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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spain 2015

After my long exhausting work week in Tel Aviv, I headed to Spain for a beautiful 
and relaxing weekend with my dear friend Silvia. When I first found out she 
was moving back to Spain I was deeply saddened. Even though we do not see 
each other as much as we used to, spin addicts five days a week, we still knew 
each other was here and well. Knowing she was moving  back home, across the 
world, this little part inside of me darkened. She is such a bright light in this 
exhausting city. Every time I see her, she is so happy to see me it puts me in 
a good mood. I finally transferred from the deeply saddened phase to the I think 
I'll make it phase when she said, why don't you stop in Spain to see me on your 
way back from Israel? Um, hello!  Why didn't I think of this first? 
So, that is exactly what I did. 

I took a risky flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt, leaving only one hour to get off 
the plane, assuming it was on time, and having to pass through immigration 
and security again, while still having time to find my new gate, which of course 
was at the complete other end of a different terminal. However, I made it! 
Only breaking a minor major sweat. I informed her a shower was first priority. 

On the flight, I was very lucky to sit next to an American from California. 
Thankfully, the man sitting in front of him was tapping his foot loudly while 
rocking out to a concert he was watching. This got both of our attentions and 
we bonded over the annoyance. If it wasn't for that, we probably wouldn't 
have spoken at all. Walter was living in Dublin for the semester teaching Drama. 
He and his partner have a house in Bilbao because his partner is from there. 
He was going back to switch out his wardrobe and check on his Mother-In-Law. 
Walter and I chatted for the duration of the flight. He informed me of some 
places he knew Silvia would probably take me but wanted to double check 
as they were worth the visit . Walter and I parted ways at baggage check and 
I made my way out to find Silvia and her Father. She captured my arrival....


When we arrived to her parents, she informed me they had lived there for 
27 years! It was of course adorable, just like her family. Then I got the run 
down on the Spanish culture and mealtimes. Lunch is a big deal, especially 
on weekends. We had a wonderful traditional Basque lunch, which included 
rice pudding for dessert. We spent the next hour catching up. Her mother, 
who Silvia is almost an exact replica of, with her fathers dark hair of course, 
is learning English. We made a deal that I would help her with her English if 
she could help me with my nonexistent Spanish. Let's just say I came away 
with a few one or two words. 

After lunch, I finally showered! It was magnificent! I felt refreshed and relaxed. 
Silvia said I looked exhausted and it was time for a nap. Siesta! Hello Spain! 
I love you already! I quickly agreed. Waking up at 2:30am Tel Aviv time was 
rough. Well, it would not have been as rough if I actually slept. I had a hard 
time sleeping and maybe caught an hour or so of sleep before heading to the 
airport. Needless to say, I crashed hard. I told her she could not let me sleep 
more than an hour. Time was already quickly passing by. I only had two full 
days in Spain and I was not going to waste them sleeping!

An hour later she woke me up. Both her and her mother mentioned how much 
better I looked. I must have looked pretty rough upon arrival. I also felt a 
million times better. We went for a long walk around the town. We headed 
up the coast for a little way before turning inland around the cemetery. 
The sky and light were beautiful. Perfect timing for photographs. 



We headed down this adorable little path towards Santa Maria de Getxo and 
back through town to her favorite pastry shop. She was on a mission: I was to try 
her favorite pastry. I really think she wanted one herself. In Spain, you eat 
dinner later than you do in the US. This was our snack before dinner. Hey, it 
worked for me! 



Holding that delicious pastry in a bag while waiting to get back to her house 
to eat it was almost painful. It looked so good. In the US we call them 
elephant ears but in Spain they are called something in Spanish, obviously. 
Currently, I do not remember the name. Silvia, help please! Anyway, she 
got two kinds, chocolate and plain. We ate both, before dinner. Oops! 
...when in Spain!


That evening, around 9:00pm we headed to meet her friends for dinner. 
One of her dear friends, who I had the pleasure to meet while she was 
also living in NYC, was back in Spain visiting before moving back to NYC, 
again. It was a wonderful get together and of course, delicious. Did I 
mention the wine was only 1.20€. Amazing. 




We got home late. I believe it was 1:00am by the time I fell asleep. Thankfully,
I was able to sleep in as long as I wanted. Around 10:00am I woke up refreshed
and fully functional. At dinner, I was mentally not all there. It didn't help that
I only spoke American. All the Spanish humming was putting me to sleep.
We freshened up and met in the Kitchen for some tea, toast, cheese and
of course chorizo. We were having such a relaxing time we did not realize how
quickly it slipped away. Around 1:00pm, we headed for the metro. Bilbao get
ready, we are coming for you! The metro ride was clean and quick and so much
nicer than NYC, in every way. We exited the city center and walked for the
remainder of the day. Our first stop...more pastries! Duh. 



I had my eye on this little fella the night before when we picked up the 
elephant ear. Silvia said it was a must try so I got one to go. She wanted to 
document my enjoyment! Clearly, it was enjoyed! The top section was more
of a marshmallow covered with chocolate. The bottom was a soft pastry.  







We headed to the number one must see on my list, architect Frank Gehry's 
Guggenheim Museum. Living in a Frank Gehry building makes you want to see 
all of them. There are no words. The place was spectacular. 


Our favorite exhibit in the museum was the Richard Serra gallery. Once again, unbelievable.


I decided to get a little artsy with my photos....













After the museum we were heading towards our lunch spot. However, on the way
she had a few other places to show me. The first was Alhondiga. Originally a wine 
warehouse turned culture and leisure center in 2010 which was designed by Philippe Starck. Two words: Swimming Pool. 



