Week 4 in San Sebastian: Semana Santa

I wanted to start off my blog post with a picture of my favorite view from the past week. This is the view of Granada from a Palace in the Alhambra:

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I spent most of week 4 traveling for our extended Easter Break. Semana Santa is what the Spanish call Easter Break and most students get a week off from school. Many shops and stores shut down during Semana Santa because it is such an important holiday. After spending the first few days of Semana Santa in San Sebastian, I then traveled to Sevilla and Granada with a few of my friends.

Below is a picture of me and some friends in front the the Cathedral in Sevilla:

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A few pictures of the displays held by up to 30 men during the Easter processions:

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A group of 4 of us flew from Bilbao to Madrid en route to Sevilla. We ended up having an 8 hour overnight layover in Madrid which meant sleeping in the airport Starbucks. I was pleasantly surprised that sleeping in the airport was fairly comfortable (I remembered to bring earplugs). After spending the night in the airport we flew to Sevilla, where we locked up our belongings in a train station locker and went to explore. We walked to the Catedral de Santa Maria which is an absolutely gorgeous Cathedral in the middle of the city. There were tourists everywhere because of the Easter holiday. Throughout the streets of Sevilla we watched the Semana Santa Processions, the processions are massive parades put on by different churches in the city to celebrate the rising of Jesus. Even though I myself am not a religious person, I thought the dedication of the people to their processions was inspiring. After spending a few hours walking through the processions we had to make our way to the bus station and travel to Granada later that night.

This is a picture I took from a street in Granada looking up at the Alhambra, this picture shows the style of houses in Granada:

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Pictures from inside the Alhambra:

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We got in late to Granada and after taking a taxi to our Hostel it felt amazing to sleep. The next morning we decided to take a walking tour of Granada, and despite the rain I fell in love with the city. Our tour guide told us about the history of Isabelle and Ferdinand at the Alhambra during the Spanish war. The war unified the country and it was inspiring to be learning about the history of such a famous place. Granada itself is a town based around a college with around 80,000 students, not including all of the international students. It is a massive city devoted to the students, which was great for us because everything was cheap and easily accessible. My number one priority for the visit was to see the Alhambra, Isabelle’s famous Islamic style castle from the 15th century. Tickets have been sold out for months and the only way to get your hands on one is to get in a line at 6AM to purchase one of the 500 daily tickets. We got in line at 6AM, stood in the rain for two hours, and successfully purchased tickets! That afternoon we got to visit the Alhambra, and it was well worth the wait. My childhood dreams of being a princess in a castle came true. The views of Granada from the Palace were the best in the city, and the designs inside of the palace were even better! I would have to say that Granada is my favorite city I have visited so far on this trip.

Below is a picture of the “Running of the Sheep” in Ordizia:

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Upon return to San Sebastian after Semana Santa about half of us in the program went to Ordizia, a small Basque town, to experience their weekly market and annual sheep festival. This was the first time I have heard people using the Basque language. The language has no similarity to Spanish which meant none of us could communicate with the locals, our professor helped us a lot. We got to experience their annual sheep parade, or as we liked to call it “The running of the Sheep” which is wherethe Ordizia locals line the streets of the city and parade herds of sheep to display to the town. Sheep are a big part of Basque culture because they have been used for food, heat, and clothing since the beginning of the Basque history. We were the only foreigners in town during the festival, and even were interviewed by a local television crew for our opinion of the festivities. It was a great experience to see the Basque people interact with each other and experience a festival that has been a tradition for many centuries.

Now I am back in San Sebastian and midterms are quickly approaching. I have two essays and a presentation due at the beginning of next week, time to get started! Now that school work is becoming more time consuming this trip is starting to feel more like school than just a vacation. I occasionally feel homesick when I am up late doing homework or when it starts raining, but then I remember how lucky I am to have this experience to live Spain. It really is amazing! Throughout the month of May we will be going on various different excursions to Basque towns with our program. I will make sure to keep you updated on my travels.

Thanks for reading!



Week 3 in San Sebastian: Lisbon, Madrid, and more!

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The saying time flies when you’re having fun could not be any truer. San Sebastian really feels like home to me now. I have settled into the dorms, unpacked, and really have a basic feel for the city. Hard to believe this is my third week here. The weather has been on our side so far, only one day of rain which the locals say is very rare! Usually Spring is the rainy season, keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will stay away. Although I have been in classes for 3 weeks now, it still seems like I am traveling on one big vacation. Our homework mostly consists of reading many articles, books, and essays related to Basque culture and nationalism. The coursework has all been very interesting so far, I had no idea there was so much history behind these North Spain territories. Spanish class has been the most difficult for me, but being around the language constantly means I have been learning very quickly.

