Explore Bilbao on a Stationary Bike

This morning, I turned on the TV in my host mum’s kitchen to watch the news while I ate breakfast, like I do for most meals. However, this morning, I was greeted by a very happy surprise!

Euskal Irrati Telebista (Eitb), the Basque Country‘s public broadcasting service, has created a program called “In English, Please”, to entertain and educate the people of the Basque country in English, of course.

The show is hosted by Alan Griffin, an Australian politician, who has apparently taken a break from his day job to ramble around Euskadi on his bicycle, attempting to speak with locals in English along the way.

Not only is this program highly entertaining (just get an eye full of the title sequence, which shows Griffin pedaling away on his stationary bike at various locales to the tune of Queen’s “Bicycle Race“), but you actually learn a lot about Bilbao about the Basque Country along the way.

For instance, you can explore the Guggenheim Museum

You can learn how the Bilbao Fútbol Club was founded by the English

“In English, Please” 5th Lesson: Bilbao Fútbol Club

Hear from locals about how Bilbao has changed from an industrial backwater to a modern metropolis

“In English, Please” 6th Lesson: Bilbao

Explore the city’s lovely parks and plazas

Or, you can just enjoy this video of Basque children singing The Beatle’s “Hello Goodbye”

So, if you are at all curious about Bilbao, why not explore the city with a funny man on a bicycle?

– Emily Bowman, DUSA Student Blogger, Bilbao Fall 2012

Why Books Make Travel Better: Spain

“I want to experience the culture, and I feel like that’s something you have to do for yourself by interacting with the locals. You can’t get that from a book.”

Valid point.

“I don’t want some author telling me what I should think about a country and it’s people. I want to find out for myself.”

Alright, I hear you.

But I disagree. Books are important. Yes, a book cannot take the place of immersing yourself in a foreign culture. However, I will argue that books make travel better.

Sure, there’s a lot to do before setting off for life abroad, besides the trivial formalities of paperwork. Personally, I like to read. I’ve got the typical traveler’s stack of lonelyplanets, an English-to-Spanish pocket dictionary, a Crash Course in Spanish Grammar, and 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. These are for reference. I believe, to really know a culture, you must approach it with an understanding of its stories. What better place to turn for a story than a book?

First of all, books can explain the cultural significance of things that you might not even realize are important, or at least culturally relevant, to the country and its people.

Secondly, books give you a story to relate to a location, engaging your imagination in its people, history, and landscape.

And third, a country’s literature is integral to its culture. For instance, can you imagine Spain without Don Quixote?

Since Bilbao is considered the capital of Basque country and culture, I have developed a special interest in Basque literature. I’ve already devoured one novel, Guernica, titled after the town where the horrific bombing took place in 1936 that Picasso famously painted. I’ve ordered three more books, each focused on a different piece of the Basque story. Obabakoak explores life in a traditional Basque village during the Spanish Civil WarA Cup of Tea in Pamplona follows the exploits of Basque smugglers who transport goods between Basque communities across the French and Spanish border. Finally, The Lone Man examines the life of an ex-ETA member and his attempt to escape the violence of the nationalist movement.

A List of Books I Like:

The Classic: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

The Pop Non-Fiction: Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett

The (Other) Classic: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

The “Historical” Fiction: Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving

Where to Find More: 

Books about Spain

Classic Fiction from Spain in English Translation

20th Century Spanish (Spain) Literature 

The Spanish Civil War’s Dirty Dozen

Camino de Santiago 

Madrid: Exploring Spanish culture in the structure of its central city 

Emily Bowman, DUSA Student Blogger