I think I’m setting a record here on the amount of time between posts recently – less than a week! Score hahaha. Saturday was just too completely awesome not write about right away. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s talk french first. No not, in French but about France… there we go!
Friday, the CIDE group that I’ve come to know and love oh so much and two of our fabulous professors took a quick trip across the french border, marking the end of my perception that Europe may possibly only exist of Spain – it doesn’t, no worries!! Our first stop was Saint Juan de la luz an adorable basque town full of typical white and red basque style buildings and tons of local character that literally looked like the inspiration for the setting of Beauty and the Beast. My friends and I wandered the adorable pastry shop lined streets just waiting for Belle to pop out of no where reading her book… well not really but we could totally envision it happening! What we actually did was head towards the beach, admire the beautiful bay of biscay from this side of the border, shiver in the chilly 50 degree air while we took some pictures, explore a pretty awesome little church, and buy some pastries. I can now attest that French croissants are absolutely that 100Xs better than any other croissant that everyone promises you they will be – especially if yours happens to be stuffed with chocolate, yeah I died a little of happiness!! This experience also prompted my first use of french bascially ever and I do believe my reading off of the little sign and pronunciation of “merci” were spectacular.
Post Saint Juan we made our way just a tad further into France and arrived at Biarritz, a slightly larger town with a little less charm and a little more international appeal. Known for its summer visitors thanks to its absolutely beautiful coastline, the town seemed almost eerily quiet, but a trip down the road to the local market proved otherwise. Inside we found local produce of all kinds – wine, veggies, fruits, spices. My personal favorite = le fromage which Elana, Neia, and I somehow managed to sample 5 free slices of… shhhh. Listening intently to my professor’s wise words that sweets are best in France I also bought a small slice of a local almond and fig candy-like substance. Wow, that description makes it sound kind of awful but as Elana would tell you, it seriously tasted like fall – great purchase! Unfortunately for my self esteem though, this french speaking experience went a little less smoothly. Cue me trying to converse with the adorable french guy behind the counter (who informed me he know un peu de English) by telling him that the amount he had selected was “muy bien”… with the worst part being that I tried it in a french accent – gen parfait. Oh well, made for some good laughs as we continued our walk towards a remarkable coastal overlook where the perfectly blue-green ocean flawlessly crashed around us. True beauty.
After winding our way back into the city, we were whisked away by our bus to a nice, late, long lunch in a winery back in Spain. Fortunately, we’re finally getting used to these affairs so there was far less complaining than in the past and we happily filled ourselves with bread, mystery paella, the typically chicken and fries, and coffee. We may or may not, however, have played with the flan instead of eating it. Five Years Old, yes. When lunch ended we set forth to Loyola, the birth place of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits. The architecture of this place was remarkable, with the interior of the house being dedicated to depicting Ignatius’ journey to sainthood. After some words about the formation of the copula in the cathedral, we were Bilbao bound again and thus ended our to southern tip of France and a northern part of Spain.
Now for Saturday night! Background info first – last monday, like 8 days ago, I was looking through the weekly Spain activities e-mail sent out by CIDE and saw amongst the normal theater and cine postings a message about a Bilbao Night Marathon. Intrigued by the prospect of a race in a country where everyone looks at you funny when you go for a run, I clicked on the link thinking maybe I would convince some friends to be downtown when this was going down so we could watch part of it only to discover that in addition to the marathon race happening October 22nd at 9:30pm there was also a half marathon and a 7.5km. No way could I possibly dream of running the marathon (although it’s def on the bucket list!! whose joining me in the future???) but the last one was right up my alley and I immediately decided it had to be done. I don’t really know what to thank this spontaneity to, I mean I had never signed up for a race before even in the US. I love running, but I do it on my own or with a few friends along a path that I pick out for however long I feel like going, you know all within my comfort zone. But regardless, I messaged a few friends and before long three of us had signed up.
Wow, what a wonderful decision!! There is nothing that can compare to the atmosphere that we found surrounding the Guggenheim in downtown Bilbao Saturday night. Thousands of people were crowded around waiting for the races. The marathon and half marathon started 10 minutes before our nice little short race so we were able to take in everything from the fireworks along the bridge that leads to our university to the announcer counting down to the start of race in Spanish. So much fun. When it was our turn, Cathy, Elana, and I packed ourselves into the starting area, excitedly noticing that Christie and Kelsey were there to cheer us on. We tried to join in on what we thought was going to be another spanish count down only to find out this time they were speaking basque, oops, and then we were off. I will never be able to accurately describe the feeling of racing down the streets of Bilbao that I’m just beginning to feel familiar with, seeing traffic stopped in all directions to let us through, and hearing the cheers of hundreds of spaniards who were lining the street to simply cheer us on. Since most girls really don’t run in Spain, we were the recipients of several encouraging shouts such as “venga chicas” and “anima”. But the best part by far was the little children waiting with their hands out for high-fives whose faces lit up the second you extended yours. Made my night. During the race, I felt so surrounded by the joyfulness of these people, who to my surprise were still completely full of energy at 10:00 at night – only in Spain! 42 minutes later, Elana, Cathy, and I happily crossed the finish line (where people still stood clapping and cheering – what patience they have!!) totally and completely content with our ability to say that we completed a race in Spain and feeling more in touch with the city than ever before. Thanks for your love Bilbao!!
This week is going to be a short but busy one. I had two classes Monday and today’s a holiday so two classes Wednesday and two classes Thursday are all that stand between me and Ireland. Say what? Dream country here I come.