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


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the Camino experience

A month ago yesterday, I arrived on foot in Santiago de Compostela, a city in the northwestern corner of Spain, after hiking the last 200km of the Camino de Santiago. The experience was, hands down, the most incredible of my life to date. Even a month later I’m finding it really difficult to put it into words. Part of that could be that I went immediately from the Camino to the whirlwhind of moving back to the US, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think I’ll be processing the experience for months, or maybe even years to come.

Maybe you’ve never heard of the Camino and don’t get what all the fuss is about. Maybe you’re curious about it or even considering taking the plunge yourself, and you’re hungry for advice, insight, inspiration. Or maybe you’re a fellow former peregrino (pilgrim) and you know just exactly how I’m feeling. Even though everyone has an entirely different experience on the Camino that is very uniquely their own, there is something that connects every peregrino del Camino.

No matter which category you fall into, I hope I can share a little Camino magic with you today.

So…what IS the Camino de Santiago?

The Camino is a famous pilgrimage of Christian origin that has been around since Medieval times. Legend has it that the remains of St. James were brought from Jerusalem to what is now Santiago de Compostela. For over 1200 years now, people have been making this journey on foot to pay homage to the Saint.  The pilgrimage was recently re-popularized by this 2010 film, which rather accurately portrays the fact that nowadays, the tens of thousands of people who set out to do the Camino each year have widely varying reasons for doing so: some religious and some not at all.

There are several routes one can take to reach Santiago. Traditionally, pilgrims set out for Santiago from their own homes, wherever they might be. There are still some people that do that today, but typically people choose a place to begin along one of several routes, based upon the amount of time they’re able to dedicate to the journey. The most famous route begins on the French-Spanish border in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France and heads down through Pamplona, across north central Spain and up into the mountainous terrain of Galicia in the northwest of Spain for the last 200km stretch. From beginning to end, this route takes most pilgrims about a month. Pressed for time, my friend and I did only the last 200km which are, as many have said, “the most difficult, but the most beautiful.”

Who does the Camino de Santiago?

Anyone. Everyone. According to my guidebook, two-thirds are Spanish people, and among the third that are foreigners, the Germans and French dominate. But I met people from everywhere: Australia, South Africa, Japan, the US, Brazil… Most are in the 25-35-year-old range, but the next biggest group is probably the 50-80-year-olds.

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Why do people do the Camino de Santiago?

As I said before, modern-day pilgrims’ reasons are quite varied. Some are religious, some are looking for an answer to some question they have in their life, some are doing it in honor or memory of a loved one, others are alt-tourists looking for a more adventurous way to spend their holiday. I personally wanted to do a portion of the Camino as a sort of capstone on my experience of living in Spain for over two years. It was a time for reflection and clarification. You can’t go into the Camino knowing exactly what you’ll get out of it, but I can just about guarantee the one thing you won’t feel at the end is regret for having done it.

In our room at an albergue in Palas de Rei: "In our room at an albergue: "Don't run, pilgrim. It doesn't matter how far you go, but rather who you are, how you feel and who you're with."

In our room at an albergue in Palas de Rei: “Don’t run, pilgrim. It doesn’t matter how far you go, but rather how you are, how you feel and who you’re with.”

What does the Camino de Santiago look like?

If you don’t already know, Spain is a land of incredibly varied landscapes. The main route take you from the rocky Pyrenees into the lush green Basque Country, my beloved former home. There’s a flat, dry stretch through the high plains of north-central Spain and the final third of the journey is once again very mountainous, and quite green.

Sometimes you’re walking on the shoulder of a highway, other times you’re walking along a shady, forested path. You’ll pass through big cities, small towns and tiny villages. You’ll see lots of farm animals and have to dodge a lot of manure.

There’s a video at the end of this post that might give you a better idea of what the Camino looks like.

What does the Camino de Santiago sound like?

Mornings are peaceful. Birds chirping. The crunching of your feet on the rugged paths. The other pilgrims you pass along the way wishing you a “buen camino.” You’ll probably be lost in thought, or maybe having an enlightening conversation with your Camino companion(s) or a random peregrino you’ve just met.

Afternoons are more challenging. You might be noticing the sound of your breath more and thinking you sound tired. Maybe you turn on your iPod to block that out for awhile.

Evenings are joyful and then peaceful once again. You’ll talk and laugh with the other pilgrims over dinner and vino, then face-plant into your pillow at the albergue.

