Hiking to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Since moving to Bilbao, I’ve spent a lot of my weekends hiking and exploring! Basque Country is also known as The Little Switzerland because it has so many mountains. After living in Ohio my whole life, living around mountains is such a nice change from the flat farms I’m used to! My first hike I did was  one of my favorites and definitely my most memorable. Two of my auxiliar friends and I decided to hike from Bermeo to Bakio and make a stop at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (pronounced: GAZ-TEL-U-GA-CHE). Our hike overall looked (something) like this:

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We took the bus from Bilbao to Bermeo (about an hour). Bermeo is right on the coast and had a beautiful port.

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On the way to the mountain, we ran into a market in Bermeo and took a few minutes to explore it! It was adorable.

Different kinds of tea leaves

Different kinds of tea leaves

After that, we began our ascend into the mountain and after some climbing, we could see a view of Bermeo.

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When you leave the pueblos in the Basque Country, there are a lot of farms and random houses along the roads in the mountains. Whenever I hike, I always see more animals than people….sheep, cows, chickens, etc. I always get a good laugh from the farm animals in Spain.

Get some serious side eye from the cows

Get some serious side eye from the cows

After about 3 hours of hiking, we reached San Juan de Gaztelugatxe POR FIN (okay, let’s give it a nickname… SJDG for short)! The thing about SJDG is you have to hike to it. There isn’t a bus that goes to it, but once you are there, you also have to climb 274 stairs to get to the top. After a hike up a mountain from Bermeo and back down to see SJDG , the stairs were a little rough, but totally worth it! One things I’ve learned through all my travels is that the climb is always worth it (whether it be the Bell Tower in Florence, the million stairs in Cinque Terre, etc).

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After seeing SJDG (and climbing the stairs to SJDG), we were pretty tired. It had been about 5 hours of hiking at this point, but like I said, there is no bus that goes to/from SJDG, so we had planned on hiking to either Bermeo or Bakio. Luckily, when we were hiking to SJDG, we already saw a view of Bakio, so we didn’t really care which pueblo we took the bus back to Bilbao from. We just really wanted to get to the closet bus stop and get back to Bilbao.

Bakio

Bakio

We began walking on the road, thinking we were going the right way only to be greeted with some traffic cones and the road being closed. Did I mention this whole road was uphill? At this point, we were stumped. We thought we were heading back to Bermeo to catch the bus, but the road was closed. A car drove up and we tried to ask them a question, but they weren’t very helpful and they drove off. So there we stood. Three Americans on the coast of Spain by a dead end road, completely exhausted from hiking all day but 5k from BOTH towns with bus stations. The struggle was real. Just when I was running out of hope and coming to terms with the fact that we were going to be walking from SJDG to Bakio, another car sped up the mountain and stopped at the dead end. We asked them which pueblo was closer and they looked at us like we were crazy for considering walking to either. In the car was a lady, man and their child. I heard the lady and man speaking in Basque. Next thing I knew, he was rearranging stuff in his compact car to make room for us! They drove us from SJDG to Bakio. When we got to the Bakio bus stop, the lady promptly got out of her car to check to make sure the buses were still running for us. Once she found out the buses were still running, she let us leave. We graciously thanked her and her family, and then hopped on the bus back to Bilbao. At least now, I can officially check Hitchhiking off my bucket list….

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Have you ever hitchhiked? Do you enjoy hiking? What’s your most memorable hike? 

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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:

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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

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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.

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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:

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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? 

How To Battle Homesickness Abroad

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Hi lovies!

Happy Friday! I’m currently on my way to Salamanca for the weekend, but I wanted to share this blog post (side note: follow my Instagram or Twitter (both @wanderlustkait) for updates during my Salamanca trip! I always post pictures while I’m traveling!). So I wrote a post a few months ago about The Spain Struggle and cultural adaptation, so this is kind of Part II in the series. Now that I’ve had my fair share of culture adaptation and homesickness, I think I’ve finally figured out the key to beating it. I’m going to be completely honest when I say coming back to Spain after spending the holidays in the USA was harder than the first time I left. The travel itself was easier because I knew what to expect when I got here, but leaving my family, friends and Ohio was just a lot harder the second time around. Now I’ve been back for about a month and a half and while it might be that I have readjusted to the culture, I think there is one thing I’m doing a lot different than when I arrived in Spain in September that is making all the difference.

Instead of missing things about home, I am making Bilbao my home.

It’s as simple as that. Instead of missing everything about the USA, I am embracing more things about Spain. I also am beginning to realize that a lot of the things I was missing, I just needed to look a little harder for. For example, my little sister, Emily. It turns out she was living a few pisos down and I just wasn’t looking hard enough. JUST KIDDING. But little things like peanut butter, a yoga mat, a cafe that has to-go soy lattes, indulging in watching #TheBachelor, etc (so many #whitegirlproblems necessities). So if you’re abroad, lonely, homesick and reading this, here’s some simple instructions to get you started. First, leave you house. Go out and get something that reminds you of home. Anything. A book, music, a coffee, a candle, a food. Second, start building your own home in your current city. For me, investing in things that make me feel more at home, are actually turning Bilbao into more of a home for me. And lately, despite all the rain, Bilbao has been growing on me (I can’t believe I just said that!).

