Last year my friends and I talked about going to Portugal, but it never went down. At the beginning of this year we made a pact to make it happen, and put it in our calendars in January as part of our new year’s resolution! I always say, you gotta have it in the calendar if you want to make it happen! This trip ended up being a trip to both Spain and Portugal, so this is part one, where we started off in the Basque country of San Sebastian, Spain.
To give you a little background on how this all began, two years ago, we got an insane deal for roundtrip tickets to Milan for $400 a person, so needless to say, we scooped those up real quick. We ended up turning that into an epic journey, that my boyfriend and I ended up taking both of our mom’s to Italy with us, and met up with our friends in Tuscany for wine tasting, day trips, and relaxation. This is all to say, the same friends we traveled with in Italy, are the same friends we traveled with to Spain and Portugal. Now known as the triple A club, plus Shawn, my person, partner in crime, romantic affiliate! Haha! I hate the word boyfriend, and I saw someone use that the other day, and I’m going with it. My friends Alex and Avtar are the triple A club members, as we are all A names. Our fifth parter in crime Alina, joined us along the way in Lisbon, which will come later. For now, I’ll share some meets about Spain, the Basque country, and some of the magic we found there.
Our itinerary started off by flying into Bilbao, and arriving in the early evening. We bought tickets to the Guggenheim for the next morning and ended up spending 5 hours there. The building itself, is designed by Frank Gehry and is incredible in it of itself, and the Bill Viola retrospective was on display which held our attention for a very long time, while we waited for the rain to stop. I highly recommend getting tickets in advance, as you won’t have to wait in line in the rain if that should be the case, which apparently it rains all the time there. We had reservations for dinner that night at Martin Berasategui, so we hoped on a bus to San Sebastian to check into our Air bnb. The four of us headed out for a pretty insane dinner, that ended being a 4 hour long, 14 course dinner, that we all wanted to explode after! Haha!
I did not photograph any of these things, as I like to start my trips off slowly, before diving into photo mania. I’m glad I did, since my photos of dinner, would be sort of boring for you, but it was definitely an experience worth having. San Sebastian is known for it’s very serious culinary scene, as it has more michelin rated restaurants per capita, than anywhere else in the world. This is all to say, you really can’t go wrong there. San Sebastian is known for its pintxos, which is the Basque take on tapas. We also learned that the regional wine they are known for is txakoli, which is very similar to vino verde from Portugal. Overall, it was extremely lovely, and if you tell anyone you are going there, they will be green with envy! It is the gold standard of European vacation destinations. I knew it was a well loved region, but did not realize how much love Europe feels for this little region. I think our favorite part of this trip, was hiking up the hillside, to the top of the Jesus statue, where you can get a really nice view of the city. Most of my photos are from that day. One thing I will say, is that there we quite a few older people out and about, dressed to the nines, and it was a very refreshing site to see so many seniors out living their best life. Below are links to things we enjoyed.
Bilbao To Do:
Eat Drink San Sebastian:
Drinka Really cute restaurant/bar. Delicious hidden spot, not in the center of town, was my favorite, and close to our Air bnb.
Martin Berasategui Epic 14 course tasting menu, make reservations, months in advance.
La Cuchara de San Telmo Was crazy, but we enjoyed it.
La Cepa The best pintxo bar we went to!! The bar tender was a sweetheart!
After our visit to San Sebastian, we took the train down to Madrid, for a couple of nights, and I have a few fun tips!
We ended up staying in the Times Square of Madrid, which is not as bad as it sounds, hahaha! It makes me realize why everyone wants to go to Times Square now though. Essentially, when you only have a limited amount of time, centrality is key! It ended up being super convenient to everything we wanted to do. Pro tip, Madrid is EMPTY in August!! Most of Europe is on vacation in August, which means, some places are insanely overrun with tourists, while others empty out, and everything shuts down!! Luckily, we only spent two days there, but it was actually quite enjoyable. The weather was perfect, the scene was mellow, and it felt like we had the whole city to ourselves. We were lucky enough that both Alex and Avtar had some friends there that gave us some good tips on places to go, and things to do. It was also nice to feel like we had a bit of a social agenda, getting the chance to meet up with locals. We also did a great little wine and tapas tour, which ended up being the 4 of us, plus one gentleman from England! I have found that doing these types of culinary/wine tours is a great way to get the lay of the land when abroad, and learn a lot in the process. The people that give these types of tours are always amazing, incredibly informed, and super fun! I can’t speak highly enough about our guide Caroline!
Eat Drink Madrid
Mercado de San Miguel A lovely indoor food market, with lots of nice food, and what places like Chelsea Market are modeled after.
Casa Macareno A really lovely tapas bar, with cute people, yummy food, and good vibes.
Jose Alfredo Lovely cocktail lounge.
Devour Food Tour Really fun wine and tapas tour we did.
Palacio Real de Madrid Royal Palace of Madrid
Praktik Metropol In the city center, and convenient, but there are better options!