Northern Spain

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March 31, 2013 by cmcguigan91

After a week of midterms (yes, I actually take classes here) I was definitely ready for vacation! Semana Santa is Easter week in Spain so no school! My friend Cara and I decided to spend the first part of the week exploring northern Spain. We traveled from País Vasco to Galicia for six days, with just our backpacks and a plane ticket home!

Backpacker

Backpacker

On Friday we flew into Bilbao. When we got to the Bilbao we realized just how little we had prepared- we didn’t even know how to get from the airport to the city! Luckily there was a bus and we were soon in a beautiful plaza eating lunch with a new American friend we had made- who just happened to be studying in Granada too. It was a gorgeous day and we spent the afternoon weaving through parks and getting lost in the streets, enjoying the sunshine and flowers and fountains.

Bilbao, País Vasco, España

Bilbao, País Vasco, España

Bilbao, País Vasco, España

Bilbao, País Vasco, España

We decided to go to the Guggenheim, but were a little disappointed. The outside of the building is way cooler than what is inside!

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

Afterwards we went out for wine and pintxos! Pintxos are like tapas, and the ones in the Basque Region are supposed to be the best in all of Spain! They are basically “finger foods,” and when you go to a bar they give you a plate and you take what you want from all the choices out on the bar. We bar hopped into the night and then took the bus to our next destination- San Sebastián.

Pintxos

Pintxos

I forgot to mention- Cara and I decided to Couchsurf through northern Spain! Couchsurfing is a social network site for travelers. You can use to it to make friends in the places you will be visiting, and you can request to stay with them for a few days! Sometimes they have a couch, and sometimes an extra bed. Usually they will show you around and give you recommendations for things to do in their city. It’s a cool idea, and since Cara and I had no plans for the week we were happy to stay with and get to know the locals.

It was late when we got to San Sebastían so we took a cab to meet our host, Nekane. She was studying at a friends’ house so she gave us her keys and directions to her apartment. This was our first experience with couchsurfing and should tell you a little bit about how it works- people are so incredibly welcoming and trusting!

"Couch" Surfing

“Couch” Surfing

When we got to the apartment we immediately went to bed. Saturday morning we woke up ready to go. Nekane had exams to study for and couldn’t come with us, so we decided to take a walk. San Sebastian is small and we walked around all morning. We were lucky- the sun was out was an absolutely beautiful day. There were so many people out walking, eating, rollerblading, and playing on the beach. I don’t think words can do it justice so I’ll let my pictures say it all.

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San Sebastián, País Vasco, España

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San Sebastián, País Vasco, España

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San Sebastián, País Vasco, España

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San Sebastián, País Vasco, España

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Cara and I in San Sebastián

We had more pintxos for lunch- San Sebastian is famous for it’s food, and it is obvious why! Croquetas de bacalao y espinacas, pimientos con atún, sardinas, fantastic vino, and a delicious pastry for dessert!

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Fried Stuffed Red Pepper

After lunch we walked around some more and then met with Nekane’s roommate and some other couchsurfers to take the funicular to the top of a mountain and watch the sunset.

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San Sebastián, País Vasco, España

The day ended with bar hopping around the old town. We tried many pintxos and vinos, and were full and happy when we went to bed.

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Pintxos in San Sebastián

Sunday was our travel day. We got to the train station early for our 9am, 11 hours long, train to A Coruña. And then- everything went wrong. The train pulled up to the station and we got on. As we looked around and realized it was the wrong train, the doors closed there was no stopping. Apparently, a commuter train had been scheduled on the same track for 10 minutes before our train, and we were on before we realized the difference. It stopped a ways down and we had to take a taxi back to the station. By this time it was far too late to catch our original train. I went up to the desk and I must have looked like I was about to cry because the man took pity on us and after 45 minutes we had new tickets… 3 trains and we would be in Santiago de Compostela, close to our original destination.

Somewhere In-Between

Somewhere In-Between

12 hours, peanut m&ms, and a drained iPod battery later and we made it to Santiago Thankfully the guy who we would be staying with in Santiago later that week was kind enough to let us stay for an extra night. We slept at his apartment and left the next morning for A Coruña.

In A Coruña, our host Arina met us at the train station and walked us to her apartment. It was raining, but Cara and I wanted to explore so we decided to go to the aquarium. After getting lost for two hours we made it there, soaking wet. We were not so happy with our first impression of A Coruña, but the aquarium was cool. We tried to decipher all the Spanish signs, and got to see them feed the fish. After, we tried Galician empanadas, and had a fantastic lunch.

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Torre de Hercules

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Aquarium Finisterrae, A Coruña

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Empanadas

Later that day we walked around with Arina and her friend Alejandro all through A Coruña. It had finally stopped raining and everything was so much more beautiful. We walked along the sea and saw the Torré de Hercules at night- it’s the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world. Then we tried pulpo (octopus)- it was pretty chewy! I didn’t like how you could feel the little suction things when you ate it- yuck. Then Arina took us to try some Crema Licor- it’s from the Galician region!

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Cara, Arina, and I in A Coruña

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Torre de Hercules

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Pulpo

The next day we decided to take the train to Pontevedra, a small town in Galicia. It was raining, of course. We bought a map and walked around, stopping for café and enjoying the beautiful gardens and buildings. We went to this small museum which was a perfect way to spend the rainy day. After a delicious lunch that included salmon quiche, we walked around until it was time to catch the train to Santiago de Compostela.

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Pontevedra, Galicia, España

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Raining in Pontevedra

In Santiago de Compostela we went to out host Petr’s apartment. He took us out to some local bars for drinks and tapas. We had Licor Café, also from Galicia, which was so good! We walked by the Cathedral de Santiago at night, which was absolutely magnificent.

Wednesday morning before our flight we wandered around Santiago de Compostela. At the Cathedral we saw everyone finishing the Camino de Santiago, it is definitely an emotional experience. Since it was raining a little (of course!) we spent the rest of our time talking in a café overlooking a beautiful park.

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Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

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Inside the Cathedral

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Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, España

The trip ended with a plane to Madrid and then a bus back to Granada. We got home exhausted but content. 6 days of nonstop travel was tiring but I am so glad we got to see everything we did.

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…the rest of Semana Santa up next!!

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