I can’t believe we’ve been back in the US now for almost 2 months! It’s a weird feeling sometimes going between two worlds. Spain Rachel is light-hearted, creative, open-minded, flexible, and leaps and bounds more carefree than her American counterpart. Not to say that I am none of those things here in Charleston, SC, but Spain has a way of bringing all of it to the forefront. It didn’t hurt that while, yes, we were “working” some of the time, it was basically a month long break from real life.
I told Alfonso before we left that I was most looking forward to spending time in the north of Spain and a bit of France, since it would be a completely new experience for me. I love the South of Spain, but we always go there because that is where we have family. It is more like going home than going on an adveture. I had missed that part of my life since I first began to explore the Iberian Penninsula back in college, and I was determined to regain it with a trip to the Spanish Basque Country, Spanish wine country, and the vineyards of Bordeaux, France.
For ten days we rented a car and explored probably the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever seen. I consider myself a beach girl, but the lush, green mountains and stunning views we saw up north are game-changers.
Before we got to the more natural part of País Vasco we started our trip in the city of Bilbao.
Famous for the new modern section of the city where the Guggenheim Museum is located, among other things, Bilbao offered much more beauty in the heart of the old neighborhood. Coblestone streets that turn into gorgeous city views between old buildings, bar after bar of the region’s famed pintxos, and an eclectic mix of neighbors abound in the Casco Viejo. We were a stone’s throw from an enormous river-side market, El Mercado la Ribera where we were able to get fresh seafood and local fruits, veggies, and eggs everyday.
We spent most of our time in Bilbao exploring the streets by foot and enjoying pintxos and cervezas. A pintxo is a one, maybe two bite tapa sold at bars all over this region of the country. They are small, cheap, and served quickly which makes it all the more easy to hop from bar to bar, trying out a whole neighborhood in a day or two. The beers are usually smaller as well- about half a pint. Small bite. Small sip. Next bar. Even with all this moving about the Spanish, even in the supposedly more rigid north, are a relaxed people. And I, even with my worrisome, anxiety-ridden brain, am relaxed as well.
Behold the pintxos:
After spending 3 days in the city, we headed to La Rioja- Spanish wine country. I was sick during most of this part of the trip and tried to enjoy myself as much as possible, but it was a little miserable trying to taste the differences between grapes, and regions, and aging with my nose clogged all to hell. I hesitate to go with my gut feeling about this part of the trip because I was obviously jaded by the attack on my well-being, but I found it meh. It wasn’t as pretty as the French wine country we would soon see and it wasn’t as carefully produced (in my opinion) as the French wines from the chateaus that we tasted. But all of that is in my level-1 wine-tasting and under-the-weather opinion. Do what you will with it. I will probably give La Rioja another shot one day.
After a total of 3 and a half days in two smallish vine-producing towns in Spanish wine country we started the 6 hour journey, by car, to one of my two favorite parts of the trip: Lussac, Bordeaux, France.
More on our trip to the north of Spain to come. Don’t forget to follow us on social media (@thecastejons) for pop-up schedules, Charleston bites, and more of the Castejóns!