This past week was the first week since I was in Spain that I missed my weekly blog post. QUE HORROR! Not that an excuse is needed, but I was traveling and instead of lugging my computer with me on my travels, I opted to keep it at home and enjoy a lighter luggage (but let’s be honest no computer just made room for more unnecessary articles of clothing). Anyway! Since I have yet to write a complete blog post about any traveling outside of Logroño, I thought this would be the perfect time to start!
First off, let me say that I have not been doing that much traveling. If you have been keeping up with my blog, I went more in depth into my reasoning there and I won’t rehash it here, I promise! However, with those sentimientos aside, I did decide to take a trip to San Sebastián and Bilabao. They are two cities even more north than Logroño, in a different region called País Vasco or Basque Country.
This past Halloween weekend, while all of my lovely teacher friends in the states had to control the chaos that I am sure occurred on a Monday Halloween, I was lucky enough to have a Puente (bridge aka DAYS OFF OF SCHOOL), that started the Friday before Halloween and lasted until Wednesday the next week. Que suerte tengo sí?! So sorry to all my teacher friends!
Anyway, I took advantage of the five-day weekend and decided to do some traveling around Spain with a friend from the Fulbright program who is teaching in Galicia. We decided to meet in San Sebastián, which was a quick 2-hour bus ride for me, but sadly, a 10-hour overnight bus ride for my friend John! Luckily, he is a champ and survived!
A little bit about País Vasco is that it is an autonomous region of Spain that actually has a very distinct language. In Basque country the people speak Euskera (Basque) and Castellano (Spanish), however Euskera is unlike any language spoken in all of Europe. In fact it is an isolate language that has no connection to any others. CRAZY RIGHT?! Now this doesn’t mean that nobody speaks Spanish, but it does mean that in this region, the people are desperately trying to hold onto their language…therefore everything is written in Euskera. I had zero problems getting around and conversing with natives, but it did bring up lots of interesting conversation and plenty of blank stares when I tried to pronounce a word in Euskera!
So we started in San Sebastián, This city is a tiny seaside city that is worth every dollar spent. Situated right on the coast is the city of San Se and if the ocean weren’t enough, the city is surrounded my beautiful mountains as well. Combated with the beautiful scenery, the city also provides precious architecture and colorful buildings. It truly is a wonderful place to merely look at let alone actually stay in! Amongst those quaint streets, John and I stayed at the “Hospedaje Kati.” Little did we know that even with such a great surrounding city, there were still locas hiding in the nicest of places.
Rewind a tad to when I first arrived in Spain I was talking with my fellow Fulbright coworker and I told her that my goal by the end of my trip in Spain was to be able to have a heated argument in Spanish with as much passion as only true Spaniards can. Well I don’t think I nailed down the gestos (gestures) as well, but two months into Spain and I had my first heated fight with a Spaniard in Spanish. Our experience with at the hostel with the “lovely” owner, Kati, started off tranquil…besides the fact that the “Hospedaje” was not a hostel, but rather a piso with two rooms filled with beds and the rest of the piso was for Kati and her son to live. Super raro. For those people who have never stayed in a hostel, this is not normal. But regardless, upon arrival at the hostel, Kati was cordial, set us up in a room, took our money and left us alone. John and I ended up leaving as well and walking around the city for the remainder of the day.
SIDE NOTE: The pictures truly speak for themselves, it was all beautiful and as wonderful as it seems if not even more beautiful in person.
By sundown we were back home and much to our surprise, walked into our hostel to find people in our room. Not in a bad way, but in a YAY WE HAVE MORE PEOPLE TO TALK TO way! We were elated and extremely excited to meet new people. Our new roommates consisted of a beautiful Venezuelan Paola, who is living in Barcelona currently, but after her trip to San Se is actually going to take over the cooking world and move to the culinary heaven of San Se! Also in our room was an amazingly sweet Aussie couple, Taylor and Matt, who were taking three months to travel (low-key was in awe at how cool all three of them were the entire weekend).
As we all started to get to know each other, I was sitting on the bed I initially put my stuff next to while John was on the other side of the room with his stuff on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed. Everything was great until Kati walked into the room and immediately asked me what I was doing. I was momentarily perplexed and asked her what she meant. She asked me again what I was doing sitting on that bed or why John was sitting on that bed over there. I told her that she showed me this bed and that this is where I put my stuff with her in the room earlier. She immediately became flustered. She started yelling at me that we were a pair and that we had to sleep juntos in this bed that I was sitting on. I told her in heated Spanish, “aboslutamente no” because we had paid for two beds and we were going to sleep in TWO BEDS.
I ended up pulling out my receipt and even showing her that I had signed up for two beds. The argument continued, Paola had been on the phone this entire time outside and the Aussies who didn’t speak any Spanish watched in awe as I turned five shades of red fighting with this Spanish woman. We continued to argue back and forth until finally she told me that I can “share the bed or leave.”
Just short of loosing my cool, I ended up laughing and telling the woman I was not going to leave, but I was not going to share my bed either. Kati then waved her hand over to where John was sitting (the bunk beds) and told me that I could sleep over there then. Argument over. Or so I thought.
Kati then began to argue with John and me that we didn’t pay for our beds. It was at this precise moment that I knew I was not speaking to a sane person. After explaining to her three times that we gave her the money (she kept arguing and saying that we gave the money to her son…not her), she finally realized we had paid, she told us to tranquilo (relax) and she left our room. Needless to say, the experience bonded all the roommates and we all went out for pintxos and many tintos.
Regardless of all of the hostel drama, the two nights in San Sebastián were great. The food was amazing, the sights (I hiked a mountain in converse and jeans) and the people we met were all (minus Kati) amazing! If I were to recommend anyone on a place to go for a weekend or a few days get away, I would definitely recommend San Se. The beaches are marvelous, if you like to surf, this is your place to go! Also, I could talk about the food forever…I know I am a huge food lover in general…but this place has it going on I promise you. The options and creations are endless. And to work off some of the food, the mountains and the outdoors are one in a million, perfect for hiking.
After two days in San Sebastián we had to sadly say goodbye to our new friends. However, even though we had to say goodbye, I now have two new countries I can visit and have expert friends (I will have to wait on Venezuela, Paola’s advice not mine! #mostdangerouscountryintheworld)
Which brings us to Bilbao. Bilbao is about two hours west of San Sebastián but still in País Vasco. John and I booked a real hostel this time and were problem free the entire time we were in Bilbao! This city was beautiful. The architecture was fabulous and the shopping looked phenomenal (not that I shopped because I am a broke traveler #helpmeIampoor) John and I relaxed the first night, only exploring what was around our hostel, then Monday (Halloween and our last day) we went to the Guggenheim Museum. This museum is world famous and quite the interesting piece.
As great as Bilbao was, I think that John and I both agreed that either we were simply exhausted from San Sebastián or it was quite boring, regardless, I think we were both ready to go home. By 8pm Monday we were on a bus ride back to my home, Logroño, and ready to go out and celebrate Halloween!
All in all, the weekend was good. I have many memories that I will take with me forever and lessons (ie. Always trust the reviews on Hostelworld about hostels) that have taught me more about myself as a traveler.
To sum everything up, my advice to anyone traveling is to always check reviews of places, make sure you have your receipt, but also be adventurous…Kati was awful, but the new friends were worth the frustration.
PS. I also hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween! I did not dress up this year, which is the first time in 23 years…a little sad. But I was able to go to a Haunted Winery which definitely made up for it #HalloweeninLaRioja #Hallowine
PHOTO CREDIT: ALL TO JOHN ALBRIGHT…not me. 🙂