During the weekends I had the opportunity to travel outside of Salamanca. When I first arrived I hadn’t actually decided where I wanted to go, but I was able to join a couple groups of Umich students on trips around the country. My favorite trip was one we made to País Vasco. As we took the train I couldn’t take my eyes off of the window. Right before my eyes the terrain was changing so drastically. As we left Salamanca it was mostly countryside and a lot of farmland. The expanses were dry and desert-like for the first couple hours, but as we got closer to the ocean the view transformed completely. Mountains appeared in the distance surrounded by large forests of deep green trees. Once we got off the train the air was much cooler, compared to the heat wave we had been experiencing earlier. It felt like it had just rained, which was a strange feeling because it almost never rained in Salamanca.
We stayed in Bilbao, a very popular city in the Basque country famous for the Guggenheim museum. Once we checked into our hostel we went out on a hunt to find traditional Basque dishes. In class, we had learned about a dish that was famous in the north, they called it PilPil, which is a cod dish. The fish was extremely smooth and covered in a savory yellow sauce that complimented it perfectly. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time in Bilbao because we had planned to spend the next day in San Sebastian, which was right next to the ocean.
Originally, my plan for San Sebastian was to lie on the beach and just explore the city. I had no idea that some of the people in the group had planned to take surfing lessons. I was upset that I wasn’t signed up, but luckily I was able to join the group last minute. They were just about to head out when I asked if there was still room for another person. In a couple minutes, I was in a wetsuit running to get a board. It was the best and most spontaneous decision I had made. Our surf instructor Borja was hilarious and I was able to stand up and ride a wave a few times. The rest of the day we spent on an island eating paella, fighting viscous ocean winds, and running up a hill towards a large Jesus monument that overlooked the whole city. I had the time of my life that day because when I had left for San Sebastian I had had no plans, but by the end of the day I had done more that I could wrap my head around. I think this is the best way to explore new places. Unless there is something you specifically want to do that requires additional planning it is always fun just to see where the day takes you. You should also never be afraid of random changes in plans. The opportunity isn’t always surfing, but if you are offered the chance to do something exciting or even different, it can never hurt to try.
For more information on the Salamanca, Spain program, visit the CGIS website.