What does the Camino de Santiago smell like?

Manure, mostly. Sometimes flowers.

What does the Camino de Santiago taste like?

Espresso and fresh fruit in the morning. More espresso and Spanish tortilla in later morning. Tuna empanadas or salami bocadillos for lunch. Cold beer pick-me-ups. Three home-cooked courses for dinner, washed down with fantastic Rioja wine.

before bedtime ritual: journaling and wine

before bedtime ritual: journaling and wine

What does the Camino de Santiago feel like?

The Camino feels like an analogy to life. There are peaks and valleys, easy stretches and treacherous ones. There are times when you feel like you can’t go on and a friend picks you up, and times when you’re the one offering a shoulder to lean on. There are times to be serious and times to laugh and realize life can’t be taken too seriously.

The Camino feels like freedom. Freedom from the modern-day construction of what life is “supposed” to be. A blast to the past, a much simpler time. No responsibilities except putting one foot in front of the other, all day, every day.

The Camino feels like unfettered emotion. The usual day-to-day emotional hindrances are gone, and you’re left to really feel your feelings. You might get really sad about the heart-breaking things of the world and then look up at the landscape around you and cry tears of joy at the beauty of it all.

In the mountains of gorgeous Galicia

In the mountains of gorgeous Galicia

I leave you with a video I compiled of my footage of the journey. Here you’ll get a sense of the sights and sounds of the Camino. Your sensory imagination will have to fill in the rest.


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a “family” reunion

Yesterday, I was fortunate to be reunited with my study abroad family: the directors of USAC Bilbao. I went along with them and the current USACers on a day long excursión to Gernika and Lekeitio, two little towns here in the Basque Country.

First we went to Gernika (Guernica), a town that is a symbol of Basque culture and is of great significance due to the bombing that occurred there during the Spanish Civil War, causing widespread death and destruction. The bombing, which was ordered by the former Spanish dictator Franco, is widely viewed as an example of terror bombing, inspired by Franco’s hatred for the Basque people and culture. The fact that many of the victims were innocent civilians has made the bombing a significant anti-war symbol, and was even the subject of Picasso’s famous anti-war painting, Guernica.

There was a large oak tree in the center of town under which Basque officials would assemble for meetings. Astoundingly, it was not destroyed in the bombing and is now viewed as a symbol of Basque freedom.

Ibon and I in front of the newest Tree of Gernika

The original Tree of Gernika

After visiting Gernika, we traveled to a txakoli (Basque white wine) vineyard up in the mountains overlooking the vast Atlantic. Our adorable tour guide, Ángel, was also the vineyard owner. Listen to him here as he explains why their wine received a 91/100 Robert Parker rating in 2010:

Lys (current USACer) and myself (USAC alum), both of ND!

Beeeeautiful view!

Txakoli tasting time!

We finished up the day with a traditional 3-course Basque meal and brief tour of Lekeitio, a quaint but gorgeous coastal village. We took a somewhat treacherous hike through a hillside forest up to a lookout. The view was worth it!

An bird's eye view of Lekeitio

My Basque "mom", Arantxa!

I was so happy to be reunited with the people that made my last experience in the Basque Country so special.

Here’s to many more memories with the USAC crew!


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Dondequiera que vayas, allí estás.

So…I’ve been in Spain for almost a week now? Whaaaa? It still feels very much like a dream. That’s so cliché, but it really seems that way more than any other time I’ve traveled. I think it’s because my surroundings are so familiar, and I’ve dreamed of them often since I left here last May, so it’s hard to believe that I’m actually physically here again. Add to that sleep deprivation and jet lag and what do you get? Life in La-La Land.

I rather loathe the very journal-esque stlye of this post, but I felt it was best just this once in order to fill ya’ll in on things. I’ve split it up by subject so you can read about whatever interests you.

Livin´la vida vasca:

I spent my first few days here truly living the life of the Bilbao natives as I’ve been staying with my friend Xandra and her mother, both Bilbao natives themselves. We go for coffee at 7, pintxos at 8 and maybe dinner at 9 or 10; all the while visiting with their friends and family in the streets. Never in a hurry. Always enjoying the moment.

