10 Things All New Auxiliares Should Know

I remember last year at this time when I was thinking about doing the Auxiliar de Conversacion program in Spain. I had about a million questions running through my head, and I felt like every blog post I read or facebook group post I read was giving me some solid answers, but also some mixed answers on a few different topics. So, I decided to write this for new auxiliares about the top 10 things I think they should know BEFORE coming into the program.

1. It’s in Spain. I know this is obvious, but with the program being in Spain means that it operates under a spanish timeline. What I mean is that everything takes a little longer here. Everything from a visit to a restaurant to getting your NIE card. With that being said, you also won’t find out about your school placement for awhile, and even after you do, you probably won’t get too much information until the first day you walk into the school. Also, basically the whole month of August, Spain is on vacation, so don’t expect any emails regarding your school to be returned then. Unless you get a school director that’s super into technology and communication, which is rare. But remember the positive too–it’s in Spain! Siestas, vino, parties, different culture, travel, etc. 

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

2. It’s run by the Spanish Government. Be prepared for bureaucracy at is finest. It took me FOREVER to get my NIE/TIE because I live in Bizkaia but my school is in Gipuzkoa, so I had to go to San Sebastian police station to get my NIE (just the number), but then had to get my TIE (the actual card) from the Bilbao police station. Why? Not really sure. It really depends on who is working what day and your luck. But in my experience, put a smile on your face and attempt to speak spanish and (most) people will be helpful.

3. Brush up on Spanish BEFORE you come. Listen to music, study general vocab and verbs, etc. Check out my post about learning spanish if you need some ideas!

Don't be this person when you come. (source)

Don’t be this person when you come. (source)

4. Find housing AFTER you come. Don’t agree to anything before you come. It’s better to book a hostel or hotel for a week and figure out where you want to live once you get a feeling of the city or pueblo you’re living in.

5. Come with money. There have been lots of posts in the auxiliares facebook page and the general consensus is come with about $2000-$2500 saved. I came with that much and it really helped me when I needed to quit aupairing and live on my own.

6. Settle first, travel later. Yes, you’re living in Europe and it’s really exciting that you can travel everywhere so easily. But if I could go back and change something, I wouldn’t have traveled so much in the beginning here. It was overwhelming and I feel like now I have a good group of friends who have become my travel buddies and I enjoy the trips I take more. I think trying to settle and getting to know the city you’re living in first is really important. I didn’t feel settled here until late December, then I went to the USA for Xmas and it took me another money after I got home to resettle.

Me, when I got here lolol. I'm still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

Me, when I got here lolol. I’m still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

7. Use social media and word of mouth for private classes. I got the majority of my classes using the facebook groups. People always post about people wanting private lessons, and once you find a family or two, it usually just snowballs to more people wanting them. Be open to teaching both children and adults. I give a lot of lessons to adults and they are my favorite classes!

8. Bring an unlocked iPhone (or other phone that is unlocked). Seriously. This is one thing I STRUGGLED with when I got here. I don’t like to be that person that is attached to their phone, but when you move to a foreign country and are trying to settle, technology is VITAL. You need it to schedule private classes, for apartment searching, maps if you get lost. I didn’t have a working iPhone here until the middle of November (about 7 weeks after I got here) and it was just awful. If you have an unlocked iPhone, all you have to do is get a sim card and pop it in! It’s so easy. I use Yoigo and I love it. It ends up being about 10 euros a month and I have 3G and cheap texting/calling. In Spain, everyone uses Whatsapp, so text message prices never factor in anyways. And I only call for emergencies. I can recharge my sim card online and I do it every 2 months. So just bring an unlocked phone and save yourself the hassle of getting it unlocked here, or worse, having to buy a phone here. 

