It’s been a busy two weeks in Pamplona.

Last week we visited Olite, located about an hour south of Pamplona, where we did a wine tasting at the Ochoa Winery and toured the Palacio Real. The medieval town surrounding the palace was beautiful and quaint, and the palace itself was ginormous. We spent almost an hour walking through its sprawling halls, and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the town below from its many towers.

We also participated in our first Juevinxtos (Jueves=Thursday + vino=wine + pintxos) Thursday is the best going-out night in Pamplona, and in typical Spanish fashion, the clubs don’t get busy until 2 or 3 am, and people don’t return home until around 7 am! It was very cool to see the bars and the discotecas at their most vibrant states.

One day, instead of holding class, our professors took us to the city center for a pinxto tour. After watching a performance of “Flamenco on Fire” in front of the Ayuntamiento, we were tasked with going to different pinxto bars and interviewing as many waiters, bartenders, and customers as we could find about the historical and cultural significance of pintxos to Pamplona. Despite our good intentions, most people did not want to be recorded/have anything to do with us (oh well!) A few people were very friendly, though. One particularly spirited man, when asked about the difference between “pintxos” and “tapas,” very sternly said, “People eat tapas in Spain. This is not Spain.” He later told us that he was born and raised somewhere in the Basque Country—which is very close to Pamplona/Navarra and has its own, very distinct language— It’s funny to see that no matter what country you’re in, there are rivalries and even serious tensions between different regions (not just in America, haha!!)

Last Saturday we went to Zarautz, and we spent the entire day at the beach. The waves were the biggest and most intense waves I have ever experienced. Ironically, it was one of the few moments in the last few weeks that I was able to actually slow down and fully appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to study abroad in Spain. There were six of us, and we were getting knocked down by every single wave and then hitting each other, kicking each other, and rolling on top of each other underwater. When we finally came up again, banged up and with salt water in our eyes, noses, and mouths, we had a split second to breathe and make sure everyone was okay before we were submerged again. It was terrifying and physically exhausting, but it was in those absurd, coming-up-for-air moments that I felt more present, even more connected to the people around me, and even more appreciative of all the little moments of joy Spain has offered us so far. It was exhilarating, and we stayed in the water for hours.

Pamplona has allowed me to adjust to living in Spain, get used to speaking Spanish 24/7, try new things, and meet so many amazing people. Muchas gracias por todo, Pamplona! Next stop, A Coruña!




I am writing from Pamplona, Spain, where we’ve been for a week. Our days have been packed with classes, fun cultural excursions, and lots of amazing food.

We are taking an extensive Spanish language and culture course at the Universidad de Navarra to prepare us to live in our host cities. The university is absolutely gorgeous, with a lot of trees, rolling hills, and beautiful architecture. The language barrier is difficult, but the class has definitely helped me work on my grammar, learn new vocabulary, and become more confident speaking Spanish with native speakers.

We have spent a lot of our time walking around and exploring the city. The Old City (or the “Casco Viejo”) is especially beautiful, and its cobblestone streets are always bustling with people. On one walking tour, we stopped for sangria and then drank it in the middle of the street (eating and drinking in the street is very common here because the bars are so small!) We’ve spent a lot of time shopping in the Old City and even took a Rumba Flamenco class!

On one of our first days in Pamplona, we had a tour of the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, one of the main sites of the annual “running of the bulls.” The tradition began in the 14th century, when men would speed up the process of transporting bulls to the markets by using various fear tactics. This practice quickly evolved into a competition, as young men tried to race the bulls to their pens. We learned that the bulls are raised on farms in southern Spain and transported to Pamplona when they are about five years old. They are then forced to run the encierro and are killed (they usually are stabbed around 20 times before they die).The extreme physical and psychological abuse of the bulls obviously makes the event very controversial, and some of our tour guides even said that they are so against it that they refuse to attend.

We also visited San Sebastián, a seaport city located about 10 miles from the French border. It is the capital of the province of Guipúzcoa in the Basque country–all of the street signs are in both Spanish and Basque! We hiked to the top of a mountain trail called Sendero de San Teresa, from which we were able to see the entire city. We then ate tapas for lunch (or pintxos, as people in Basque country call them) and went for a refreshing swim in the ocean.

This weekend, we drove to Loyola, where we toured the Sanctuary of Loyola, or the birthplace of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus. We went to mass in the basilica and enjoyed the picturesque views of the Montserrat mountains (which brought back special memories for us Holy Cross students!) 

We also went to Bilbao, which is about three hours north of Pamplona, and toured the Guggenheim.

It’s crazy that we’ve only been in Spain for a week–it already feels like we’ve been here for months! I’m very excited to continue to improve my Spanish before I move to Coruña and meet my host family. Every single person who we’ve met here has been so kind and encouraging when we speak Spanish, even when what we say makes no sense!

¡Hasta luego (or “sta-lo-go” as people say it here)!