A Trip to the North: Oct. 31-Nov. 6

7 Dec

Well folks, another week down. You know it’s been a long week when I am sitting down to write this post and I can barely remember what I did this past week. Oh well. I’ll make sure to note the important things.

First, this has been a good week because of the changing of the clocks. Fun fact, Spain does daylight savings time a week earlier than the US, so for the last week I have only been 5 hours ahead of the good old US of A. And, you might not think that an hour makes a difference, but it does. That means that instead of talking to my parents at 10pm or so, I could talk as early as 8 or 9pm. It really made a difference (aka I was able to go to bed earlier).

So Monday was Halloween, as I am sure you know. Since Halloween in Spain is different than Halloween in the United States, I was not looking forward to it for any reason. Additionally, since November 1 is a Spanish holiday, I knew that my conversation class on Monday was going to be very small. I only ended up having one student and we spend the entire hour and a half chatting about everything from the American healthcare system to cultural differences between various countries. It was a very fascinating discussion and it was nice helping someone one on one. The best part of the class was when I shared a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with her. I remembered her saying two weeks ago that she loves peanut butter so I decided to be a generous teacher and share some of my candy with her (I know, this is a big step for me). Oh, she loved it. While she was sitting there eating it, all I could think was that I was being such a ~cultural ambassador~. Want to get to know American culture? Try some candy! Albeit small, it was a very interesting and insightful class!

I also had the privilege of explaining American Halloween traditions to my Irish boss. He was dumbfounded by some of the Halloween traditions that I hold very near to my heart: hours worth of trick-or-treating, trading candy at the end of the night, keeping close tabs on the candy to ensure that no siblings touched it without permission. He could not believe that we would spend so much time and energy on protecting our painstakingly collected goods. Moments like this are my favorite. To see how shocked he was by my American traditions and having the opportunity to offer clarity on the way my family celebrates holidays is a lot of fun.

On my day off on Tuesday, I decided to take it upon myself to go on a long run. As many of you know, I am not the most athletic Jaeger (although I was the first Division I athlete, but that is a different story….). Anyway, since arriving in Spain, I have started to enjoy running as a way to not only get some exercise, but also to deal with the homesickness that can come with being abroad. And, I decided to test myself by signing up for races. So, in preparation for my first 10k in a few days, I spent Tuesday morning at the track running 5.25 miles. Surprisingly, it was not too terrible. My only goals for the 10k are to finish in less than 1 hour and 20 minutes (since they close the course down after that) and not come in last. I’ll let you know how that goes…

And this weekend, I traveled to Logroño and Bilbao, which are two cities in the North of Spain. While many people don’t necessarily have Logroño on their Spanish Bucket List I did because my friend Morgan is an ETA there. It was nice to take a trip outside of Madrid and see a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a while.

We spent (a rainy) Saturday in Bilbao, which is a lovely port city best known for its Guggenheim Art Museum. So, we spent much of our day inside the museum attempting to understand art and then the remainder of the day wandering around the city. When we arrived at the museum we saw that at 6pm they were showing a movie called “All About Bacon.” And let me tell you, I was very excited that an art museum was showing a movie about bacon (a food that I have missed dearly since departing the United States) until I realized that the movie was not in fact about the delectable breakfast meat, but in fact, Francis Bacon, the artist. I was very disappointed.

While I don’t necessarily appreciate all art in museums one thing that I find very amusing are the audio-guides and worded descriptions of the exhibits and works. The Guggenheim described the architecture of the building in a way that made me shake my head in wonderment: the “sensual curves of the walls” and the “water that caressed the building.” Um, okay? I don’t know who thought to characterize it that way, but I certainly got a good laugh out of it. I genuinely think that I want that job when I grow up because there is nothing that I enjoy more than describing things in comical ways.

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Do you see the “sensual curves” and the way the water simply “caresses” the building?

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Friends in front of the Guggenheim

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Where nature and city meet

One of my favorite moments in Bilbao happened right after I took the picture below. All day it was pretty rainy and chilly in Bilbao. But, we were lucky to have the rain cease for long enough for us to stroll along the river. However, we slowly started to see the dark clouds come rolling in and felt the wind pick up. That’s when we knew that the heavens were about to open. So, we picked up our pace and made it to the bridge shown in the photo. That’s when the rain hit. So just imagine me running over this bridge, cold rain pelting at my face, wind blowing from all sides, one hand on my camera and the other on my umbrella, and praying that my umbrella doesn’t flip inside out. In other words, I’m a mess. But in that moment, all I could do was laugh at my life and think “Here I am in Spain, in the rain, on a Saturday afternoon, running across a bridge towards shelter, hoping that my umbrella doesn’t reverse itself and puncture someone’s eye.” A year ago, I never thought that I would be doing that. Quite the comical scene.

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Trying to make the rain look cute

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Colored buildings means I have to get a picture

And on Sunday we explored Logroño. It is located in the small region of La Rioja best known for its wine. While I don’t think I ever would have traveled there if I didn’t have a friend to visit, it really is a very pretty region. Its air also feels a lot fresher than that in Madrid. The fall scenery was beautiful and the mountainous parts reminded me of regions along the East Coast.

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Fall foliage from the inside of a bus

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Clear skies, fall foliage, can’t lose

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Officially have been on the ‘Camino’ (the famous hiking trail in the North of Spain)

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Trying to look cute in the La Rioja sign

While it was fall in the valleys, it was winter up in the mountains. Yes, that is right, it was snowing. On my way back to Madrid, the bus that I was on got caught in a snowstorm. I had just been thinking about how I would miss seeing snow, but now I can say that I have experienced snow in Spain. The bus driver handled it like a champ. While snow tends to make me an even more cautious driver than I already am (yes, it is possible), this guy was just driving along as if it was not a problem. And, as soon as we made it out of the storm and there was room on the winding, mountainous roads, he passed the car in front of us that he deemed was traveling to slowly. It was quite an interesting experience being on this huge bus while the driver maneuvered through the curving roads and a snowstorm.

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I call this one “Snow in the Mountains from the inside of a bus”

Now that it has snowed, I am ready for the Christmas season to begin!

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