9. Not everything is going to work out–be flexible. When I first got here, I was a live in aupair. It was awful. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect situation because I would have free rent/food and only had to watch the kids a few hours a day. Well, a few hours turned into a lot of hours and I was overwhelmed and felt like I had no life here. After a month, I quit aupairing, moved out, find an apartment and began giving private classes. Just remember to be flexible and if something doesn’t work out, change it. 

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

10. Just breath! It’ll be fine! It’s going to be overwhelming at times, but it’s an adventure and a HUGE learning experience. The best part is, you’re in Spain, so everything is more laid back here. In the USA, I felt like my life NEVER slowed down and I was always going and stressed. Here, while I was really overwhelmed when I first got here, I did have time to relax and breath once I quit aupairing. So relax, half the struggle is making the decision to come and the first 1-2 months of living here. But like any big change in life, it takes time. You’re not going to feel settled and comfortable over night, but give it time. I really think it’s about making it over that 2 month mark, and then it’s pretty smooth sailing. 

Just go! (source)

Just go! (source)

I hope this helps any auxiliares who are thinking about doing the program! I would highly recommend it. And if you hate it, the time FLIES. I am in month 7 or my 8 month contract, and it seems like I just got here YESTERDAY. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

 

What I’m Loving This Week

Hey it’s the weekend! Yay! 

So here’s a few things I’m loving this week:

1. That I’m currently in Salamanca for a sexy valentines day weekend with my lover Taylor (okay, it’s actually a girls weekend). Follow my Instagram or Twitter (both @wanderlustkait) for live updates on the trip if you want! I always update those while I’m traveling with pictures! 

2. That two of my adorable younger students thought American money had penguins in the middle after I taught a lesson about shopping and we used this as money:

Picture 34

3. This mug. It doesn’t need words. It didn’t need an Instagram filter. It’s that cute.

Wait did I just post a picture of a mug? #postgradproblems

Wait, did I just post a picture of a mug? #postgradproblems

4. The fact that I feel the need to post a selfie on this blog to show you how big the cute mug is, by comparing it to the size of my face. I JUST WANTED EVERYONE TO KNOW IT WAS AN OVERSIZED ROUND MUG AND THAT’S WHY IT’S CUTE. This picture was taken after a workout, so please don’t judge my lack of makeup or hair.

But really, don't judge my hair.

But really, don’t judge my hair.

5. Discovering pink quinoa (will post recipe soon!). Food is always better pink, AMIRIGHT

Picture 39

6. Cosmo Magazine. Also, that it came with a free BB cream. I’m excited to try it out! I love trying new make up, but I will say, I’m a die hard for Aveda face products.

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7. Strawberries. They are everywhere in the supermarkets and super cheap. Nommmssss.

HELLO VITAMIN C AND ANTIOXIDANTS!

HELLO VITAMIN C AND ANTIOXIDANTS!

8. That I saw this view while walking home from work the other night. I love old architecture by new buildings. This building is the Iberdrola Tower and is a famous building in Bilbao. It is actually the only high-rise in the city. Bilbao doesn’t have a skyline full of buildings, so this building really stands out, especially at night when you walk along the Nervión river (the river that runs from the Bay of Biscay through Bilbao). The Basques love to talk about it too, as it’s only two years old and a new addition to Bilbao.

Picture 38

9. That this happened: I taught Valentine’s day puns this week in class (shout out to Jenny for giving me the idea!). This one went over realllllly well with a group of 9 year old boys:

Picture 33

Bad judgement on my part…. “KEITLANNN, what are buns?” -student *clicks to next slide to avoid talking about this with a group of 9 year old boys* “NO GO BACK PLEASE, ohhhh jajajjajaja I know what are buns” -student *whispers to friends in spanish what buns are, everyone laughs*

10. This song.

And that’s it! How are you guys? What are some things you’re loving this week? 

2013: A Year of Travel!

