Basque-ing in the Rain and Pintxos.

Another puente (long weekend), Spain?  You sly dog.  Just when I thought I could start saving up some money to replenish my bank account after the fund-sucking Semana Santa trip, you go and give us extra days to travel and spend more money.

Who am I kidding?  THANK YOU, SPAIN!

San Sebastián and Bilbao had been on my Spain Must See list for awhile, so what better time than a puente to check them out?  Minorka, Sofía, y yo took a 5 and a half hour bus last Friday night and reached Bilbao close to midnight.  Our AirBnB host, Ana, was so kind and welcomed us at the metro station.  In the morning, she even gave us breakfast, and we headed off to explore!

First on the list: the Guggenheim!  This architecture of the museum was incredibly impressive!  I’m not even going to try to describe it because it won’t do it justice (curvy? metallic? cool?), so instead I’ll just add a couple photos and you can see for yourself.  But even the art inside was awesome to look at, and we enjoyed the couple hours we spent wandering around inside.

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But nothing works up a hunger like trying to analyze bizarre paintings, so before long we left in search of food.  And while in the Basque Country, you wouldn’t dare eating anything other than pintxos, so that’s what we did.  A little info about pintxos: they are basically tapas, but all the food is placed on a piece of bread and held there with a little pintxo, or stick.  In pintxo bars, there are plates upon plates of these delicious little guys, and usually they just hand you a plate and you get to choose which ones you want to eat.  It’s pretty amazing.  And our first pintxo experience was delightful: I had one with some grilled zucchini and ratatouille, and another with potato, chorizo, and a fried quail egg.  Afterwords, we hung out and enjoyed the sun in the park, checked out the Old Town (Casco Viejo) and Plaza Nueva, and then later hit up some more pintxo bars, where we ate and ate and ate.  And also tried txakoli, a white wine from the region.

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The next morning, we said goodbye to Ana and went to see the Vizcaya Bridge, or Puente Colgante, which is the world’s oldest transporter bridge and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.  We also looked longingly at the beach but couldn’t enjoy it, considering it started to rain.


Before long, we had to catch our bus to our next location (which was 40 minutes late), and the next thing we knew, we were in San Sebastián.  After meeting up with Minorka’s friend Elizabeth in our hostel and Carolina a little later, we decided to hit the town.  Only the city didn’t seem to think that was such a great idea because it started pouring down rain.  Despite the rain jackets and hoods and umbrellas we had, the strong winds blew the rain everywhere and we were soaked from head to toe.  Paired with the cold?  It was miserable!  But to warm up, we decided to go to a bakery where I ate some sacher, a chocolate cake.  Then, you guessed it: we ate more pintxos!  We went to some really cool places, such as Borda Berri, where I had the most delicious risotto.  We also tried carrillera de ternera, aka beef cheek, and it was repulsive.  But hey, it’s always good to try new things, right?  That night, we went to a little bar and danced and enjoyed the music before heading back to the hostel.

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On Monday morning, we wandered around for the longest time trying to find breakfast (everywhere was closed due to the labor holiday), but then we took advantage of the temporarily sunny skies to walk along the beachfront and take the cable car up to Monte Igueldo to check out the little amusement park there!  We rode a little boat ride and a surprisingly fun roller coaster, and we even took in the gorgeous views of Playa de la Concha.  Then, after a little hike down the mountain, we saw the Peine del Viento sculptures on the rocks of the beach.

And then?

MORE PINTXOS!

Some new ones I tried: fried zucchini and goat cheese, angulas (baby eels) with fried quail egg, a fried spicy meatball, and a mini cheeseburger with a bright red bun.  Notice a trend that all the pintxos have something fried on them?? Later that night, we decided to get really adventurous and play Pintxo Secret Santa!  We each wrote our name on a napkin and wrote our deal-breakers (no anchovies, no morcilla, etc.).  We each drew a name and had to secretly select a pintxo the other person had to try.  After we all selected them, we sat down and had to guess which one was ours.  It was a lot of fun!

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Before too long, our puente was over and we had to take the long bus back to Madrid.  And despite probably gaining 5 pounds, it was a great trip.

Also…
The other weekend, Lauren and I had quite the adventure!  We headed into Madrid for the sole purpose of getting our cartilage pierced, because what better souvenir from our time in this country than a permanent hole in our ear?!  But we read some reviews online and chose a tattoo shop (Por Vida, if anyone is interested), said YOLO, and did it.  I’ll be honest, it was quite creepy in that tattoo shop (I’m talking some intense face and neck tattoos on the employees, not to mention the various pictures of pierced genitalia on the walls…).  But before we knew it, Lauren and I both had 2 new holes in our ears and to this day we’re still complaining about the pain.

After than we also went to a restaurant called Jack Percoca where we had some amazing truffle mac n’ cheese (the only reason we went there), and then we explored the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, which are the botanical gardens.  The flowers were so beautiful, and the cacti were my favorite part!  It was a lot of fun hanging with my roomie.

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The other latest news in Kasey’s Spanish Life?  The never ending Trinity Exam prep.  At the end of May, my 3rd graders have to take the Trinity English speaking exam, so lately we’ve been working to prepare them for their 5 minute presentation on the topic of their choice.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with the kids in small groups to help them map out their presentation to include information in the past tense, present tense, future tense, and comparatives.  It’s been incredibly stressful since many of the kids don’t have the level of English the exam demands, but I’ve been proud of them for making progress in their speaking abilities.

Well, I think that’s about it for this edition.  Upcoming events include going to England for Lauren’s birthday, Elaine coming to visit and our trip to Barcelona, and the trip to Dublin in June.  Lots to look forward to, but incredibly sad that it’s coming to a close so quickly!

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