From Biarritz we drove into Spain where we had booked a youth hostel for two nights. San Sebastián is only 20 kilometers from the French border, so it wouldn't have been an arduous drive if our SatNav Synthia hadn't led us astray. She took us the long way around to the hostel on the hill, up narrow roads and sharp turns. Once we arrived and checked in, the receptionist informed us that there was a perfectly good two-lane road that would have made the trip a lot easier. Synthia! Again you make me shake my fist at you!
Once night began to fall, we walked down the hill into town to get some tapas for dinner (though here they are called pintxos).
We found our way into the old town (Parte Vieja) and referred to our tapas to-do list. The lady we had house sat for in France told us she had been on a walking food tour of San Sebastián, and gave us her cheat sheet so we could find some of the best places. The city is well known for its Basque food culture, and is second only to Kyoto in terms of cities with the highest number of Michelin stars per capita. A foodies' paradise, you could say!
The whole of the old town had a lively Spanish nightlife feel to it, and the bars were crammed full of people eating and drinking.
We got off to a good start at Bar Borda Berri, where we ordered two glasses of Rioja, stewed beef cheek that melted in the mouth and cheese risotto from a no-nonsense bartender. After that our food mission became more difficult, as some of the places on our list didn't seem to exist anymore or were not serving the dishes that were listed as the best ones.
The next success was at Goiz Argi, where the pimentos de padron suggested were no longer on the menu, but we instead tried the nicest mushroom dish we have ever eaten as well as a cheesy meatball that had more cheese than meat. This all washed down well with the white wine they served: Txakoli (Basque sometimes makes me think of the Aztec language).
Full but not too full, we stumbled across a fortuitous gelateria and consumed our dessert while watching a duo of drunk hobos. One seemed to be so drunk he didn't want to move, and cradled his head in his hands. The other tried to help by offering him some Coca Cola. Receiving no response from the hunched figure, he unscrewed the bottle cap and the fizz of gas joined his inquisitive calls of "Hola...? Hola! Hola..." He eventually gave up on communication and silently watched his friend brood in deep regret over having so many beers (several cans of the stuff were discarded under the park bench).
When the wind picked up all of a sudden, we dusted ourselves off and headed in to get more pintxos for lunch.
Feeling as though we hadn't absorbed as much of San Sebastián as we could have, we inquired at the reception whether we could stay another night. He informed us with dismay that the next day held an annual race event, and that they had been booked out for the last eight months. Apparently around 35,000 people are involved, so accommodation is hard to come by unless you want to be spending the big bucks. As consolation he showed us a video of some Spanish kids doing the haka in which one boy gets super into it and wows the others with his ferocity. It was awesome.
Today's post was almost called: Hurrah for the Tapa, Con Rioja y Playa