I think it’s important for people to remember that when you move abroad, you don’t have to lose yourself. I know all those pinterest quotes are like “LEAVE YOUR IDENTITY BEHIND AND JUST LOSE YOURSELF IN THE TREES AND GRASS OF EVERY CONTINENT AND BECOME ONE WITH THE WIND AND NEVER LOOK BACK” or something, but in all honestly, I think that’s far from the truth (And yes, I’ve probably pinned every single one of those quotes, in case you were wondering). I think the key to battling homesickness is bringing elements of home to you. And I’ve found, the more home I bring to me, the less I feel like I need it, and the more I can truly embrace living in Spain. 

**Note: A close second for the key to battling homesickness was giving someone a hug. Not even kidding. Hug it out. It helps. 

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Have you ever been homesick while being abroad (or just away from home)? What do you think helps battle homesickness the most? 

Celebrating the Holidays in Bilbao

Once November 1st hits, it seems like all the sudden there are Thanksgiving and Christmas ads and reminders everywhere in the United States. Holiday spirit is always in the air, with Christmas music being played everywhere and people gearing up for the winter holiday season. Well, this year, I obviously have not been in the United States for this. I didn’t really even experience fall the way I’m used to it, because Bilbao has such a moderate climate that there is still greenery everywhere. I also have yet to see any snow here in Spain which is also not a surprise to me. What does crack me up though, is how once the temperature drops below 60 degrees here, people are in all out winter gear…like I mean pouffy, knee length winter coats, scarfs that are almost big enough to be a blanket, and boots that could track through a snow blizzard. 

Spain, however, has it’s own holiday spirit. It isn’t the same as the United States, and in my opinion the differences don’t make it any better or worse than in the US, it’s just different. For starters, Spain doesn’t have Thanksgiving. I mean that’s pretty obvious. Not sure why any other country would celebrate the Mayflower sailing over and whatever the rest of the story is (history isn’t my strong suite lol). But despite there being no Thanksgiving here, my American friends and I decided to have a friendsgiving! You don’t realize how easy the US makes it to buy Thanksgiving ingredients until you start shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients in Spain. In the US, the grocery stores usually pile them all in an aisle, but here in Spain, it’s impossible to find certain ingredients. POR EJEMPLO, for Thanksgiving, one of the dishes I was in charge of was sweet potato casserole. What usually goes on top of sweet potato casserole? White marshmallows. Emphasis on the word “white”. Spain doesn’t have plain white marshmallows, not even in the Corte Ingles grocery store (the grocery store that carries more american food, most notorious for it’s peanut butter). So I had to improvise…Image

Two bags of “Chamallows” shaped like Smurfs, a large pair of cooking scissors and about 20 minutes, and I finally had white marshmallows! Other than that small hurdle, our friendsgiving was a huge success and one of my favorite nights thus far in Bilbao. We all invited our flatmates and friends, and for most of the people there, it was their first “Thanksgiving”! My favorite part of the evening was when we went around in a circle and everyone said what they were thankful for. Most people spoke in their native tongue, and even though I couldn’t understand everything, everyone was saying, it was still a really cool moment. Because we have friends from Spain, France, Italy, Great Britain and the USA, there were a bunch of different languages being spoken the whole night and I loved it. Although it was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, that night I found that I had made a new family in Bilbao :). 

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On the US’s “Black Friday”, I did see something really interesting in Spain. I was up early, grabbing a coffee before school at a cafe where they always play the news in the morning. Anyways, I saw an interesting story on the US’s “Black Friday”, and I have to say, it was a litttttle embarrassing. From the outside, in other countries, Black Friday looks dumb. People shivering in lines at 2am, waiting to get something a little cheaper after eating a huge dinner. Lol. NO PUEDO.

Anyways, shortly after friendsgiving, on December 1st, the holiday spirit came to life in Bilbao with lights up all over the city! There are trees up in Indauxtu and Casco Viejo, with shimmering lights on the main shopping street, Gran Via, and beautiful lights draped along all the streets in all the neighborhoods of Bilbao. Image

Seeing the lights around the city really got me in the holiday spirit! Not to mention that the first weekend of December was a Puente weekend, aka 3 day weekend, so I didn’t have school on Friday. Two of my friends and I jetted off to Madrid for the weekend! After experience the Christmas markets in Madrid and their holiday season, I’ve been back in Bilbao comparing it. I went out into the city yesterday with my friend to check out the Christmas markets here. Well, that was a fail because we forgot about the siesta! But we did end up making it to a few after the siesta was over and for the most part, they are pretty similar to Madrid. Less people and less variety, but all in all, the same things. Lots of jewelry, leather, scarfs, bread, chocolate, etc. Along with checking out the markets and lights, no Christmas season would be complete without a white elephant gift exchange and a party! Last night, I got together with my friends for our Christmas party!Image

There were a lot of funny moments during the evening. With different languages being spoken, there is always miscommunications and mispronunciations and it always gives everybody a few laughs. One of the food highlights (all the food was great) was my Italian friend’s Tiramisu. So so so good. I fell asleep dreaming about it. My flatmate is also Italian and I have come to the conclusion that Italian people get an extra cooking gene that nobody else gets, so there food will always be better and there is nothing you can do about it. 

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I obviously do not have any complaints about this holiday season in Bilbao. I think I’m finally settled here and am not experiencing culture shock anymore (I mean, I still have my moments lol). And, it’s hard to not enjoy being somewhere as beautiful as Basque Country where you can go on a morning jog in December, in 65 degree weather, along the coast and have this as the view….

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