I’ve been so lucky to be staying in a home until I find my own place. Xandra and her mother are so helpful and caring. My first day here, Xandra’s mom made me tortilla española immediately upon hearing it’s one of my favorite foods. It was easily the best I’ve ever had. On Sunday, she whipped up some patatas en salsa verde con merluza (a fish commonly served here) which was magnífico.

I spent Saturday buzzing around my old haunts in Getxo and taking in the late-summer sun on the beach. On Sunday, I went to Sopelana with the sole purpose of watching the sunset on one of my favorite beaches in the world. It was completely worth the trip.

The enchanting old part of Getxo

Al atardecer en Sopelana

The new job:

Yesterday morning, I set out to commute to my school for the first time. The school is in a pretty small town right outside Bilbao called Amorebieta. It seems everyone knows where Amorebieta is, but knowing how to get there is another thing. As I’ve said many times, things just don’t tend to be very straight-forward here. There’s a lot of asking random people on the street, backtracking, hurrying and then waiting. I’m lucky though because I’m in contact with the girl who had my job at this school last year, but even with that it’s a bit of a challenge. I walked 20 minutes to where my bus should stop in downtown Bilbao, eventually found it, hopped on and hoped for the best. My directions for finding the school in Amorebieta once I arrive there were this: “stay on the bus until you go through a roundabout with a statue of a giant potato in the middle, then press the stop button. Get off at the next stop, walk straight, turn right and walk up the hill for about 5 minutes, walk across the highway, turn left up another hill and follow the fences all the way around to the front of the school (which is actually the back of the school from the road). Yes, my school is in the boonies. It’s a beautiful area though, really. Pictures to come 🙂

The frightening giant potato statue

Yesterday I just met the teachers I’ll be working with and one class of students. The auxiliaries (my position) are a bit like celebrities to the students, especially in a small town like Amorebieta where I am the only one. They all just stared at me as they passed. Some were saying things like, “Es ella? La americana? Tiene que ser…es rubia!” (Is that her? The American girl? Has to be…she is blonde!) Maybe they thought I couldn’t understand them, but nothing gets past “la rubia” 😉

Today we went to Vitoria, a town south of Bilbao, to the Basque Government headquarters for our official welcoming ceremony. It was less than thrilling, especially since a good portion of the ceremony took place in Euskara, the Basque language that none of us auxiliaries can speak or understand. They redeemed themselves, however, by serving us complimentary pintxos (tapas/small dishes) and wine over the noon hour.

The piso hunt:

The rest of today was spent in the seemingly never-ending search for a good apartment. It’s not that there aren’t apartments available in Bilbao. There are thousands. It’s just difficult to know what you’re getting into when you’re wheelin’ and dealin’ with sometimes manipulative and often cranky landlords that don’t speak a word of English. I’m sure that foreigners get taken advantage of often when it comes to renting apartments in any part of the world, and I was just doing my best to avoid that while also trying to arrange something with people I would get along with and in a place that wouldn’t add much to my already lengthy commute to work. All of these factors added up quickly and caused a lot of stress in these past few days.

Another girl in the program, Hillary, and I have been looking for apartments together since we got here. The hunt for an apartment is a very different thing here than it is in the States, because most people here actually OWN apartments since there are no houses inside the city. Some apartments are still rented though, and they are usually specifically for students and therefore come completely furnished. We scoured Spanish piso-rental websites like EasyPiso.com and Alkila.net for hours and hours. We called and called and called some more, having several awkward, language-barrier-filled conversations with landlords and potential piso-mates. Everything seemed to be a dead end. Discouraged and exhausted, we decided to take the advice of some of the teachers and find an apartment the old-school way: by looking for signs around the city with the little pull-off tabs with phone numbers on them. We took a few and then sat down in a park to make some calls.

The first call was to the only ad that had actually listed the price of the apartment: something we figured was probably a good sign. The landlord answered and was quite friendly. She asked what I was doing in Bilbao, and when I told her I was working for the Basque Government teaching English in Amorebieta, she said “No me digas (no way)….a girl who lived in this apartment last year was doing the same thing!” So, yes. Out of the thousands of apartments in Bilbao, I am ending up in the same one that Stephanie, the girl who had my job in Amorebieta last year, lived in. I immediately called Stephanie to ask more details about the place, and she couldn’t believe the coincidence. Hillary and I went to see the place, and it is huge and just fabulous. And since we had Stephanie’s word that both the apartment and landlord are totally legit, we couldn’t say no. It’s a 3-bedroom, and she offered us a discounted price while we are looking for a third roommate. But when we returned to Hillary’s hotel tonight she had a message from another girl in our program who is looking for a place to live. We called her, and voila, we had our 3rd compañera. We’re all the exact same age AND all grew up in small towns in the Midwest/Central US (ND, CO, MN to be exact). All of those coincidences just make the world seem so small!

