“Basquing”

Well…This is depressing.  I’m two weeks behind on my trips and I can’t even remember what I did yesterday.  Everything is such a crazy blur right now and my short-term memory loss has taken a turn for the worse.  Things may be a little mixed up and what I write may not be entirely accurate, but then again, this is the reason I’m not paid to do this, right?  In the words of the artist Egon Schiele,

“I am so rich that I must give myself away”

HAH oh wait.  I’m not going to be that person.  He must have been pretty dang sure of himself.  Rich in blessings, maybe?  That might be a better way to think about it.

To make you all feel better, here’s a video for some comic relief.  Let it be known that both of these missionaries, who are now returned home, will be taking me out as soon as I get back to the states.  I will then proceed to take my pick as to which one suits my fancy the best.  Just saying.

This weekend, in reality, was much more than a weekend.  It was full on visual and enchantment overload and who knows, I may have died halfway through because I’m pretty sure I was in heaven for a good part of it.  We loaded up on a bus that smelled like a port-o-pottie on a mobile nursing home, (at least it saved me the trouble of slowly and agonizingly getting carsick – I got it all at once as soon as I sat down), and headed up north towards Northern spain and the Basque Country, on the coast of the Cantabría Sea.

On this three-day whirlwind of a trip we visited Santander, Bilbao, Zarautz, San Sebastián, St. John de Luz, and Biarritz.  It’s amazing what a 6 hour drive can do.  The landscape went something like this: sparse southern Arizona desert (minus the cactus), through hilly, pined regions and red rock cliffs like Flagstaff and Zions National Forest, and then straight to overwhelmingly dense, lush vegetation that mimicked Virginia’s colorful and damp forests.  But now, take that East Coast greenery, marry it to the thick, tangled forests of Belize, and toss in some Basque red-and-white architecture sautéed with some European class.

Kinda gorgeous I guess.

It rained the whole weekend, but guess what?  I love the rain.  Everything about it.  Maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the deathly dry summers in Tucson, or perhaps it’s because my roots are calling me back to Seattle, Washington where I was born.  The rain – all shades of blue; matted smoky blue skies, slick and wet stone reflecting my shadow as I walk, foamy greenish blue breaking upon the fine-grained sand, and a deep, profound blue of the turbulent waters of the sea.  Where the horizon should have been, an unseen thumb must have reached out and smudged the meeting point of the sky and sea, creating an inception-like effect where the ocean stretched out and wrapped itself around overhead.

Santander was our first stop, and BOY was it windy – to the point of blowing us over and suffocating us with our own hair whipping in our face.

Scary demons.  She’s coming for you.  Very “cousin-it-esque” don’t you think?

I tied my scarf around my hair to keep it out of the way….after a little bit of difficulty.

Those things are amazing, let me tell you.  I know why all the old spanish ladies keep them around now.

I should have known it would be windy too, because I chose to wear a dress.  Dresses and I have never failed to bring the wind.  While I was playing Marilyn Monroe in the background, our professor pointed out the site where Franco forced 30,000 republican prisoners of war to jump from the stony cliff into the crashing waves far below after the Spanish Civil War.  Did they all jump at once, you ask?   Let’s think about this.  If they would have all jumped at once, they would have started piling up on each other and the poor last jumper would have had to leap into a mound of saturated dead people.  I tell you this because you would not believe how many people asked this same question for clarification.

Common sense, my friends.

Then we drove to the beach of the Cantabría Sea.  Did you know that sand ocean water works really well with boots and tights?  Yeah, apparently I missed the memo about going to the beach that day.

But, nevertheless, I managed, proudly, to prance around the beach in my boots.  Fine.  Maybe I did look a little ridiculous.  But then again, so did the ridiculously fit old guy in a speedo flouncing around playing paddleball with three other men on the beach.

Thus comes my justification.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Santander, walking in shops, lamenting about how we all are going to miss Halloween so much and whenever we saw little jack-o-lanterns in the windows we mourned over the peanut butter eyeballs and candy corn and Reese’s pumpkins and we were going to miss out on.  I don’t even like candy corn and I’m craving it.  How sad is that?  The only thing I’m not going to miss are the costumes.

We also saw yet another cathedral.

Don’t ask the name, I couldn’t tell you.  I was slightly obsessed with the weeping willow out front.

I will have one of them in my yard someday, with a romantic little tree swing hanging from a branch.

