More surprises in Spain

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:

A look at the buildings of San Sebastian, under grey skies.

A look at the buildings of San Sebastian, under grey skies.

And here’s another view, taken as we walked across a bridge from one side of the town to the other:

Another view of the town, taken from the bridge.

Another view of the town, taken from the bridge.

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:

Sorting? We'll give you sorting!

You want sorting? We’ll give you sorting!

In the older sections of town, of course, there are charming and historic buildings, like the church at the end of this street:

A beautiful church in the heart of the town's old quarter.

A beautiful church in the heart of the town’s old quarter.

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:

The bar is loaded with plates of pintxos at this gin joint.

The bar is loaded with plates of pintxos at this gin joint.

At the first pintxos bar we visited, we were served some really tasty plates, like this dish:

Seafood figures prominently in pintxos offerings.

Seafood figures prominently in pintxos offerings.

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:

Octopus on the left, ham on the right.

Octopus on the left, ham on the right.

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.

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6 Responses to More surprises in Spain

  1. J D Curson says:

    Thank you so much for your latest blog! Great food as usual and excellent pictures of it. I’m an English and regular reader of your blog and that of your near neighbours who live next door to the boulangerie. It’s an excellent way of feeling in touch with Daglan!

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Loren – thanks for the blog. Knowing your love of find dining (in fact ALL dining!) surprised you didn’t mention that of the seven 3 Michelin star restaurants in Spain, 3 are in San Sebastian (with a further 2 star place thrown in for for good measure!). I really must visit.

    All the best

    • loren24250 says:

      Thanks Paul. As it happens, we did eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant on this vacation, but it was in Biarritz. (Very good, but way too expensive for what it was.) Anyway, we were with friends (from Toronto) in San Sebastian, and we had jointly decided not to dine à la Michelin, but to enjoy the pintxos. Which we did!

  3. Lesley says:

    The pintxos look tasty. Sorry to home in on the ‘nest’ of rubbish bins decorating a pleasant looking street. Not very attractive and still people dump stuff alongside!

  4. loren24250 says:

    Thanks Lesley. Yes, for all the training and education and promotion and encouragement, many people still don’t “get” what to do with rubbish, whether it’s recyclable or just plain garbage. I see this all the time in Daglan — clearly recyclable cardboard boxes stuffed into the “normal garbage” containers. Ah well…

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