Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Casco Viejo

Today was the first day at the University, we haven't started classes yet, it was just the first orientation session. After an introduction to the people at the school in charge of my care, a Spanish placement test that was waaaaaay harder than it should have been, and a two hour briefing about Bilbao and the school, we moved our group of international students on to lunch.  Now, if you know me, you know I've never been really fancy and I'm ok with this. I wish I would have taken pictures of the restaurant I ate lunch at today.  If you think I'm exaggerating when I tell you that it was the fanciest place I've been to, here's a fun fact: the entire bathroom was made of marble. MARBLE. It was a multiple course meal, and it even had all the fancy little forks, spoon and knife awaiting to be used.  And again I'm regretting not whipping out my camera to take pictures. We had a pasta con salsa de tomato con carne (basically noodles with meat sauce) which was fantastic.  The sauce was so much more excellent than the Ragu I'm used to back in the states. After the pasta, we were served some pollo asado con papas fritas (grilled chicken with french fries) and an optional cheese sauce, which was also phenomenal. And my favorite part of the meal was the postre....because who doesn't freaking love chocolate and cake and cream? Lunatics, that's who. I was the only one to finish my plate of dessert at my table, and I see no shame in this. IT'S CAKE. 
After we finished our lunch, we went on a small tour of Bilbao, basically to the Casco Viejo (the old downtown) and then to the more modern current downtown.  The Casco was so beautiful, they had so many plazas filled with flowers, and the architecture is amazing. In Bilbao, if you live in the Casco, you are required by law to keep the facade exactly as it is, you aren't allowed to alter it, except with paint, but at all costs the facade must be kept up.  Almost every apartment there has an ironwork balcony, because Bilbao was/is known for it's mine and iron work, amongst other things. 
Along with some fabulous views, the Casco is home to about 75 shoe stores.  Basically I have found heaven.  If I hadn't been on a tour, and if the shops weren't closed for lunch, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have any money left in my accounts for the rest of the semester. Our teacher/guide also told us about some fantastic bars to hit up down there, which are supposed to have fantastic pinchos. 
After this, we moved on to the more modern city centure, which made me love Bilbao even more.  There are like gardens everywhere, you can find little parks to just sit and chill in everywhere.  It's fantastic.  As we were walking today, there was like legitimately a secret garden hidden away in this alley with huge trees and a lot of different flowers, will I be able to find it again? Probably not, but at least I got to see it once. Anyway, down in the city center we got to see the main shopping street of Bilbao, which basically goes on for ever, and is filled with stores ranging from clothes to books to lingerie to food to MORE SHOES. 
After we finished with the tour, the girl who is living in the apartment complex next to mine, and I walked home. Needless to say, I have had my first lost experience. It wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been, and it was a fantastic learning experience.  However, if you ever find yourself in the same situation, remember trust people with dogs and babies first, I don't have a real basis for this theory, but I feel like they'd be less likely to take your stuff. Anyway, we were only lost for about 5-10 minutes and hadn't had to really start panicking when we found our way back to the super mega huge ginormous incline that takes us back to our homes. I know understand how I'm going to lose 70 pounds in Spain while still eating the largest meals I've ever had.  This city is built on a mountain, they might tell you a hill, but it's like no hill I've ever seen.  You basically have to rock climb to get to the top.  Needless to say, there was a break taken in the middle of the slope so that I could live to die another day. 
But the best thing I have learned today, is that there IS diet coke in Spain. Now I don't need to give up my addiction after all. 

Some lovely photos from today.

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