Now that 2013 is coming to an end, I can officially say that it has been the year I have done the most travel. Between road trips around the USA with my friends to backpacking Europe and then moving to Spain, I’ve been to so many new places this year. I don’t make new years resolutions that much, but I can say one of my big goals of 2013 was to travel more. Last year at this time, the idea of moving to Spain was definitely in my head, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to do it, and I’m so happy I did. I talk to a lot of people now about making big moves or big changes, and I think at the end of the day, you’re never going to be 100% sure of anything you do, so you might as well take a chance and go for something instead of living with the awful question of “what if?”. Sure, I still have “what if’s?” about other things that happen in my life–I’m definitely far from perfect, but I’m happy that in 2013, I stopped asking myself “what if I did buy a one way plane ticket and moved to Europe” and I just did it.5ab22a35f1d2cfcc4248b7a437307ad1

In 2013, I didn’t just move to Europe though. I also traveled to places I’ve never been in the USA! In February, I went to Maui, Hawaii for 10 days with my dad. It was absolutely beautiful. I saw whales when we were whale watching, I went snorkeling with sea turtles, I paddle boarded (and went a littttttle too far out in the sea lol) and I got to spend a lot of time with my dad–just me and him, which I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. hawaiihawaii2

In March for spring break, I went on my first official “college spring break” to Panama City Beach with my friends. It was exactly how I imagined it–lots of music, lots of alcohol. lots of beach. Happy I can say I finally did a real “college spring break”. We also stopped by Nashville for a night on the way back, and I fell in love with the city! I never really liked country music until that night, when we were on Broadway Street and in every bar we went  to there was live music. Nashville was definitely a pleasant surprise, because I had no expectations for it and never had really wanted to visit it, but I’m so glad we went.

nashville

In April, I visited Louisville for a night with my mom and sister to run a half marathon. After Lousiville, we went to Nashville for another night. It was different than when I went with my friends, because instead of going out to check out the nightlife, we stayed in the Gaylord hotel and did more touristy things, like checking out the Grand Ole Opry which was so much fun!

nashville2After April, it was May (obviously lol). May was a really big month for me. I defended my honors thesis and graduated from college. The day after I graduated from college, I got offered the position to teach english in Spain, which I quickly accepted without telling anyone. A few days after that, I left to backpack Europe for a month (in this post, it has all the places I went). I’m not going to do a giant review of backpacking, because I plan on doing more posts about that, but I will post a few of my highlights backpacking from the trip.

Eurotrip highlight 1: Getting my first stamp ever in my passport…. (it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but talk to me after you get your first passport stamp!)passportstampEurotrip highlight 2: Falling over when we got off the metro in Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time…pariseiffel tower 1Eurotrip highlight 3: Cliff jumping in Interlaken, Switzerland…cliff jumping in swiss

There were lots of other trip highlights but those were some of my favorites. Another major part of the trip was making new friends and meeting new people! Backpacking Europe was one of my top highlights in 2013, if not the best part. I wish I could go back and do it all over again!

After backpacking Europe in May/June, I took a day trip in July to Chicago with one of my best friends to pick up my VISA for Spain. We went to the Navy Pier, ate Chicago pizza, saw the bean, and just walked around Chicago for the day. I wish I could have stayed the night, or for the weekend, but with my work schedule this summer it was impossible. Even though we were only there for a short day, it was still cool (and by cool, I mean EXTREMELY HOT TEMPERATURES) seeing Chicago in the summer.chicagoBefore I knew it, it was September and I was moving to Spain, the land of vino, tortillas, siestas and fiestas.tortillaspainIf there was a month of complete chaos for me, it was definitely September. I somehow managed to get all my stuff from living in Columbus for five years, home to Cincinnati, to repack my life in a suitcase and take to Spain with me, where I knew literally no one, to start a job I didn’t know that much about. My life felt chaotic from September-November (read: I WROTE A POST ABOUT CULTURE ADAPTATION LOL), but finally started to feel normal again towards the end of December. In October, I took a day trip to Vitoria and a weekend trip to San Sebastian. In November, I went to Paris (again!) for a long weekend and saw everything I didn’t get to see while I was there the first time. I also touched the invisible pyramid…again.pyramind parisIn December, I took a weekend trip to Madrid and fell in love with the city! I have a feeling I’ll be back there…madrid1And in December, I also packed up my things in my giant purple suitcase and traveled back home to the USA for Christmas break, where my trip highlights home have included reading magazines in English, not planning every conversation in my head before speaking and MOST OF ALL, seeing my friends and family. 