Later that evening we pulled into Bilbao, famous for it’s rainy weather and the Guggenheim Museum.  All of us in our group sort of split off for dinner since it is an absolute nightmare to try to get everyone to agree on one restaurant and then stuff ourselves into the little tiny bars that offer literally two chairs to sit at.  Kensie had looked up this salad bar that was apparently really good (we are always desperate for greens and produce here…I will never be able to eat another white piece of bread again either) and all we knew about where it was was that it was in front of the Guggenheim.  We kept asking people if they knew where the Guggenheim was so we wouldn’t get lost, and literally every time we got this shocked look as if we were crazy for not knowing where it was.  Foolish Americans.  When we finally arrived, many of the girls left to find food elsewhere because they didn’t want to pay 12 euro for a salad.  Three of us were not fazed.  Did we pay 12 euro for a salad buffet?  Yep!  Did we each eat 3 heaping plates of fresh vegetables?  Indeed so.  Were we given extremely judgmental looks from the waiter who couldn’t believe how much salad we were downing?  You ain’t kiddin’.  Yes, we got our money’s worth.  We were even slightly validated because upon returning, we learned that the other girls had spent more on Chinese food.  It was a good day.

enough said

And then I found this picture, which made it even better.

Thursday morning, after a long run along a river running through the city that reminded me a great deal of Venice, we visited the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art.  (Guggenheim > Reina Sophia, if you were interested)  Indeed, it was a sight to behold.

The Guggenheim of Bilbao is a piece of work in and of itself.  The entire museum is extremely interactive, filled with massive architecture displays, sculptures, and fascinating stories behind the featured artists’ lives.  Interestingly enough, the most famous parts of the Guggenheim are not the paintings inside, but rather the building itself.  

Apparently, the architect of the Guggenheim was inspired by simply crumpling up a piece of aluminum foil, and built what he saw on a much larger scale.

 

Brilliance at it’s finest.

There’s also a giant dog made of flowers and plants out front.  We tried to get some pictures posing with it but apparently some people don’t know how to use cameras to capture the important aspects of the scene.

Surrounding the museum were some fantastic pieces of art as well, including the famed spider.

I saw some cute little Spaniards too.

They enjoyed waving from the balcony and doing the YMCA with us.  One of them looked like my exchange brother Allen.

Inside the museum, my favorite exhibition featured a man named Egon Schiele.  His story is fascinating and his pictures are harsh but enchanting. He always sketched with a lead pencil, and never corrected any mistakes.  Many of his paintings were simply humans with the absence of all else around them, although they still posed as if they were interacting in daily life.  One of my favorites is called “The Cellist”.

In all honesty though, I loved reading the story of his life more than I loved looking at his paintings.  While walking through the exhibit, it made me wonder, why is it that all “artists” seem to have a sort of inner angst?  Is it a prerequisite for greatness?  Or does everyone have something deep down inside them, fueling the mind, but some are simply incapable of unleashing it and capturing it’s energy?

One of my favorite quotes from him, as he lay on his deathbed:

“The war is over – and I must go.  I sense that something great is going to happen to me, though I don’t yet know what it is.”

After Bilbao, on the road to San Sebastián, we made a quick stop at a place called Zarautz to have lunch, because our bus driver hates all the orphans in the world and doesn’t like us eating on the bus.

Seriously.  Every time he pulls the bus around to pick us up I see this huge eye roll and I can just see a scary cloud of darkness over his head because he really doesn’t want to be here.  I mean, I can’t blame him – who REALLY wants to drive a bus that smells like sewage full of girls around all weekend?  In the words of our professor, after a slightly awkward and contentious confrontation about not having bags on the bus and not standing up and wearing our seatbelts (seatbelts, on a bus? Come on…) and not laying in the seats and not breaking things and not being late and not being loud, he said, I quote:

“Oh, don’t worry about him.  He’s just being a butthead.”

Instant validation.

Anyway.  Zarautz is a small little surfing town that, in my opinion,  looked a heck of a lot like a misty San Diego or similar costal California burg.

Immediately upon voicing my opinion, I was shot down by someone or another because OBVIOUSLY it’s different because we are in Europe.

I still hold my case.

We were only there for an hour, walked along the boardwalk, mooched off restaurant wifi and bathrooms, and I saw a scary man who had an evil eye.

He gazed into my soul, I tell you.

And some wolf dogs, which, I’ll have you know, will be in my yard along with my weeping willow and tree swing.

Pam also took my camera and wouldn’t give it back until she got some nice “candid” shots.  They’re more distressing than candid, if you ask me.

We wrote messages on the sand, and several girls wrote cutsy little love notes to their lovers back home.  I wrote quotes and took pictures of my footprints instead.  #soinspirational

Oh, and also – I was going through my pictures and I realized about 90% of them have this weird half-face-no-eye-smile going on that can only be deduced to two sources: 1) I get sick of standing and smiling so long at a camera (apparently counting to “three” takes 15 seconds longer than one would expect), and 2) I’m bored with the picture and my eyes are clearly showing it.  Gotta work on that.

And on to San Sebastián.  A five-minute walk from a gorgeous ocean bay is hard to complain about.  Yeah, it was drizzling the entire time, but nothing could have put a damper on this cheery little European city.  Well, getting my passport stolen is another thing.

haha just kidding dad.

