There really is nothing else like the cuisines of the Basque Region. There are similarities with the food they make here, but they are few and far between. Not only are the ingredients different, but it is the way they prepare their food. I am still struggling with the language here and I am constantly getting laughed/ yelled at but I feel that in the end it is all worth it. I plan to leave this part of the world having the last laugh in the sense that there is nothing that will take away from the the experience of everything I learn, see, touch, taste, and smell. It is hard for me the describe the differences that this place has to offer therefore I plan to let my pictures do most of the talking. I will post all the pictures of the sites and the food the rest of the food that I have seen and tasted since I have been once I get the chance.
My first day off was great because I got the chance to just kick back and relax with Mauricio. Basically just went to nearby town, walked around a little bit. The area seemed to be the closest similarity to what I am used to in the sense there was a big mall/ movie theater along with a Supermarket nearby. Kept things pretty simple and easy that day. I went out and bought some new clothes b/c I didn't really pack much for this trip. Nothing major, just a couple shirts. Then Mauricio wanted to go to a Sushi Restaurant in the mall because I have been constantly talking up the restaurant "Fusian" (Sushi Restaurant, that I cannot wait to be a part of). Great food and finally got to have food that I have had before. After, saw the movie "Scream 4" En Espagnol. Besides the "bonita Chicas" as Mauricio would say, I did understand the movie at all. It helped my spanish a little bit though. We went bowling and had some brazillian food after and called it a day.
The best part of my trip so far would have to be my second day off where we had the opportunity to travel to San Sebastian. It is about 1 and half north east of Bilbao and it the landscape of the city is beautiful. It is located directly on a peninsula that makes up the entire city. The buildings and beaches are all lined along the coast and it is a site to see. Although it was a day off, it was one of the most tiring days of my trip thus far. We had to walk everywhere since there is no bus route or train capable of lining the coast. But walking is what made everything better. That way I did not miss any part of they city of San Sebastian. Mauricio told me about how it was so rich in history and culture and it has lived with city from centuries ago. From the way the people live to the way they eat of course. This week is still considered holiday b/c of the overlap and there were plenty of tourist around. What I really like is how the stores and shops are built within narrow roads all trapped within each other. The city is built like a maze of narrow roads that can barely fit the width of a car. Thankfully, it seems to be understood that the roads where all the shops are, are mainly for the pedestrians and tourists of the city. You will occasionally see a car or two but not much.
So as we walked into the city, Mauricio asked if I was hungry. We walked passed a dozen restaurants that had a wide variety of small single serving portions the lined the entire countertop of the restaurant. They were all bars, but just lined with food from one end to the other. I assumed, we would pick one place and be there for one meal and be done. The best way to describe what we did is, It was basically a bar crawl but with really great food. All the portions were not only visually appealing, but completely different from anything I've ever seen before. These restaurants all served what is known and "PINTXOS" which is similar to tapas, but strictly single serving basically like appetizers. When you walk into each different restaurant, all the food is just visually appealing. Not only are you thinking about how good the food taste, but for me I kept asking myself "How the heck did they make that"? I was egg yolks poached and clear gelatin casing shaped like an egg, different fish carefully decorated, and vegetables put together that you would be perfectly content just looking at it rather than eating it (yea right, I still ate everything I bought). Each portion ranged from 1-4 Euros on average depending on what you got, but it was all worth it. Mauricio's only rule was that "Pintxos (pronounced Pinchos)" is best eaten with a glass of wine. So even if we went to one place just to have one single small Pintxo, it was necessary to have wine which was fine with me until we got to 5 or 6th restaurant. What a great experience I will never forget and I told him that I need to go back at least one more time before I leave to go back to Chicago.
The drive back I was in such awe with the entire experience of the day I just had all these questions for Mauricio to how some the dishes were made, certain ingredients, and more about the history and culture of not only San Sebastian but Northern Spain (Basque Country) as a whole. Can't believe almost one month has passed since I left, and there is still much I would like to do before I leave. Work is still tough and still getting very little sleep, but all the good times make up for the bad, which really aren't all that bad. I got some new roommates today. Inca, she is from Iceland and knows English and has been really great to talk to, since I haven't used English in over a month and there is another student from Philly comin in shortly. I will try to give another update soon.
BY THEY WAY! Dont think just b/c I'm in Spain and distracted by all that is around me I have forgotten about what is in a little over a week. Yea that right! Mannnnnyyy PACQUIAO!!!!! WOO!!! Cannot wait to be up at 4 in the morning watching the fight with all of you. My professional prediction is that it will be a KO of course. I will give my round prediction later this week.