If there is one thing I’ve learned this year about traveling, it is the places I visited that I had no or little expectations for, I have the best memories of. For example, Nashville, Switzerland, Vitoria and Madrid. All those places, I had no plans and no expectations, but I ended up falling in love with them. I don’t think you should live your life without expectations, but I do think letting yourself go somewhere without imagining what it is going to be like and without planning every detail sometimes makes for a better trip and a better experience.

As I am in the last few hours of 2013, I am going to leave this post with 2 quotes. The first is what I think everyone should make their resolution if they don’t have one, and the second is for you to take however you want. Happy New Years! d40eb40cf79708d8661b490d50dce738

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How To: Plan Your First Eurotrip

It all started with a pad of bright pink paper and a Starbucks coffee date with my best friend. For the first time, we were getting coffee to do more than cure our hangover and gossip about the night before….we were getting coffee to plan a eurotrip.

We gazed onto the screen of my macbook, looking at pictures of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Cliffs of Moher, Canals of Venice, jotting down places we wanted to visit on the pink pad of paper. But how did we take our ideas and random notes about plane tickets and europoean cities  from the pink pad of paper and turn them into a eurotrip?

It took a significant amount of planning and money, but more than anything the biggest factor in planning your first eurotrip is making the decision to actually do it. People talk about traveling, but the truth is that most people will actually not travel and will make up excuses for why they can’t go. Work, family, money, etc. But the truth is, if you truly want to travel, you will!

STEP 1: Repeat after me: “I’m going on a Eurotrip this year!” Make this your mantra!

Okay, so now that you are going to Europe the next thing is figuring out how you are going to pay for it. Personally, it took me a year of saving and working (while I was a college student) to save for my post grad month long backpacking trip. During my trip, with a few days left, I realized I under budgeted and had to ask my parents for money to get home (checking bags, etc). But it was because of incidentals that came up during the trip that I wasn’t aware of (Ryan Air checked bag fees, 100 euro cab rides when buses didn’t run, unexpected tourist and hostel fees, exchange rates). If you are aware of these and prepare for “life to happen” and things to come up, then you can easily save for your trip! Just make sure to save extra money for incidentals and always have more than one kind of credit/debit card.

STEP 2: Begin saving for your trip…RIGHT NOW! 

How much should you save? It depends on the kind of trip you want to have. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you want to stay in hostels or hotels? Are you going to eat out at every meal? Will you be partying the nights away? Are you doing extreme activities? How often are you changing cities?

Cliff Jumping in Interlaken!

Cliff Jumping in Interlaken!

It is also important to think about the exchange rate. Most European cities use Euros and the exchange rate is 1.35 USD = 1 euro. The city that was the toughest was London because their currency is pounds. The exchange rate is terrible for pounds and it’s 1.65 USD = 1 pound. And when you’re actually in the cities, your brain does this weird thing where it equates everything to dollars. So you think, “Wow! So cheap. Only 20 pounds for that dress.” But that’s actually $33. I will never forget when Lindsay and I checked our bank accounts in the London hostel (our second country) and were shocked! Moral of the story: be aware of exchange rates when planning.

For a backpacking trip, a rough breakdown for what we spent is $1400 for the plane tickets (we booked our plane tickets to/from the US, a plane ticket between Ireland and Great Britain, a plane ticket between Munich and Venice, and a plane ticket between Rome and Dublin) and then $800- $1,000 a week while in Europe. It could have been cheaper, but we chose to do a lot of touristy things like ride the London Eye, paraglide in the Swiss Alps, eat everything we possibly could in Italy lol. So take that into consideration. 