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My favorite things to do in San Sebastian are walking along the beach, eating ice cream, and going on hiking adventures. The town is very welcoming to tourists and there is always something to do. Below is a picture of me and a few other students at the top of our hike to Monte Urgull with a great view of the beach behind us:

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Below is a panoramic shot I took while at the top of Monte Igeldo on the one rainy day so far:
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There is a tradition in San Sebastian where locals go out on a Thursday night for Pinxto-Pote. Pinxto is a Basque word that means small snack, or treat. The rule of a pinxto is that it has to be consumed in 2-3 bites. Most commonly pinxtos are a small piece of bread with meat on top, usually ham or fish. Tortilla is also a famous type of pinxto, it is almost like a quiche with eggs and potatoes. These small bites can be hot or cold food. The concept of pinxto-pote is getting one of these treats with a drink for 2 euros which is very cheap. The entire town likes to take part in this tradition, it is a great time to socialize with your neighbors. The food in San Sebastian is delicious! This picture is an example of pinxtos that we made at a workshop the other day:
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It is important for me to make sure I travel and visit other places in Europe while I am here. Last week a large group of us from the UW program traveled to Lisbon, Portugal. I have only great things to say about Lisbon. It was raining and overcast while we were there, but being from Seattle this was not a problem. The buildings, monuments, castles, and cathedrals in the city are breathtaking. The buildings are all white stone with red clay roofs and long winding alley ways with shops hidden among them. Most of the people in Portugal could speak English which was great because none of us knew any Portuguese. The locals were so welcoming and always helped us when we looked lost, or were planning our day trips. I highly recommend visiting Lisbon if you have the chance, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen!
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I got back yesterday from a weekend trip to Madrid with another group of students. Madrid is the capital of Spain so it is HUGE. I would have loved to stay there to explore more, but had to come back for classes. During our time in Madrid we visited Botin (the oldest restaurant in history), the Plaza de Mayor, Parque del Retiro, the Palacio de Cristal, and the Palacio Real de Madrid. The weather was sunny and warm which made it even more enjoyable. Below is a picture of the Palacio Real de Madrid, or the Royal Palace:
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This upcoming week I will be traveling to Sevilla and Granada for Semana Santa (Easter Break). Word on the street is that Sevilla has some of the best Easter Festivals in the entire world! Look out for an update of my Semana Santa coming soon.

Thanks for reading!



Week one in Spain!

Blog by Eleanor Wort — Study Abroad Spain

The first few days in Spain have been surreal and amazing. It is hard to believe that all of this is actually happening! I never thought it would be so easy for me to apply to a Study Abroad Program and have the opportunity to travel across the world with other UW students. I came to Europe a week before my program began to visit family in England. I had a great time exploring all of the tourist attractions in London, especially Big Ben and the London Eye!


It was great to visit my family in England before my Program began, but my mind seemed preoccupied as all I could think about was San Sebastian. Now that I have been in San Sebastian a few days I have finally unpacked my suitcase and explored the city. Our residence hall is called Residencia de Olarain and is located on the Western side of the city. We take classes at the Universidad de Deusto which is a 35 minute walk to the other side of town. I love walking to campus because the road goes along the famous San Sebastian beaches with the best view I have ever seen.


I have experienced a bit of culture shock within my first few days here. The language barrier is a bit difficult because I am not fluent in Spanish. I am still able to communicate with hand motions and simple Spanish words, and have already learned a ton of new things about the language.

It is part of the Spanish culture to have “siesta” every day. Siesta in Spain is when most stores close between 1:30 and 3:30 PM for a break in the day to eat lunch. This is customary because lunch is seen as the most important meal of the day to spend time with family and friends. A lot of the Spanish people also use this time to take naps before going back to work in the evening. During this siesta time the streets of San Sebastian which are usually filled with people become empty. Only the tourists and foreigners are on the streets at this time of the day. It has been hard to adjust to siesta so far because I am not used to eating lunch so late in the day. Also, it is difficult when the stores all close in the day and you have to buy food. It is also common to eat dinner at 8:30 PM or later. The schedule is much different than what I was used to in America.

Classes began this week and have already proven that the academic work load will be the same caliber as regular UW classes. We are taking a Spanish class in order to gain more knowledge of the language we will be using. There is also a Cultural History class about San Sebastian, and a nationalism class which discusses the Basque people and the Basque nation. It is very interesting to be studying about a culture different from that in America, while I am also living in it. 

One of the most difficult things about the trip to Spain was planning and preparing for it. The hardest part of my preparation was packing. How am I supposed to fit three months’ worth of clothing into one suitcase? The answer to that question is to use discretion. If you don’t wear a shirt while you are at home, you probably wouldn’t wear it abroad either. The weather will be changing a lot during my program as the seasons will transition from Spring to Summer. I made a list of clothing to bring and narrowed it down to one suitcase worth by picking clothing that was neutral and easy to pair with other items. Packing comfy walking shoes was also a must for me because I walk to class every day and want to explore the city.

Another source of hardship during my preparations was figuring out how I should use my Cell Phone while in Spain. The most viable option for me was to bring my phone from home and use it to connect to Wifi. Through Wifi I can use apps such as WhatsApp and Viber to contact my friends and family back in the States. I also made sure to get a wall plug converter for my cell phone, camera, and laptop chargers that can work with the voltage and outlets in Spain.


So far, I have loved every minute of living in Spain. The culture throughout the area is so unique from anything I have ever experienced. Every road I walk down there is another beautiful building and site to see. This weekend I will be taking a trip to Lisbon, Portugal with a few other students in our program. I will make sure to write another post about my experiences in Portugal.

Adios mis amigos, and thanks for reading!