Spain, Take 2

The famous Guggenheim

The famous Guggenheim, at sunset

So I’m back in Spain. I’ve been here for a whirlwind of a week. I wasn’t sure what I should expect Round 2—after all, I was already familiar with Spanish food, culture, habits, language. . . would things be the same in the North? Would the novelty wear off too quickly, and make me miss the U.S.?

The answer is, Round 2 in Spain is like the Round 1 do-over. I’m able to experience everything I loved the first time (beautiful cities and architecture, an emphasis on social life, endless cafes con leche), and improve on everything I struggled with (dealing with Spanish bureaucracy, getting a cell phone plan, finding an apartment) —all the while diving in already fluent in Spanish, which makes the transition exactly 300 times easier.

During my year abroad, I only visited Bilbao for three hours. During that small window, I saw enough to know I wanted to return. But Bilbao has exceeded my expectations, and is truly an amazing city. Many people only stop long enough to see the famous Guggenheim museum (as my family did during my study abroad year), but here’s why it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places in Spain:

It’s a good size, but not overwhelming (population ~ 350,000, reaching 1 million including its outskirts); it has colorful and regal architecture; a charming river winds its way through the city, with great parks and walkways along both sides; Bilbao is nestled in between luscious green mountains on three sides, and opens up to the Atlantic Ocean on the fourth, with its many gorgeous beaches; pintxos (Basque Country’s version of tapas) are world-renowned and delicious, and they are all laid out on the counter in front of you to make for easy choosing (or if you’re terrible with decisions like me, it’s actually a whole new level of difficulty); Bilbao has a metro so clean that you could drop your gum on the ground and then continue to chew it—and I’ve never seen an underground system with so little graffiti! Also, it rains a lot here, which makes you appreciate the sunny days all the more. Eager to take advantage of the dwindling summer weather, I’ve already been in the ocean here more times than I went in my 3 years living on the beach at my university in California.


The beach, only a 20-minute metro ride from the center of Bilbao

More to come soon, but as I continue to take everything in I’m finding it a little hard to put into words—not a ringing endorsement for the title of this blog :)