STEP 3: Do you want to do a tour? 

There are many great tour companies that will take you on a great tour of Europe without the stress of coordinating your adventure. If you don’t have time to plan or would just rather have it planned for you, definitely consider going on a tour. Since it was both of our first time in Europe, we decided to do a mix of backpacking on our own and going on a tour. Because we were planning so far in advance, we found a tour for a great deal through the travel company Bus2Alps.

Bus2Alps has various sales throughout the year, and we combined the “Early Bird Special” with an election day sale and booked a 12 day tour of Europe for around 800 euros. The 12 day tour included transportation, hostels, a few dinners, an awesome tour guide and we met a lot of really cool people during our tour! We did the Best of West Europe tour.

If you decide to do a tour and that’s all, then your Eurotrip planning is done (well except for booking the flight, but that’s easy)! Congrats! We chose to do a tour for 12 days of our trip, but we traveled on our own for one week before and one week after. If you don’t decide to do a tour, keep reading!

STEP 4: Where do you want to go?

This one is easy, grab a map and figure out where you want to go.

Our Trip!

Our Trip!

STEP 5: How will you get to/from the places?

The first thing you need to think about is where you will be arriving in Europe and if you will buy a one way or round trip ticket. Round trip tickets are cheaper, but in the end, you will have to buy a train or plane ride to get back to the city you started in order to depart to go back home, so buying two one ways will cost about the same. Once you figure out where you want to start/end and buy those tickets, look into trains and buses that go from each of your other cities. Depending on how long and how many cities you will be in, it might be a good idea to look into a RailEurope pass. They offer a wide selection based on the countries you are visiting. The most important kind of tickets to buy in advance are plane tickets, but if you plan on using trains throughout Europe, you could wait until arriving in Europe to buy them. In general, having a loose plan is always a good idea though. So if you come without train tickets, at least know which ones you are planning on buying and where the train stations are. We had all of our major plane tickets bought and did everything else once we got to Europe. Don’t ever buy bus tickets in advance. Just wait. Trust me. 

TIP: Make a giant bulletin board with the dates of your trip. Use this to plan out what dates you will be in certain cities, and you will be able to see how many nights you will need to book hostels, when you will need transportation and how long you have in each city. We even used ours to write down main monuments/activities we wanted to do in each city.

planning board

STEP 6: Where are you sleeping?

I remember days when Lindsay and I said “NO SLEEP UNTIL THE STATES” but that is a lie. If you are backpacking, you need sleep. I recommend using Hostel World to book your hostels. We booked most of our hostels before Europe and it was great. In general, staying in a “Backpacker’s Hostel” was always the best because they had free tourist stuff, like maps and day trip ideas. They’re also a lot cheaper than hotels.

If you really want to save money, you could always Couchsurf. I’ve never done it, but essentially what it is is sleeping on people’s couches for free! I think this could be a definite hit or miss, but if you’re really trying to budget it could be a great option.

Also, some of my friends have stayed in apartments rented on AirBnB, so you could always check there for good deals. Regardless, you need somewhere to sleep. I would also recommend knowing where you are sleeping before you go to Europe. You don’t want to be stressing out about where you are staying. You’ll want to be stress free to enjoy the European cities!

TIP: Make a spreadsheet with the hostel names, address, phone number, dates you will be staying, and how to get to the hostel from the airport/bus station. Print out two copies. Give one to your family/friends at home so they know where you will be and use the other for traveling. We did this and it helped us so much! 

Hostel in Interlaken

Hostel in Interlaken

STEP 7: Research and recommendations!

