Semana Santa in Basque Country

Semana Santa means no school or private classes, so Arianna and I packed our bags and headed to Basque Country for their famous Basque cuisine and architecture.

Our trip began in Bilbao – I was excited to see the Guggenheim Museum and other famous buildings/sculptures the city has to offer.

Processions of Bilbao

I went to Andalusia for my first Semana Santa in Spain and was shocked by the huge processions that take place in the south. I now have a tendency to compare the processions to those of the South, and find myself thinking that they are so tiny in comparison – yet beautiful nonetheless.

Those who take part in the processions wear hats called capuces which cover their faces to ensure that only God sees them.

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The last part of our trip took place in San Sebastián. We didn’t do much other than eat and drink txakoli. Our favorite bars were:

  • Bar Borda Berri – their risotto de idiazabal and carrillera de ternera were absolutely amazing
  • La Viña – Famous for their cheesecake! It was so good we went back one more time before leaving San Sebastián (and this comes from two girls that don’t typically like cheesecake)
  • Bar Sport – Great pintxo’s, nice waiters 🙂

We woke up early our last day to walk around the city and see the breathtaking view from Monte Igueldo. We walked nearly an hour along Playa de la Concha and then took the trolley car up to the top.

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The cathedral of San Sebastián
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Monte Igueldo

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The Journey

 

Lately I have been so full of so many emotions. I never thought I would be in Galicia for such a long, extended time. I came here planning to only stay for a year – enough time to figure out what my next step would be.

I will soon be ending my third year as a Language Assistant. This place has become my home.  I’ve made some wonderful friends, seen beautiful places, and most importantly, I have grown in so many different aspects. As much as I love this place, I know it’s time to step away and discover where life will take me next.

I don’t know where I will be going next or what I will be doing – it’s bittersweet, overwhelming, exciting, sad, and scary all at the same time. However, I do know that if I don’t take the leap now, I’ll never know.

What is meant to be, will find its way. 

Bo Nadal from the states

Living in Spain has been such a dream. I can indulge in in all the jamón and cheap (but amazing) wine that my heart desires, travel, and live cheaply here in Santiago. What more could I want?

One of the most difficult things to overcome is being so far away from my family. Weekends are usually spent catching up with my parents via FaceTime or iMessage and flying home isn’t as simple as hopping on a quick puddle jumper. The holidays away from family is rough.

I have always been really into celebrating the holidays – listening to Christmas tunes while decorating the tree, baking cookies, decorating the house, wrapping gifts, etc. Here in Spain it’s less about celebrating Christmas and more about celebrating Los Reyes Magos which happens in January.

As I was soon to be celebrating my third Christmas away from home, I knew that I couldn’t handle the homesickness another year. I had originally told my mom and dad I would be home for Christmas when I was visiting them in June for my brother’s graduation but Darrin and I decided it would be fun to surprise everyone 😉

Over summer I was working as an au pair in Coruña and my mom frequently asked if I had found a Christmas flight. I kept telling her I hadn’t been looking too much, it was still too far out to be looking for a flight and I wasn’t sure what my work schedule would be like. Eventually I told her I had decided I wanted to take advantage of my time in Europe and get some travel in (aka I would not be going to the states for Christmas). Keeping the secret was incredibly difficult! Darrin and I almost ruined it more times than we can count, but in the end, we were able to pull it off.

I’ll never forget my parents’ reaction when I walked in the door to surprise them. It was by far the best Christmas. I was also able to meet my new baby niece, and she is absolutely beautiful!

 

 

Puente in Valencia

A few friends and I spent this past weekend in one of my favorite cities – Valencia. We had a wonderful time filling our bellies with paella, horchata and fartones, biking to the beach and seeing all the beautiful sights the city has to offer.

Contrary to belief, paella is not Spain’s national dish. Each autonomous community has their own typical dishes and paella just so happens to be Valencia’s. Paella Valenciana consists of rice, chicken, rabbit, flat green beans, and alubias or garrofó.

One of my favorite ways to see and learn about a city is by going on (free) walking tours. Our hostel had daily walking tours – which was perfect! Our guide Eduardo was hilarious and extremely informative. Some sights we saw while on the tour included: Centro Arqueológico de la Almoina, the cathedral, Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, the beautiful Torres de Serranos that was used to protect the city, the Merat Central de València. We learned about the history of Spain (information ranged from why Spain is called Spain… It means The Land of Rabbits to an explanation of Las Fallas that take place in March).

During our tour, we stopped inside a small chocolate/sweet shop in Plaza de Santa Catalina to purchase some horchata and fartones. Although horchata can be found in the states, it is quite different from Valencian horchata. It is consumed with a farton – a sweet glazed bread. Eduardo informed us that the best way to consume a farton and horchata was to soak up the liquid by dipping the farton. It was marvelous.

Saturday was spent biking to the beach along the Túria River (which is actually dried up). The path along the river is so awesome! There were so many runners and bikers enjoying the beautiful Valencian sun. We also biked right past Parque Gulliver and La Ciudad de Ciencias y Artes; a truly breathtaking sight.

¡Vuelta al cole!

A few things:

  1. Like always, summer has come and gone so quickly! I had a great experience au pairing in A Coruña – I couldn’t have asked for a better family to work with.
  2. Last month I celebrated my 3 year Spain-iversary. I never intended to stay here for more than 1 year, but here I am!
  3. Summer has come and past and it’s back to school for children (and teachers)!

As I pointed out, I have now been living (and working) here in Spain for three years. I have learned so much about myself, Spain, Galicia, improved my Spanish (picked up a little galego), and have had the opportunity to explore new places.

My first year as a language assistant I was working in a primary school (ages 3-12) in Serra de Outes, a small pueblo about 30 minutes away from Santiago. I adored my students and coworkers but hated the commute and hours.

My second year I was placed in a trade school here in Santiago. It was a completely different experience after being with elementary schoolers. My students were learning about computer science – programming, designing, etc. I loved being able to walk to work in 15 minutes and I made some really great friends. However, I missed the little ones.

This year, I am back in a primary school (ages 3-12 once again), and I absolutely love it! Children are exhausting, and you need a lot of energy to keep up with 15 three year olds running around in a class room, but for me, working with children is one of the most rewarding experiences. They are so curious to learn and explore and I am always greeted with, “HELLO NICOLE!” whenever I run into students in the hallway. I am currently at CEIP de Pumar-Urdilde, which is about 20 minutes away from Santiago. It’s a very small school, classes tend to have less than 20 students and my coworkers are very welcoming and friendly.