Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

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Among my friends and family, I’m the planner in the group.  I love doing the research and figuring out all the logistics; I even thrive on making schedules.  I’m a big dork in that way but I vowed that I would let go a little in 2015.  I still revert back to my old ways like every now and then I will request an itinerary.  On a recent trip to San Sebastián in Spain, we were lucky enough to have a friend who lives there to be our personal guide.  Knowing a local is always incentive for me to visit a destination because you get access to places you would never find in a travel book.  Since we had a local guide, I decided to relinquish all control for once and let someone else take the reins.

When Betty and I landed into Bilbao from Paris, we were greeted at the airport by Grace and our friend Miguel with a bottle of rosé.  This is how all airport pick-ups should go down.  There was not a minute to waste because we wanted to check out the Guggenheim in Bilbao before it closed for the night.  When the sunsets at 10pm, you feel like the days last so much longer.  The museum which was designed by Frank Gehry, is probably what Bilbao is most known for.  Ironically enough, the Jeff Koons exhibit was showing there and I had just seen it in New York last Summer at the Whitney Museum.  The museum structure itself is worth the trip.  It’s absolutely gorgeous and I could’ve stared at the steel waves of the building for hours.  After our short visit, Miguel said he had a surprise for us and that it would only be a 45 minute drive there but we had to hurry before the sunset.  I was intrigued because even though I love to plan, I love surprises even more.

Have you ever had moments in life when you see something and you just cannot believe your eyes at how beautiful it is?  I’ve been fortunate enough to have had this moment several times in my life like when I saw Machu Picchu, swam with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, climbed the temples at Angkor Wat, and saw the Grand Canyon for the first time just to name a few.  When we first saw San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from a distance, it looked like something out of a dream.  You see a small medieval church perched on top of this small island which is only accessible by climbing 240 steps.  There’s an old legend that you have to run around the church three times, ring the bell three times, make a wish and it will come true.  It’s the first thing we did when we reached the top.  I felt like it was bootcamp!  It was so fun ringing that bell because honestly, when do you ever get to do that in life?  After making our wishes, Betty popped the champagne and we watched the most gorgeous sunset over the ocean.  I couldn’t help but feel emotional at that moment because it was our first 5 hours in the Basque country and we were already having a top five life moment.

When people ask me what my favorite thing was in San Sebastián I would have to say it was the hike to the top of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, ringing the bell, making a wish, watching the sunset with my friends, and feeling huge waves of gratitude.  I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to travel to these beautiful places with my bestest girlfriends and sharing these unforgettable moments together.  I think the biggest lesson I learned on my trip to Europe (stay tuned for more posts) was that sometimes when you let go of control, the end result can be better than you could have ever imagined.

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Guggenheim Bilbao Museum

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There’s so much art everywhere

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Jeff Koons flower dog

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240 something steps to make a wish

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Having a Goonies moment

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Chasing sunsets

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Making our way down with cups of champagne in tow