Change and how to survive a Basque restaurant with only three words of Spanish.

As we enter November there’s a definite feeling of change, the leaves have changed to the many shades of red, orange and yellow, and the clocks have gone back an hour. There’s a chill in the air, and a fresh breeze, reminding me that we are truly in Autumn now, and that it’s only a matter of time before the Christmas lights are switched on, and the excitement of the lead up to Christmas day begins. The supermarkets already have all their festive chocolates and sweets available, something that does not bode well for me, and the workers can be seen putting up Christmas lights all over the city ready to make it twinkle and sparkle.

It’s fair to say that it’s a month of change here in Bilbao for all the Basques, but for me it’s just a continuation on all the changes that I see and experience here everyday in the Basque Country.

With my parents here for a visit this last week I’ve had brought to light many differences between England and Spain, some that I was fully aware of, some that I hadn’t thought of, and some that now I think about just don’t make sense. It’s fair to say that it’s been a week of change, and another week of life lessons in Spain. (Post on the differences I’ve noticed between England and Spain to follow.)

Having my parents here these last few days has been great, it was family time again, time to educate my parents a little about Spanish etiquette and what the Basque Country has to offer, and of course time to catch up and be spoilt by my parents.

So here follows a list of my top 3 tips on how to survive bars and restaurants in the Basque Country with no previous knowledge of Spanish…

1. Say Si to everything, this is something that my brother did when he was visiting. I left him to his own devices when I had lessons one afternoon and this is the tale of how he survived a Basque bar knowing only yes, beer and tortilla in Spanish. The story goes as followed:

My brother: “Caña y tortilla”

Bar man (according to my brother) gives him a beer and a some tortilla and then says:  Blah blah blah???

My brother: Si

He was given bread

Bar man: More blah blah blah???

My brother: Si

He was given olives

Bar man: Even more blah blah blah

My brother: Si

He was given the beer, the tortilla, the bread, the olives and finally the bill and then left to his own devices. In my brother’s own words…If in doubt just say Si

2. Learn ALL the words for bathroom, they are: baños, aseos, servicios, WC, and then learn that if it ends in an it’s probably the ladies’ and if not then it’s normally the men’s. Then learn to decipher the Spaniards ideas of what is a male or female and what is appropriate to use as a diagram for the ladies and the gents. It ranges from a hat, to a lock of hair, so take your chances. Then learn that Spanish girls never hardly ever wash their hands.

3. Get good at miming and understanding mimes quickly, due to more university commitments I left my parents to themselves one day and got told about their interesting adventure to a restaurant in a very Basque town, somewhere where you’re not going to have a very easy life not speaking Spanish. It appears that they basically ended up playing mimes with the waitress who manged to mime oxtail with horns and a tail, something that I’m devastated that I missed, and even more devastated that I missed my Dad’s attempt to mime back. But apparently they had a very nice meal, but could have really done with my help that day.

So there stands my three tips on how to survive in a Basque restaurant or bar with basically non-existent Spanish. This last week with my parents has been yet again a further adventure, I got to visit Pamplona and explore the old part of the city on a sunny Halloween day, realised that hot chocolate does not actually come hot, but warm and always in a glass in Spain, and that the Basque country really is a beautiful region of Spain.

A lot happened this last week, so for now I’ll leave you with some photos and some brief descriptions, like I said before, a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, so I’m going to shut up and let the photos speak for themselves.

The view over Pamplona, a peaceful city, although I can imagine this would be very different during the running of the bulls festival!

The view over Pamplona, a fairly peaceful city, and the remains of the old part, I can imagine that the tables will turn at the next running of the Bulls festival.

To end, it’s been a long time since I actually stood still and watched the sunset, and looking down over Bilbao with my parents, two of my very favourite people, seemed like a perfect setting to watch the sun slowly drop behind the mountains of Bilbao, it is something so simple, something that happens every single day, without fail, but something that still amazes me, like they say…

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that mean the most.

And that, in this case, was watching the sunset over the mountains surrounding Bilbao with my parents who I hadn’t seen in almost three months.

So I encourage you all to go out and watch the sun set where ever you are…I hope it makes you smile!

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