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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spain-In a Few Bites

I had a hard-hit of culture shock when I got to Madrid. I had been spoiled by the country's previous with their inexpensive Street Food. I had to readjust my budgetary expectations. And then there was the language.
My Spanish is rudimentary at best, learned in kitchens, with lots of yelling and swearing. Good enough to get me knifed in Tijuana, but I wasn't sure that it would work for me in Spain. Ultimately it was OK. I didn't starve or get stabbed, so plusses all around.
It helped that I slowly got back into running regularly. And finding a sizeable string of used book shops. Find what makes you happy, and do that.
One of the best parts of traveling, besides the food, is meeting up with fellow Travellers. I was truly lucky that I overheard James chatting in the hostel in Madrid. Although we are literally ages apart, we found a mutual appreciation for the unexpected moments and spontaneous companionship that wandering foreign cities toss your way. It helped that's he's not only a food lover, but also always hungry. That's my life right there.
He's a writer who just started producing amazing new travel books and a blog, One Day In, with articles, advice and awesomeness. Check him out.
In order to balance the city life I do often spend time in more rural places when traveling. I am a small town girl originally. For all of my friends who are road/mountain bikers or trail runners I strongly suggest that if you head to Spain to spend some time in San Román de Cameros. It's idyllic, with mountains soaring, roads winding and views a'plenty.
Then it was on to Bilbao. I was really looking forward to this, as friends had suggested my spending time here.
So there I was in a bar/restaurant that Kathy had recommended eating the traditional Pinxtos (small Basque snacks) that Chef Andy had plugged...
...eavesdropping on the conversation going on next to me, and me being me, I intruded. That is how I spent the next few days hanging out with expat ESL teachers from Alabama, Boise Idaho, Dublin, Wellington New Zealand and Brighton England. Of course one of them had grown up in Boulder Colorado.
When they asked "Want to come along with us?" I said yes! And there I was watching the traditional Basque Semana Santa penance processions of the several Catholic brotherhoods. And you thought Easter was all about bunnies and chocolate, oh how wrong you are!
Time spent in Bilbao must include time spent at the Guggenheim. Not only did I get to wander the museum and see the amazing art, including an Andy Warhol exhibit, but I also did a video call with The Old Bird from outside the museum as it was her birthday.
Then on to San Sebastian.
Above is a pantxineta. A Basque pastry cream filled puff pastry. Ridiculously good.
This is torrija, traditional Basque Easter dessert made with old bread. I will make this.
A few of  the expats met up with me for a day of sights and food. As they had lived for a time there, they were eager to show me the best places for Pintxos in San Sebastian.
Spain does not mess around when it comes to a food culture. They eat, they sleep, and then they eat again!
Kathy had also proposed that I spend time in Hondarribia, which is right along the sea and the border of France. Sections of the famous trail, Camino de Dantiago wind through. So no problem.  Don't mind of I do.
Hondarribia is well known for their Pintxos as chefs have found a welcoming place outside of San Sebastian to showcase their talents.
I entered Spain a bit wary and unsure and left with heart and stomach full and with more contacts added to the ever expanding list.
In France for now.