CISABROAD BLOG · May 19, 2016 · 3 Min Read
Exploring Northern Spain: País Vasco Weekend Excursion

pais vasco profile

Jill S., a student at Rochester Institute of Technology, is doing a Semester at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Read all about her latest adventure to northern Spain with CISabroad, and follow all of her adventures here.


During my semester abroad in Barcelona, I had the opportunity to explore País Vasco with a program coordinated weekend excursion. It was an interesting weekend as my partner-in-crime Becky was very sick and I was feeling under the weather.

On Friday, we had a ~7 hour bus ride to Bilbao, with a stop in La Rioja region for an amazing winery museum tour, and wine tasting. The name of the winery we visited is Vivanco. The museum was amazing – one of the exhibits featured original works from Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and Barceló! They also have the largest corkscrew collection in the world! One of the most fascinating parts of the museum was learning how the wooden wine barrels are made, then seeing thousands of them later during the winery tour. I had never realized how laborious the process is to make wooden barrels! The views of the vineyards were incredible.

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After this winery experience, we trekked onward to Bilbao. We arrived in Bilbao an hour or so before sunset. We got settled into our hotel and then went on a little tour with one of the program coordinators. We walked as a group around the city until we came to a square with hustling “pintxo” bars. “Pintxos” are small snacks or appetizers. They are little bites that are typically on a little piece of baguette.

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Although I wanted to have an authentic Basque Country pintxo experience, Becky and I were feeling exhausted so we headed back to the hotel. Our walk back was an experience as we were feeling sick, our phones were not cooperating, and we seemed to walk through the ghetto. Luckily, we made it home and had an amazing nights rest.

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The following morning, we had a wonderful buffet breakfast. After breakfast, we walked towards the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum – my favorite part of the visit!

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The Guggenheim was spectacular – the museum’s architecture and material selection is very symbolic and VERY beautiful. The work inside was just as amazing. There was plenty of art to experience and absorb, but there wasn’t too much to become overwhelmed. It was the perfect museum morning with intermittent rain and a cool grey sky. One of my favorite parts was an exhibit by Richard Serra. It’s a series of 7 stainless steel structures that you EXPERIENCE by walking through and around them! I would love to go again!

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After the museum and lunch, we hopped back on the bus to travel to San Sebastian. As the tour guide said, we were “lucky to experience the real San Sebastian in the winter!” – AKA lots and lots of rain and wind. We walked by the Concha Bay. It was raining really hard, but the view was spectacular with the moody sky and water contrasting with the iconic white Concha railing. The tour was great, but a few of us skipped out early to warm up in a bar where we tried some “pintxos”. After pintxos and a DELICIOUS slice of homemade cheesecake (best cheesecake I have ever had!), a group of us headed home to rest.

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On Sunday, we left San Sebastian earlier than we originally planned due to the rainy weather. We headed to Pamplona to learn about the Bull Run – it seems like an insane event! After a nice stroll through the city and lunch, we were Barcelona bound! It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but it definitely added to my overall amazing study abroad experience!

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