On the way to lunch Silvia explained that she wanted to take me here because
it was her mother and sisters favorite sandwich place, El Eme. Okay, a sandwich in
Spain, why not? What she didn't tell me was that it was the best freaking sandwich E.V.E.R. It looks like nothing special but holy moly. I raved for days. I'm still raving.
I even got a second one to bring home with me for dinner that night. They say,
when you do something right, it works. This worked. I'll take quality over quantity
any day. I want one now.


See, looks like nothing. But, tastes like everything!



After lunch, well... we got more pastries. Double duh. 


Don't worry, she documented me with every pastry we had. I even think my 
cheeks look a little chubbier in this photo.


We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around exploring Bilbao. We stopped at 
Zara where I got a shirt and Bimba and Lola where I got a new wallet. I was done with
my shopping. It was now Bennett's turn.  



We eventually made it to the bridge which crossed us into the Old City. It was 
beautiful and reminded me a lot of Prague and the alley's in Venice. We found 
a bookstore where I got Bennett two kids books in Spanish and a tourist gift 
shop which had these adorable little tee shirts that said Little Bilbaino, a play 
off of Babybel cheese. 


Directly across the bridge is the opera house which also houses the local theater
performances. The sunlight hitting the building was stunning. 


We both believe this was an old ticket window which has since been closed up.


We walked around the old part of town for over an hour. The sun was starting to 
set and we were starting to get hungry. The El Eme sandwich was starting to burn
a hole in my bag. Eventually it started speaking to me: Eat me. Now.




This is one of Silvia's favorite photos I took that day. She says it perfectly 
depicts the old city as it shows your typical Basque man there on the left. 


We headed back over the bridge, this time in the dark. It was even more stunning 
to see the everything lit up. You could even see the lights of the Artxanda Funicular
which takes you up the mountain for the view overlooking the entire city of Bilbao.

Down                

We hopped the subway home, threw on some comfy clothes, sat down at the Kitchen
table and ate dinner along with the left over pastries from the day before. Then, we 
both slept, for hours!

The next morning was heaven. We both slept in for longer than we had in years. 
Eventually we got up and headed towards the sea side for some breakfast with 
the most beautiful view...


Our entire breakfast was 6.00€. We both had tea and I had this amazing tortilla 
which was like a combination of a frittata and quiche. It had potatoes, onions and 
egg. It was so delicious. The bread was also better than ever. 


Silvia also had me try this Basque pastry. Of course, I cannot remember what it 
was called but it was very tasty. It was a sweetened roll with butter in 
between the two sides. Silvia stuck with the traditional croissant and jam.


One of my favorite things about Getxo were the dogs. Everyone has a dog and 
everyone loves dogs. I felt right at home surrounded by off leashed dogs who
would run around and mind their own business, but also obey their humans. 


I mean, can a face get any cuter?


After breakfast we headed home to get Silvia's dog, Pia. She was going to join
us for the next part of our journey, a walk along the coast. I was so stoked. 
Anyone would be after they see these photos.


The Windmill of Aixerrota was the first stop on our six mile walk. You can see it from
the center of town standing tall and looking beautiful right at the edge of the coast. 


The La Galea Fort was the next stop. It is located almost at the tip of the seaside
before you turn the corner and head west. The ruins were beautiful. 






Pia was too short to reach the doggy water bowl so we tried to improvise.
She picked it right up!


I mean, does it get more beautiful than this?


The walking path, flanked on the left with homes, golf courses, or woods was flanked
on the right with a mountain biking trail, cliffs and the sea. This path went west on
for miles. It went so far you could not see the end. We only walked about four miles before we turned off to head back into town for lunch.






We reached the first beach entrance and turned off the path and ended up right 
in the middle of the Spanish country side. Again, stunning. Today, I really felt 
like I was on vacation.






We arrived back at Santa Maria de Getxo and sat outside with Pia for some pinchos,
which is a small snack. Every surface of every restaurant or bar you walk into during
lunch time is covered with different options of finger foods. We relaxed, which was
very easy to do after only a day in Spain, enjoyed our pinchos and recovered from
our walk.



After lunch, we headed back to Silvia's for siesta!




We relaxed for almost three hours and then headed back out the door for my last
evening in Spain. This time, instead of going west, we went east. Silvia wanted to
show me the old fisherman's village and the new port. The views down the hill into
the village were stunning. 





The fisherman's village was old and exactly what you think it would look like. 






We headed across the bay by the beach and to the new port. 


It was surrounded on all sides by a marina filled with motor boats, row boats and sail
boats. It was so beautiful with the mountains surrounding the city.



We walked along the port and stopped to get some gelato, the best ice cream in
Spain according to Silvia. It was, as expected, amazing. 


After we walked east along the water again we cut in towards the city passing 
beautiful huge mansions along the way. 



We finally hit our destination, the Vizcaya Bridge. By now, we were ready for some
more pinchos. We went to a restaurant Silvia had been to before with her parents
and enjoyed dinner at the bar. Then we walked to the subway and headed home. 
I packed and we both went to bed early. I had to be up at 4:30am to get to the
airport in time for my flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

That morning my flight from Frankfurt to Newark had already been delayed.
I cabbed it to the airport and got in line to board my flight. Funny enough,
I ran into Walter again! We chatted a little but unfortunately, were not
seated next to each other this time. When I arrived in Frankfurt, they put me
on a new flight to JFK which got me in earlier than my original flight. The
flight was not empty but also not full. I pretty much had a whole row to myself.
It was wonderful. I watched four movies before realizing we had landed and I
was home.

 I already miss Silvia and Spain but I am so thankful I got to spend the time I
had with her in her beautiful country. Thank you for such an amazing
experience. I love you and miss you already!

March 1, 2015