Plus, I got to wear a nice warm sweater that I’m obsessed with.  After a less-than-impressive breakfast that made it difficult to smuggle food out of for lunch, we all loaded onto the bus to go to France.

You know, just one of those usual day trips to France.  Old news, right?

Crossing the boarder was exciting.  Look at all the guards.

Hah oh wait.  This isn’t Mexico.  They waved us through like they could care less.

Our first stop was a lovely little town by the name of Biarritz.  Once again, I got really excited about it looking so European and so quaint and adorable, and ONCE AGAIN I was shot down because “Spain is European too”.

Thank you. I know Spain is European.  But Spain is not France, and Spain did not look like this.  My patience is failing me.

Biarritz is famous from the time  of Napoleon III, who would vacation here in a gorgeous red palace with is Spanish wife.

It’s also one of the most famous places for surfing in Europe.  Surfing + beaches + surfers = attractive men.  Who knew?

It rained. And rained.  And didn’t stop.  All. Day. Long.  And I fell in love.  The rain only added to the charming ambience, even if it did mean I had to walk around wearing a now 50-pound sweater and that my hair looked like a mop.

Since the swanky Hermes and Gucci stores didn’t seem to appreciate me dripping all over their ridiculously expensive merchandise (at this point I couldn’t even begin to pretend I looked like I had enough money to even breathe on the windows), I found my way into a more residential part of town.  It was much more suiting.

I had my first real French macaroon, and was, to say the least, floored.  Where have they been all my life, and why do they look so unappetizing but taste like heaven?

I also found a home-made soap shop where the lady showed us how to carve her soaps, and I bought some adorable headbands for gifts for friends back home.  Unfortunately, the bag was lost and now it is gone forever.  It was a tragic moment.

But every cloud has it’s own silver lining.

While looking at some Birkenstocks in a little shop, we were helped by a beautiful tall French boy who we shall call Olivier.  We talked to him for a while and it was interesting to hear him speak English, because his dictation and dialect sounded very similar to my French-speaking Belgian exchange student Adrien.  It made me miss him a lot.  He told us that he was happy to see us smile, and that he liked it.  He said that the Europeans who come in never smile, so he could tell immediately that we weren’t locals.  He said people should smile more often, because it makes the world much more pleasant.  I agree with him.  So did my heart.

We also had a nice Frenchman make some hot chocolate for us.  He made a little extra for himself so he could drink with us too.  No complaining on my part.

I felt extremely helpless the day though, because my French skills are essentially limited to “oui”.  Did I use it once?  Nope.  I kept forgetting and speaking in Spanish.  Dang it.

After Biarritz, we drove to San Juan-de-Luz.  It is very similar to Biarritz, slightly more homey, filled with basque architecture, and twice as rainy, so we didn’t stay for long, to my dismay.

I mean, yeah, we were all soaking wet, but how often do you get to spend time in another country?

Just think about it.  We tell ourselves “tomorrow, it will be better.”  But what if today we did the things that made today worth it, no matter what the circumstances?  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t “dance like there’s no tomorrow” – I don’t believe in that sort of thing.  Trust me, there will be a tomorrow, with credit card bills and a whole different set of problems.

This isn’t deeply philosophical, people.

We aren’t meant to take away from that statement that we shouldn’t have a savings account or go burning all of our clothes – but really, if we find ourselves constantly doing everything in preparation for a tomorrow that never comes, then what’s the point?  There will always be a tomorrow, even if tomorrow is the end.  But we shouldn’t sacrifice what’s going on in the present just because we have another day in the future that might be better.  Just an opinion.  Don’t plan.  Just do things.  After a while, THAT is the plan.  Do good things.  Do them because they are there to be done.  Do them to feel alive.  A little rain shouldn’t stop anyone.  Seize the day my friends.   Make your lives extraordinary.

Yeah guys just love everything and be cool, like me hugging this VW bus that should be in my driveway instead of all the way over here in France.

Hah.  But this, this is beside the point.

Everything was amazingly picturesque, and it made me want to become an artist.  But not really.  I just want to have some classy art in my house so that I can sit next to it while I look out into my yard with the weeping willow, tree swing, and wolf dogs frolicking in the grass.

Upon returning home, I got to take a real shower.  Real as in I didn’t have to hold the shower head.  Real as in it wasn’t freezing cold.  Real as in I didn’t have to pretend I was back in girl’s camp again turning the water off to wash my hair to conserve it.

This is heaven.

And then we had a nice little girl’s night in the hotel, ordering pizza and attempting to watch movies streamed from a sketchy Chinese website because it was practically Antarctica outside.

And thus, I have come to an end.  Be on the lookout though – I spent a good 5 hours on the bus ride home plotting out a soap opera that will undoubtedly earn me millions of dollars when it’s aired on ABC.  Just sayin’.

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