The apartment we are moving into tomorrow is in Santutxu, a nice neighborhood in the Bilbao center, right by Casco Viejo, the beautiful old quarter of the city. We’re all so excited to finally get settled into our own place.

Thanks for reading!

Hasta luego, ¡Agur!


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So, are you all packed?

Why is it that whenever you’re leaving for a trip, the only question people can think to ask you is, “So, are you all packed?” Perhaps it really is the first thing that comes to mind, or maybe it seems to them to be the least invasive question to ask someone who is leaving for a long time, but for some reason it always gets on my nerves.

What does “packed” even mean? Belongings all rolled up and cuddling in your zipped suitcase, waiting for you at the door on the eve of your departure, ready to be whisked off to the airport? I’ve been on a lot of trips, and by that definition, I’ve NEVER been “packed.”

I keep telling people that I’ve packed “mentally.” When I shared this notion with my dear friend Jackie yesterday, she chuckled and shared my sentiment that packing “mentally” is half the battle.

I’ve been paring down my clothes, electronics, books and other belongings all summer: selling them to Plato’s Closet, on eBay, etc. In a roundabout way, this is part of the packing process I am in now. With less belongings to sort through, I’m able to more easily decide what really needs to come along with me.

My packing situation couldn’t be more ideal: I’ve been able to spread my belongings into an organized mess across several hundred square feet in my parents’ basement. This has allowed me to make my bedroom my mess-free sanctuary. This is essential for the neat freaks out there (like myself), for whom this level of disorder can induce serious health issues, ranging from headaches and hernias to complete insanity.

I made my older brother’s ex-bedroom into “Pack Station Central” for my clothes. I started all items in the “Probably” pile and gradually moved them into the “Definitely” pile in order of importance as space in my suitcase would allow.

Pack Station Central

I’ve spent the most wonderful summer at home with my parents. I’m going to miss them so much I can’t even think about it. Tonight, we enjoyed a fab home-cooked salmon dinner together tonight, complete with some fine Rioja wines in celebration of my move back to the land of vino tinto.

Some fine Rioja wines

So now, on the eve of my departure, I would say yes: I am all packed. My suitcase might not be zipped and at the door, but everything is ready. And so am I. I’ve been saying goodbyes for weeks now, and it has been draining. It is time to get on the plane!

My last ND sunset


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Al final…

Last week marked 100 days since my return to the US. The summer is gone, and I’ve begun my final year of college. It seems almost innappropriately late to be summing up my previous semester abroad, but I’ve struggled to bring myself to this point. Each time I added ideas to my draft for my last entry, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Something about hitting the “Publish” button just made everything seem so final; like it was really the end. Certainly the experience itself has come to an end, and for that I am very, very sad. Sometimes I have Spain-related mini-breakdowns. I’ve likened this to the feelings you get after a breakup– everything little thing reminds you of them, it hurts to think about it, etc. It’s really the same way with leaving behind a wonderful home and an incredible time in your life.  But the countless memories and lessons learned carry on. I want to share a little bit about those lessons and reflections.

One last round of Spanish delicacies in Plaza Mayor of Madrid.

Kcohs erutluc. Our advisors and profs told us to brace ourselves for the infamous “reverse culture shock” upon our return home. I will say that, in my experience, it is a very real phenomenon,  but not in the way I was expecting. I would describe it as a more paradoxical phenomenon in which everything is amazingly familiar and “normal”, but uncomfortably foreign at the same time. You come back to your old house, your old friends, your old hang-outs, and instead of it feeling like you’ve been gone forever, it feels like everything picks right back up where it left off. The life you had abroad seems like a different life and time altogether–one that bears almost no resemblance to your “real” life you’ve returned to. It’s a frustrating feeling that is difficult to describe.

