Santander, Bilbao, & San Sebastián

In case you weren’t aware, I’m back in California, where I’ve been for four weeks now. As much as I adored Spain, I’m not missing it yet because I’m still excited to be back, and I’m just elated to have had the amazing experience I had.

Watching Spain win the World Cup was absolutely incredible. I’ve never been so passionate about a sporting event and team in my life, and I had some really fun experiences watching the games while I was still in Spain and then back in the U.S. I even got to celebrate the championship with real Spaniards in a bar in Vegas! I’m so proud to have called Spain my home for almost a year.

My last day in Spain, I hand-wrote a farewell entry that got lost amid my (still not unpacked) suitcases, but hopefully I’ll post that eventually. For now, I’d like to continue writing about my trips.

In early May, to celebrate my friend Connie’s birthday, we took a trip to the north of Spain to see Santander in Cantabria and Bilbao and San Sebastián in País Vasco (Basque Country). Our flight was delayed by a day thanks to the Icelandic volcanic ash, but we were able to rearrange our schedule, and the next morning we flew out to Santander, which, unfortunately, was cold, rainy, and windy, but we still enjoyed exploring the beach city (and attempting to not get blown into the ocean). As it was Sunday, and most small towns in Europe shut down on Sundays, there wasn’t a lot to see in town, but we saw an old cathedral, walked along the beach, checked out a European Union Day that was going on, and took a funicular to catch a great view of the city and the ocean.

Santander, Spain funicular

View of Santander after taking the Funicular.

We next took a bus to Bilbao, a city I’ve wanted to visit since I saw it on a map of Spain in 8th grade and giggled about the similarity of the name to Bilbo Baggins. Eight years later, I was still giggling about it. After settling in at our hotel, we took the metro (one of the nicest, cleanest metros I’ve seen, second to Madrid’s, of course!) to the Museo Guggenheim. Oh my gosh, stunning. It’s similar to the Disney Concert Hall in L.A. (both are designed by Frank Gehry), but it also has beautiful green hills and a river behind it, and the light was hitting it perfectly when we were there at sundown. We saw the lobby but didn’t pay to go into the museum since it was closing in less than an hour, but we stayed in the area for a long time, taking pictures, listening to live jazz music, eating dinner at a kebab place across the street, and watching the sunset. I’m not big on architecture, but I fell in love with the Guggenheim. Back at the hostel, I had a nice phone conversation with family back home, chatted with the Dutch guy working at the hostel for a while, and worked on that 50-page paper before heading to bed.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

The Guggenheim.

We spent the next day in Bilbao exploring the rest of the city, like the cute main area filled with shops and restaurants. Then we took a bus to our next destination, San Sebastián, another beach city along the northern coast. It’s a small town, but we walked along the ocean and saw the cathedral and shopping area. We had a nice, private hostel room, which was lovely until a drunk Spaniard wouldn’t stop pounding on our door late at night wanting to make friends. Annoying, but funny.

Bilbao, Spain

San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián.

Our last day of the trip, we saw a bit more of San Sebastián and checked out a few pintxo bars, where the bars are covered in small dishes you can choose from and eat tapas-style. We had some delicious pintxos (best tortilla española I’ve ever had, and that’s my favorite food!) and talked to a few people, making it a great way to end our northern Spain trip.

Pintxos in San Sebastian, Spain


Fortunately, our flight home wasn’t delayed, so we took a bus back to Santander (the countryside in Basque Country and Cantabria is beautiful and green!) and a flight back to Madrid. I loved getting to explore Spain by visiting its various regions, and I had an awesome time on our trip to Cantabria and País Vasco.

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