Start researching the cities you will be visiting. Think about what you like to do and what you want to see in each cities. If you’re more athletic, check out hikes or parks in the city, if you’re into art, check out museums and art exhibits. Also, asking people who have been to cities or lived there for recommendations is always a great idea. We got so many great recommendations for Paris and Italy! Talking to people who have travelled before is a great way to get tips on the “do’s and don’t’s” of cities. There will be some cities and days where you will just wander and see where life takes you, but other days where you have more of a plan. Trust me, you will be thankful for those restaurant recommendations when you are sitting in your hostel, starving and just want to go somewhere good to eat.

STEP 8: Packing. 

Packing has never been my strong suite, but I’ve gotten better. Here are my packing tips: 1. LOOK AT THE WEATHER FOR WHERE YOU WILL BE VISITING AND PACK ACCORDINGLY
2. SOCKS AND UNDERWEAR
3. FEBREEZE AND TIDE DETERGENT (TRAVEL SIZE)
4. TOWEL AND SHOWER FLIP FLOPS
5. PLUG ADAPTORS
Also remember, less is more, and you have to carry everything, everywhere (for example, over every canal in the city of Venice, up the 50 million steps in Cinque Terre, up the Eiffel Tower…okay kidding about the Eiffel Tower but the other two did happen, and it was torture lol). Good luck. lol

Step 9: Travel documents

Before you go, make copies of EVERYTHING. Your passport, credit/debit cards, drivers license, travel insurance, etc. Give one copy to your family/friends and keep one copy of everything with you, in a separate bag from where you keep the originals. For example, if you are traveling with a checked bag and a carry one, keep the originals with you and put the copies in the checked bag. I also scanned them and emailed them to myself so I had copies in my email. Your passport is your life so maybe make like 10 copies of that ;).

passport

Step 10: GO ON YOUR TRIP! 

Don’t think, just go. It’ll be great. And if all else fails, just remember you’re in Europe. Life could be worse. 

Before leaving the USA!

Before leaving the USA!

Ejercicio en Espana vs. Estados Unidos

So the first thing I did in Spain (even before opening a bank account or getting a metro card) was join a gym. Throughout college, I always found myself at the gym late at night (shout out to OSU for having gyms open until 2am!) and running half and full marathons at least once a year. So I knew once I got to Spain, I wanted to keep working out. I’ve been here for almost two months, which has given me enough time to try a few different workout classes and spend enough hours at the gym to really notice some differences. So here’s my top 5 differences between gyms in Spain and gyms in the US that I’ve noticed. 

1. Locker rooms: In the US, people are more private in the locker rooms. Here in Spain, women literally have conversations in the locker room completely naked and it doesn’t phase them.

2. Cleaning machines: In the US, after you are done using any machine the first thing you usually do is head over to grab a wipe to clean it. Here, nobody cleans machines after they are done using them. There isn’t even the option to clean the machine after, as there are no paper towels or wipe dispensers anywhere.

3. Metric system: This is obvious, but I totally didn’t think about it before I came. The weights are in kilograms and the treadmills are in kilometers/hour. The first day I walked into the gym and went to get free weights, I stood in front of them for a solid 5 minutes picking them up to see how they felt to me lol.

gym

4. Cycling classes: The cycling classes here are awesome! It’s like being in a discoteca. The instructor is like a DJ. They mix different songs together but also change the lighting throughout the class. There is literally a disco ball in the middle and it is awesome!!! In the US, in the cycling classes I have taken, the instructor leads you through different hills or intervals and motivates you. However, here, the instructor leads you through different songs. For example, there will be a song with a faster beat, so you pedal faster, etc. It’s really cool and makes the class go by quickly. Most of the music is also American, which is nice for me. So even if I don’t understand everything the instructor is saying, I can understand the music :)

5. Equality: In the US, especially at the gyms at OSU, there is always a clear divide: girls are more in the cardio area and guys are in the weight area. Here, it’s equal. It’s nice because at OSU when I would go to the gyms, I literally never went to the weight area because all the bros were there and it was honestly intimidating. But here, it’s fine. I don’t feel out of place if I want to lift weights (which I don’t really like to do anyways lol but if the rare occasion comes where I want to lift a little, it’s fine).