Here are a couple of more tangible, specific examples of this “reverse culture shock” that occurred on my very first day back in the US:

I remember that the day I flew into Minneapolis, my parents and I went to a Subway. This was my first time really being in “public” back home, other than at the airport. Two very strange things happened. The first was that I thought I recognized almost everyone eating in that Subway, but the chances of me actually knowing any of them were slim to none since we were still 300 miles from my home. So why did I think all of them were friends or acquaintances? For the first time in several months, I was surrounded by people who looked like myself, my American friends, and my family. In my day-to-day life I had been interacting with people who looked very different than me, so my brain must have seen these familiar-looking people and thought “Hey, look! It’s ‘so-and-so’!” Bizarre. The second strange thing that happened at that Subway was that a stranger smiled at me as she passed me on her way out the door, and I was so thrown off by it that I didn’t even smile back. I learned very quickly that in Spain, if you smile at someone, they assume you know them. This can cause for a pretty awkward convo (“Oh, sorry, I don’t know you…I was just smiling because…it’s what I do…never mind”) and therefore I learned very quickly to maintain a relatively blank expression when I met eyes with a stranger. I’m happy to say I’ve fully readjusted to the Midwest’s friendliness and I’m all smiles 🙂

Beyond the obvious hugely valuable gains in language and culture, I took away a few awesome life lessons from my time abroad. It would be a surprise to me if anyone has ever used the words “laid back” to describe me, but I think after my time in Europe I’ve definitely moved down the spectrum from away from “high-strung” and more toward “laid back.” I tend to need to plan things and don’t adjust particularly well to a deviation in plans, but there were so many situations during my travels in which things went wrong that were totally beyond my control that I was forced to adapt and chill out after awhile. Also, being in an environment where every little thing you do requires way more effort than usual (i.e. because it’s not in your native language) better equips you for many difficult situations. You can take a lot more stress and deal with it more effectively. That in itself is a pretty life-changing thing to make improvement on.

Me with my all-Spanish surf school classmates. Receiving surfing instruction in another language was a challenge!

Another “life lesson” that really defined my experience abroad was learning that less IS more in regard to material things. If you were to graph the number of items I packed for each trip through the semester, you would see a steady decline. I learned that the more things you brought, the more you were responsible for, the more you had to carry, the more you had to think about, the more stressed you were, etc…I think this is a harder lesson for girls to learn than it is for guys. Guys don’t typically have to think, “Well, what shoes will I wear with this outfit? And I can’t choose between my volumizing mousse and my straightening serum….I just can’t…” But you can. And you do. You figure out how to get by with less and less, and it is the most liberating feeling ever. When I got back to the US, one of the first things I did was sell and donate over half my old wardrobe. The less I own, the less I have to store, move, and worry about in general.

The final big ticket lesson I came away with was enjoying every moment. Not to get all philosophical or sappy on you, but all you really have is this moment. You can’t guarantee anything for 5 minutes from now. Get over the hang-ups of this moment and start enjoying and appreciating all the greatness around you.

So many things gained from this experience are countless, but I’ve come up with a few examples of quantifiable things from my time abroad.

So here it is: my 5 months abroad by the numbers:

19,112 miles traveled by plane
5,176 miles traveled by bus and train
142 total days spent abroad
140 (or more) cafés con leche consumed (about one for each day!)
80 bottles of fine Rioja wine savored (conservative estimate…)
50 rides across historic Puente Colgante
35 napolitanas de chocolate eaten (1 for each of Juan’s classes…soy chocolate adicta!)
30 wonderful new friends (fellow USACers!)
20 Bershka shopping sprees
16 European cities explored
10 surfing lessons attended
6 countries visited
5 major city metro/subway systems mastered (Bilbao, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London)
4 upper-level Spanish courses completed
2 major cultural immersions (Spanish and Basque)
1 experience of a lifetime
Thank you to everyone who has read meggrblog. I hope you’ve found it to be a good source of information and/or entertainment. I do plan to continue blogging in the future, and I’m currently working on a new focus for that blog. Please check back here for a link to the new blog in the near future.
As they say when parting ways in Bilbao, “¡Vale, venga, hasta luego, AGUR!”

Looking out at the vast Atlantic on one of many cliff hikes in Getxo


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Where is “home?”

