Choosing Bilbao and San Sebastian to spend my Spring break was exactly what I needed: a change of pace, a warmer weather, the beach and loads of delicious food. But I was surprised to embrace the more rebellious culture this side of Spain has to offer. I fell in love with Bilbao the moment I first stepped foot into this beautiful Basque country. It was oozing of vibrant energy, not what I remembered from the Spain I first met 6 years ago. Not that I didn’t love it the first time around.
I came in with little knowledge of their history and culture, and the longer I stayed, the more I “un-learned” and learned about the vast disconnect of the Basque country to central Spain. They had a culture of their own and a language unique to the Basque region called Euskara.
I was obsessed with the streets of Bilbao, indulging in all sorts of art at every corner. There’s even a graffiti tour available, but even if you opt not to join, just simply get lost and take a hike outside the city center to see the masterful facades.
When most of the establishments close for an afternoon siesta, I found myself strolling along the park with the rest of Bilbao. Basketball courts turned into a makeshift dancefloor, young clads show off their latest tricks at the skatepark and children on the streets playing good old football.
Fortunately, I had two old friends whom I’ve met in different parts of my life living in the city. We sat on the ledge, overlooking the Nervion River and enjoyed a few of their local drinks before dancing the night way to Reggaetón music. We all shared stories of how life has been like living away from home and finding ourselves away from our comfort zones.
Prior to any trip, I always make it a point to catch a local production or at least any show that is currently on tour whether it be in theatre, dance or music. Lucky for me, one of my all-time favorite bands was in town. However, I was still unsure whether it was practical to see the same concert twice in a span of a month. (I first saw them in Paris exactly a month before). But I did it anyway.
I can’t say that this was the highlight of my trip, but it definitely sits on top of the list. The venue was a lot smaller, a capacity of only 3500 people. For a band like theirs with such critical fame and success, how often do you get a chance to experience such an intimate setting? The band toured 3 cities in Spain: Madrid the capital then on off to Cataclan’s Barcelona before concluding in Bilbao.
Spain will always have a special place in my heart, maybe it’s my heritage or ancestry rooted in this culture or simply because this was the first country I traveled to alone when I was 16 where I have profound coming-of-age memories.