myself as well. With small towns like this, it’s typical that all businesses are closed on Sundays and only a select few – and if you’re lucky enough to find them – are open. These small towns have small streets and you wonder how cars even drive through them.
After warming up and waiting for the rain to subside, we decided to try to find where we left the bus. We made our way through the small streets, coming upon a small hill to walk down. The view was of the coast and a small church. We still had enough time to do some exploring so we found a path to walk to get closer to the church. We walked around and got some good views of the cliff side way in the distance. There was also a beautiful mare in her pen near the church. We spent some time with her. She has the same hair color and Lydiana and I. We went back to the bus after spending time with the horse and relaxed a bit before we had to load the bus up.
We arrived to Zumaia beach and the sites were incredible. The rock and cliff face seemed like it was turned up at some point in time. Everything made you feel so small. There are steps leading down to the beach from the town, as soon as you hit the sand it’s soft and a little wet from how far the water rises. At the base of the huge rock formations there are deep pockets of water that are colored with a green blue hue.
The coloring comes from the limestone in the area, it really reminds me of home. The waves were pretty decently sized for surfing. The town was very cute, small again and it was wonderful to see the small streets and hear the local idioms. We could walk all the way along the upper most ridge of the rock formations. it was a little scary because there were no barriers but the path was safe. Since it had been raining earlier in the week it was pretty muddy and we had to scrape our shoes off after the long walk out.
We left Zumaia and headed off to San Sebastian, even closer to the French border. We arrived late so we got settled in the hostel – this one wasn’t as nice and the set up was pretty strange. There were two rooms within a small shared space, with a common bathroom. Our room had two bunk-beds; the toilet was in a different room next to the one with the shower and sink. Lydiana and I shared a room with some Australian exchange students from the Erasmus trip. We went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner and decided to explore the city. We walked pretty far along the coast front on the raised stone board walk. The waves were all the way up to the structure – which is pretty far inland. I forgot what we ended up doing that night but we eventually found a bar that other Erasmus members were at and we sat and had a couple of drinks with them, we laughed our asses off at Rojo y Negro. We couldn’t remember each others’ names so I suggested we play the name game and it was hilarious at the end of the line no one could get it right. We went back to the hostel and slept soundly.
The next day, Sunday now, barely anything is open and we went to a vegetarian friendly cafe for breakfast. Elina got some green tea, I had a Nutella – soya latte and Lyd had some concoction of strawberry tea. We ventured toward the olde town after waiting for the torrential downpour to subside. We got to the city center and explored a lot, the girls had some pinxos – I stopped at a supermercat for snacks (a baguette and a HUGE peach to be exact)… Anyway, while walking through the olde town we turned the corner and saw this beautiful church against the cliff side and in the middle of all the tall buildings. Even though it was cold out, there were still a ton of tourists around. We got onto the bus at 5pm or so and we didn’t get back to Barcelona until 12:30am. Long trip but well worth it – even on the bus.
Overall this trip was amazing and anytime you’re studying abroad in Europe, look into the Erasmus club. They have so many different excursions and you can meet so many new people from all over the world.