I failed to complete a blog post in my finals days in Spain amidst the craziness of wrapping things up and saying goodbye, but after only a few days back home I am still mostly in the mourning phase of leaving my former stomping grounds. “Are you glad to be back?” That is the million dollar question I have gotten over and over in recent days. The short and sweet, but complicated answer is “Sort of, but not really.” The comforts of home are great, and I’ve been soaking them in to the max. I’ve been pounding Diet Coke (Coca Cola Light is far from the same, trust me), enjoying how crisp my clothes are after drying  in a dryer, taking in some American television, zipping around in my car and catching up with friends I haven’t seen in months. But at this point, all of those things can hardly make up for what I am missing about Spain.

One of my last sunsets in Getxo

Me at Sopelana beach, where I took surf lessons and spent many sunny afternoons

I miss the beach, tortilla de patata, fabulous red wine, cafes on every block…I miss our crazy USAC group and the constant action and excitement we created each and every day. I am quickly realizing some even deeper things I miss too, like certain aspects of the lifestyle there: the great importance of social interactions among family and friends that is so evident in their day-to-day lives, the more laid-back way of life, the active lifestyles of the people that spans all generations. I’m sure that this list will only grow as the days go by. I’m not trying to hate on “home”, but it’s tough leaving such a wondrous place and returning to reality.

If only I could work and go to school and do the things I need to do here, but efficiently transport myself to Spain in my free time. To solve this problem, I think I may dedicate my life to the science of teleportation. Wish me luck with that…


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What’s for dinner?

I love food. My family even jokes that I must have a separate “dessert stomach” due to the fact that no matter how stuffed I am, I can still manage to put down a dessert. So what have I been filling my dessert (and normal) stomach with here in Spain? I wish I could say that it has been only the finest European cuisine, but the fact remains that I’m a just a poor college kid, and that makes eating “well” very tricky. I do cook a decent amount of food for myself at my apartment, and I attempt to stick to relatively healthy choices that are still cheap such as rice and beans, vegetarian pasta and omelets. What I make for myself at home really isn’t much different from what I make in the States, except that the produce here is a lot more fresh…which reminds me of a story…*sidetrack*

One time, in one of my classes with our beloved teacher Juan, I wanted to say that I’ve noticed that the produce here doesn’t last as many days as the produce I get at home, but that this probably just meant there weren’t as many preservatives in the products. Being the savvy Spanish student that I am, I figured the word for preservatives would be “preservativos.” I mean, wouldn’t you? It turns out that is the word for condoms. So I literally said, “The fruit doesn’t stay fresh as long because it doesn’t have condoms.” Needless to say, I will never forget the word for preservatives (which evidently is “conservantes.”)

I have become increasingly less picky throughout my life, and a large part of that can be attributed to my travels. What is a “normal” or “typical” food to eat can vary greatly depending on the region or country. I have been very open-minded about trying other foods typical of the area that I never would have dreamed of trying in my life. I’ve tried some of the most unique Basque delicacies such as calamares en su tinta (squid in their own ink), baby eels, blood sausage and bacalao al pil-pil (cod in an emulsion of oil and garlic.) These are especially impressive attempts considering I would barely touch seafood just a couple of years ago.

Squid in their own ink

Baby eels

This article would not be complete without a mention of paella. Paella is, hands down, my favorite Spanish dish. On the surface, it seems rather ordinary: rice and seafood mixed in with some vegetables. I think it is the key ingredient, saffron, that makes it so special. The combination of the freshness of the seafood, exploding flavors of pepper and onion, succulent saffron and cooked-to-perfection rice makes for a mouthwatering Spanish specialty. I’m probably going to have to go eat some now.

Mmm...paella

One Spanish food that I simply canNOT get on board with is ham/pork (shh don’t tell the Spaniards!) This is due, in large part, to one fateful night as a child when I bit into a piece of ham to find what I believed to be a pig’s tooth (it was just fat.) My aversion to ham has existed ever since. Pork in Spain is like a god, and it comes in more varieties than I would have ever thought necessary. I have had exactly one pork dish in Spain that I’ve enjoyed, and I don’t expect there to be another.

Probably my favorite part of Spanish cuisine is their beloved beverage: vino tinto. I could drink red wine every single day, and while living here I pretty much have. It’s a huge part of their culture, and some of Europe’s finest vineyards are just down the road from Bilbao in a region called La Rioja. It is a part of virtually every lunch and dinner, and most menus del día include it in the price of the meal. At grocery stores, you can get a bottle of red wine for as little as 75 cents, but a ¨classier¨bottle may cost you around 6 or 7 euros. Oh, how I will miss those prices when I´m back in the US!

¡Buen provecho!