8 días, 8 pueblos

I have had an incredible week traveling with the other students in my program and it’s hard to believe that orientation is almost over.

We passed the remainder of last week in Santander finishing up the language intensive, and even though we were in classes during the days, at night we got the chance to get out an explore the city. Some highlights were visiting the adorable pueblo of Santillana del Mar, befriending our waiter (camarero) at our restaurant on Wednesday night, eating churros and watching fireworks (fuegos artificiales) on the beach with some Santander natives who taught us how to say “gossip” (cotillar), “hold hands” (ir de la mano), “tide” (marea), and “lighthouse” (farro).

After the end of classes on Friday, the whole group spent the afternoon and early evening in Comillas, notable for the Palacio de Sobrellano and El Capricho de Gaudi, both architectural marvels.

On Saturday, we drove from Santander to Bilbao. On the way we stopped at an anchovy factory (all I can say is, yuck), but also stumbled across a “mercadillo” with stands selling everything from produce to knockoff handbags to underwear (seriously, there were several stands selling exclusively underwear).

I loved Bilbao. My friends and I spent the first day in the Guggenheim Museum, which was beautiful inside and out. I unfortunately wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the art, but I especially liked the exhibits dedicated to the artists Lucio Portana and Jenny Holzer. The city was bustling, the old part of town was beautiful, and the weather was ideal (when there was no sirimiri, what locals call their light, but frequent, rain).

On Sunday, we took a day trip to San Sebastián. We happened to visit on one of the liveliest days of the year for the city, the annual regatta. Although the local boat didn’t win, my friends and I still got to enjoy the festive atmosphere and even stumbled into a miniature parade (desfilo) of the winning team’s fans. It also wins points for having the most beautiful view yet.

Our last night in Bilbao, after a few of my friends and I made an impromptu trip to the circus, all nine of us in my program congregated in one of our hotel rooms to chat. We decided that we hadn’t gotten to know each other in English, so we took a couple hours’ break from our Spanish immersion. It was a late night of sharing stories, but it was nice for all of us to be able to comfortably and fully express ourselves for the first time since meeting last week.

My sleep deficit on Monday night made yesterday a bit difficult. Most of the day was spent at the Atapuerca archaeological site and the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos and, while both were interesting, my sleep-deprived brain struggled to keep up with the tour guides’ rapid Spanish. We spent the night in Burgos and had time to explore the city’s beautiful cathedral this morning.

That brings us to today, the last full day of the orientation tour! As I write this, I’m sitting on a bus headed towards Salamanca, where we’ll have a guided tour of the city and the rest of the day free to explore. Tomorrow, we’ll be on the road for almost the full day until we arrive in Córdoba and go home with our host families.

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