My First Purchase Was a Chic Umbrella.
Initial purchases in a country really make a statement about the climate, culture and the personality of a country. We all know the sun shines in Spain every day and the temperature is warm and balmy. No need for an umbrella or rain coat? Not quite the case in Northern Spain.
My first purchase in Pamplona was a chic polka dotted umbrella. Spaniards are creative with umbrellas – they have many uses in daily life – they keep you dry, create wind barriers and shield you from very wet heavy snow. Stylish and practical, they range from utilitarian golf umbrellas to chic accessories. My fashion accessory lasted exactly 6 weeks, next time I’ll get the more hard-wearing version.
I spent almost 2 glorious months in Northern Spain. With a generous offer of accommodation and a recommendation from a fellow Coloradoan, I enrolled in a month of intense Spanish classes at Pamplona Learning Spanish Institute. With just four students in my class from Brazil, The Netherlands, Ukraine and Germany, it was a month of global emersion. I loved going to school every day, it was the perfect mix of new friends and brain strain. Now the challenge is how to hold on to the language, maybe I’ll have to go back!
In Pamplona, I had the delightful experience of Juevintxo with Inma and her posse of friends. Juevintxo is a Thursday ritual of bar hopping through the cobblestone streets of the Pamplona’s “Casco Viejo”. It was a continuous flow of local Navarre wine and creative pinchos, a perfect combination. As I moved farther north west to the Galician coastline, I had the good fortune to try the very freshest scallops, razor clams, mussels, hake, cockles and shrimp to name a few. The area is known for its Albariño, a light white wine, perfect with shrimp. Oh, so very delicious.
Being in Santiago de Compostella at Easter time was an experience. Camino pilgrims, Easter processions and no shortage of moisture (the umbrella came in handy again). Hiking El Camino De Santiago was a must for me, I was lucky to find two great walking partners, Ciara and Laura. Ciara and I completed a couple of rain free stages on the Camino Frances (Cizur Menor to Estella), while Laura and I enjoyed incredibly scenic stages on Camino Norte and one on the Finisterre Camino. The “really” old churches and perfectly made café con leche along the way completed each day. Laura and I are already planning the 2019 pilgrimage with some longer stretches to really get into the spirit of El Camino.
I have always loved everything Spanish. Northern Spain struck me as an exotic Ireland – delicious seafood and local wines, warm and welcoming people, a foreign language, miles of green fields and sweeping coastlines. A culture so easy to absorb and embrace. I met some amazing people and truly feel that I have lifelong friends. It was the perfect culmination to my “tourism sabbatical”. ¡Gracias España, regresaré pronto!