We are back home in Daglan after a very short foray into northwestern Spain, as part of a vacation in Biarritz, on France’s southern Atlantic coast. (Okay, okay — we’ve been home for quite a while. Our vacation was actually in September. Since then, I’ve been taking a blog-writing break.) In any case, my wife Jan and I had another enjoyable Spanish surprise.
Our first foray into Spain was in September 2015, when we stayed in a beautiful villa on the Costa Brava (that’s on Spain’s eastern coast, on the Med) with several friends from Toronto. On that trip, our first Spanish surprise was how much we loved Barcelona — a very smart, modern city built on tradition.
We found it clean, attractive, full of art, and with lots of friendly people. Almost everything, from sidewalks to tourist attractions, was wheelchair-accessible, and menus were printed in at least three if not four languages. (I raved about the city in a posting on September 29, 2015.)
This time, our surprise was the town of San Sebastian, which had come highly recommended, and which I had assumed would be a charming and modest little seaside resort. In fact, it turns out to be a rather large and bustling town, although it does have charming old sections near the waterfront.
We were there on a day trip from Biarritz, and the only unfortunate thing was the rather drab and occasionally rainy weather. If you can ignore the general gloominess of the sky, you’ll see from the following photos that San Sebastian has some reasonably substantial buildings. Here’s a first look:
And here’s another view, taken as we walked across a bridge from one side of the town to the other:
As for modern, how about this — a series of containers so that passers-by can sort their garbage and recyclable materials as they walk along:
In the older sections of town, of course, there are charming and historic buildings, like the church at the end of this street:
A major attraction for us, of course, was the opportunity to wander from café to café, sampling the local version — that is, the Basque version — of tapas, known as pintxos. (The “tx” is pronounced as if it were “ch,” by the way.)
Our last stop of the day was at a bar that apparently is known for its expertise in gin drinks. However, the bartender was stumped when I ordered a Hendricks martini; he had the Hendricks gin all right, but didn’t seem aware of the need for dry vermouth and a stick of cucumber. After a lot of theatrical lemon-rubbing and ice-shaking on his part, I wound up with a pleasant cold drink that tasted more like a tonic-free G & T than a martini. Still, it was good, and so were the pintxos we sampled. Here’s the bar itself:
At the first pintxos bar we visited, we were served some really tasty plates, like this dish:
This was another serving, with octopus pieces in the dish on the left, and delicious ham slices in some sort of creamy cheese in the right-hand dish. Have a look:
Despite the weather, it was an enjoyable day. However, on the bus ride back into France, we did have an anxious few moments as French national police came on board to check passengers for their passports.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have ours with us. Fortunately, the police were happy with our French driving licences. Phew.