So All Saint’s Day is a thing here…a thing that is celebrated nationally. So during the 10 day vacation I traveled to Pau—a city near the Spanish coast where I studied abroad 2 years ago—as well as to 2 cities in Spain: Vitoria and Bilbao.
I had the pleasure of visiting my former host family in Bizanos as well as reconnecting with a couple university friends who are still living in Pau. I didn’t get a chance to capture all of the moments, but the memories will stay with me nonetheless.
The first night I attended a basketball game between 2 French professional club teams—the Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez VS the Champagne Châlons-Reims Basket. Pau was in the lead until the last quarter. Sitting in the stands, I started to become nostalgic remembering the few university football games I attended. Similar to what I encountered at the University of Maryland, College Park, when it was evident that Pau’s team was going to lose some fans started filing out of the stadium. The final score was 83 – 91. Something that I found surprising was that the majority of both team’s starters were American players. We’re everywhere…
Over the next few days one could say that I ‘rediscovered’ Bizanos and Pau. Due to road reconstruction work taking place in Bizanos about 5 bus stops weren’t being serviced. This is what I discovered when I tried to take the bus into downtown Pau only to be hit with the following public service announcement posted on the various stops.
From new experiences to old ones, my time in Pau was very rewarding. I watched a canoe freestyle competition, went to the movies to see Gone Girl and Samba, as well as ate at a Spanish restaurant and then at a Mexican one. I enjoyed the familiarity of going running with my host mom on Sunday and catching up with old friends.
It was nice to return to Pau after 2 years—to come back to this place where I learned and experienced so much—with my increased knowledge, curiosity, and understanding.
Why Vitoria? Why this small city situated in the Spanish Basque country where all the street signs I saw were written in Spanish and Basque? And where the dreaded mullets the men sported displayed their Basque pride? The answer is Abena, a university friend who’s currently working as an English language assistant here. From the first night, I was thrust into typical “Vitorian” life. Abena introduced me to pinxto pote Thursday. Pinxto (pronounced pincho) is the Northern Spanish version of tapas. We barhopped for a couple hours, filling our bellies with these yummy snacks.
She showed me around her city, and we spent Halloween together dancing the night away.
On All Saints Day we took a day trip to Bilbao. It was a beautiful city, and we walked about every inch of it. The only downside was that due to the public holiday practically the only things open were churches and bars.
That evening we headed back to Vitoria, and the next day I took the train back to Montpellier. I’m still not sure who is supposed to be commemorated on November 1, but a big thanks to them regardless!