I’ve also been trying different fitness classes and I will say that I took a yoga class and it was the most unrelaxing yoga class of my life because I had no idea what I was doing–not because I’ve never taken yoga, but it was sooo hard in another language! I can understand conversational spanish when people are speaking directly to me, but following the instructor in the class was a mess! As I’m still learning spanish, I still need it to be spoken slowly and clearly to understand, but in yoga classes it’s too hard to hear the instructor. I’m not kidding when I say everyone was in a downward facing dog and I was like 5 poses behind. The lost American in a class of Spaniards….that was me lol. So I think I stick to classes based on music, like cycling and zumba, until my spanish gets better!

But I have noticed that exercise is a priority here in Spain (specifically, Basque Country, not sure about the rest of Spain). In Bilbao there are bicycle trails along the roads and sidewalks and many people run and cycle along the river every night. Also, every fitness class I’ve ever been to at the gym is completely filled. While everyone here enjoys partying and going out, I’ve noticed that most people equally enjoy exercise and staying fit! 

Top 5 Things About Basque Country (so far!)

So I’ve been here for less than 2 weeks, but I’m already really enjoying being in Basque Country! It seems like I’ve been here longer than I have, but I’m getting into the swing of things. I feel like I’ve done so much in the 11 days I’ve been here. I’ve been to the coast of Spain, Vitoria, gone out in different neighborhoods in Bilbao, spent time in countless cafes, and even made a few friends (woo!). Since I’m clearly such an expert now (11 days living some where makes you an expert, right?), here’s my top 5 things about Bilbao so far (and they all start with P because I thought that would be cool**): 

1. People: Before I came here, I read that people in northern Spain weren’t as friendly as the ones in other parts of Spain. From my experience, everyone has been SO helpful and friendly in Bilbao and around Basque Country. My spanish isn’t very great, and there have been a few times in the city where I’ve been trying to do something on my own (like opening a bank account, finding a store to unlock my phone) and even though I was speaking in Spanglish, people were more than happy to help me. A guy at a store even drew me out a map of Bilbao and told me where all the stores that unlocked phones were and how to get there. I was a little nervous that northern Spain would be similar to Italy for me, but it has been the complete opposite.

2. Pinxtos: No words necessary.5things1

3. Plazas: I love the plazas throughout the city. During the day, people take their morning breaks in the plazas and walk through them to get to work. During the night, they are filled with people of all ages drinking and enjoying themselves. The other night, we went out in Casco Viejo to Plaza Nuevo. Plaza Nuevo is a big square plaza, surrounded by bars. There were people in their twenties like me, but also older people, babies and even dogs at the bars. It was so fun to bar hop in the plaza, and be able to take your copa de vino with you  (no open container law in Spain!).

4. Public Transportation: There are multiple ways to get wherever, whenever in the city. There’s a tram, tons of bus routes, a (really, really clean) metro and a train. Also, Bilbao isn’t that big so you can walk pretty much anywhere within 15-30 minutes. But if you don’t want to walk or want to go to another town, it’s so easy to hop on the metro or take a bus. Everything is also really well labeled.

5. Places: There are so many cool places around Bilbao and within Bilbao itself. Bilbao has different parts of town, like Casco Viejo, Duesto, Indauxtu, that all have different things to offer. You can take the metro from the city and be on the coast within 30 minutes for less than 2 euros. Or you can stay in Bilbao and sight see at the Guggenheim, visit a plaza, walk along the river, shop, take the funicular for a city view, go to a cafe etc. It’s a really cultural city to be in and a really unique part of Spain! I can’t wait to keep exploring! 5things2Instagram

After my adventure in Spain is over, I’ll make another top 5 (or 10 list) and see if things have changed! Adios! 

[**Side note: If wine began with a p, that would have been on the list too. Pwine isn’t a word though. :( ]