Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb


Holy Toledo! Welcome to the Basque Country!

**Be sure to check out my Youtube channel for 8 new videos as well as my Picasa albums for many, many newly uploaded pictures!**

Where to begin. The last several days have been so packed with activity that I just can’t cover it all! I left off writing to you from my hotel in Madrid. We traveled on Saturday to the monumentally historical city of Toledo. Toledo was built on a hill…you could even say a mountain, maybe. From the gates and walls to the city to the river surrounding it, it seems like something right out of a fairy tale. The highlight of the trip for me was definitely the famous cathedral of Toledo: Catedral de Santa María. Here is a video of the outside, as we were unable to use cameras inside the cathedral…

If I could sum up Toledo in one word, it would be: magical. To visit Toledo is to step into a time machine. Everywhere you look is an important part of Spain’s history. The way that things there have been preserved since even before the Middle Ages is phenomenal. Check out my travel buddy Ryan’s blog for some info about our trip to Toledo.

The remainder of our time in Madrid was just too short, although for how sleep-deprived all of us were, a change of pace needed. Ryan, Sarah and I walked for hours before sunset and explored a the beautiful park at La Plaza de la Independencia:

clicking my heels together in the park

We spent our last day and night in Madrid exploring the city as much as we could. We topped the night off with sangria at El Secreto,  a wonderful place we found tucked away on a side street in downtown Madrid.

A few of us at El Secreto

On Sunday morning we made the scenic journey from Madrid to Bilbao. There is an unusual amount of snow in Spain right now, so parts of the trip were a bit like travelling in North Dakota. But that didn’t last long. As we entered the Basque Country, the landscape changed, the snow disappeared, and like an illusion, quaint castles and cathedrals began to pop up seemingly out of nowhere along the countryside. Seeing this breathtaking countryside outside of Bilbao was the spark that began my new love for my new home. We were able to see Bilbao from the highway as we came in, and Ibon, our program director, served as our tour guide for our first glimpse of the city. As we entered Getxo, all of us were taken back by the beauty. I don’t think any of us expected it to be so inviting and so astoundingly gorgeous. I couldn’t be happier with my location in Spain.

Perhaps I should explain this Bilbao vs. Getxo business. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country and has 400,000 inhabitants. When including all of the surrounding communities, the population of Bilbao is one million. Getxo is a seaside community (pop. 80,000) that is directly connected to Bilbao. Bilbao has many industries and large stores, while Getxo is purely residential, with small shops, restaurants and bars scattered throughout. My neighborhood is called Algorta, and it is the most mountainous area of Getxo so all of the streets are quite steep. At the bottom of the Algorta neighborhood is the finest beach in Getxo. Not too shabby. I attend school at two different campuses: one which is in an area between Getxo and Bilbao, and one which in the very centrally located in Bilbao. See if you can find Bilbao, Getxo and Algorta on this map.

There is so much more to be said about my time so far in Getxo, my orientations at school, and all the adventures in between, but that will have to wait. I will take some time to get more pictures of where I live as all I have so far are the ones I took from the bus. The video below was taken as we first laid eyes on Getxo from the bus:

¡Hasta la próxima!