Thursday, June 28, 2012


Air from Africa, good and strong. A regular old heat wave engulfs Spain. If it hits us, we’ll get close to100 degrees today. And then, I’m told, a powerful thirty degree drop.

Well now, I can’t complain. It’s Wednesday – three weeks behind us and one in front and fact is, with maybe a one day exception early in Sorede, the weather has been perfect. (Remind me of that later this week when I write about chilly temps and wet rains.)

Weather is always a big topic for me. When we travel, it defines our days. I can’t say rains cause trouble, but they mix things up a bit. You spend more time in cafés and bars and less on mountain trails and in the ocean. When I’m at home, I monitor it too. How to dress, how to move around – it’s all weather driven. (Ed, on the other hand, cares almost not at all how it is outside, though if it’s hot, he’ll find a cool spot and stay there.)

As people grumble here about the heat, I retort  – in American, where I live, it’s been like this all month!  (You need to stretch the truth a little when you boast.) And in the winter – such snows we have! (Well, not so much this year, but most every other year. Or so.)

Air conditioning here is modest. In fact, our Pension doesn’t have it at all. (Beware, all you cold loving AC addicts!) This doesn’t bother me at all. You close the shutters and wait for the sun to move away from your window.

We start our day slowly (meaning late) and without any desire to be adventurous. Café across the street (the Otaegui) had good pastries yesterday. Why look elsewhere today.


We set off to explore the city. About time. Our last day here! So, don't think from here, it looks just a tiny bit like Paris?



We ask about the local markets. So now you have to put up with local market photos. And just a few minutes after the first market, we find ourselves at the second (maybe lesser) market. I’m sure you’re not going to mind if I mix the two market photos up. Let’s review them all and move on! (And by the way, if I had to pick out a theme, I’d say – fish, artfully arranged and mushrooms. And always in Spain – the hams.)

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At around noon we pick up the shoreline trail that allows you to walk the entire coastal area of San Sebastian (because of the dips and bays, it comes to a perimeter of 7 kilometers). We throw in some hills as well for the views. That’s a hefty chunk of walking to commence in the heat of the mid day. But, we’re hearty types and so we set forth. Initially, with very little shade. The views are good, interesting, pleasant, if a tad repetitive.

Climbing the hill that is positioned right between the two beaches allows you to look out at the full expanse of both and especially at La Concha (which actually has two ribbons of sand, too broad to capture in one photo).



...unless you do a panoramic sweep:


... We come pretty close to running down to join the bathers, but, by the time we’ve completed our circuit up toward the Jesus statue (like Rio!)...

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... the clouds start rolling in and so the heat is diminished. Bilbao, less than 100 kilometers east, got the 100 degrees. We stay at 80.



So down we walk and actually, we cut out the remainder of the coastal stroll, satisfied that we’ve done our touring bit and now can retreat. With a stop at the best ice cream store in town for a berry laced frozen yogurt.

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The weather continues to be at the forefront of consideration (if not discussion... I should think that all the hours spent in conversation here, as in France, have to move things beyond just clouds, mists and blasts of hot air from Africa). If ever there was an evening (is 5 o’clock evening?) for the beach, this is it. We leave all personal belongings (including camera) in the Pension and head out.

As does the rest of San Sebastian.


We’re at our own beach (on the Gros side of the river) – the wilder one where surfers like to hope for waves. Typically, this is less crowded, but today, groups of kids, families, people done with school, with work, done with the dreariness of everyday chores, head for the water.


There are several kid surfing classes in progress and I watch one, of little tykes, beginners, learning the moves, the positions.


Okay, ready to hit the water.


A push...



...and a sense of accomplishment!


The tide is low and there are vast stretches of wet sand, with a sandcastle activity going on.


As you can see, I have my camera again. After a plunge and a frolic in the small but still powerful waves, I dash back to the Pension and retrieve it. Ed spends a longer period of time in the water. Body surfing at last.

As we stroll afterwards, looking at the people around us, Ed comments that he’s never seen so many people, in one spot, having such a good time.

(A whole family rallied around this project  -- of adding male and female body parts to the buried one.)


In the real evening (now we’re close to 9), we head out for tapas (we can’t ignore all these pintxos bars!) and dinner and now you can tell that the hot air has indeed managed to crawl up and lick at the margins of San Sebastian. Thermometers register about 34 (94F) degrees right now. Very unusual for this region.

We’re in the Old Town again. Neither of us really loves this part – Ed says it’s like the East Village some years ago. Lots of people passing through (like us!) in search of drinks and cheap nibbles. But I have in mind a couple of pintxos places and indeed have gone to the trouble of identifying some we mike like so off we go. (And if I did not remember that the fight for separatism continues, there are signs to remind me.)

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At the A Fuego Negro bar, the Basque scribbles are as always incomprehensible...


... but the person at the bar speaks enough English to tell me that what I ask for has long since been off the menu but hey, here are a couple of suggestions. And I ask (finally) for Txakolina – a Basque wine that’s light on alcohol but heavy on tradition – poured always from up high.

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... Ed drinks cider, or as we call it  -- hard cider (another Basque favorite) and we munch on pieces of salmon with hard blue cheese and apples and olives spiked with something (I thought she said vermouth jelly) and mussels in tomato and cream and it’s all good even as you have to wonder if we needed the extra calories and the expense of it all. But, let the record show that we ate pintxos in San Sebastian.


And if we’re to be deserving of dinner, then we should certainly pause before the next indulgence and stroll off these small plates. We go to the harbor and I watch the clouds do their back and forth and, too, the boats coming in from doing whatever it is that men do out at sea.


It is a fine way to spend one’s last evening in San Sebastian.

Dinner is at a sister restaurant to last night’s place (this one is called La Fabrica) and it’s fine, very good in fact, the best being my mushroom dumplings because when in Basque, you eat mushrooms, no?


But the problem with the main course is that I order another Basque favorite – cod – and it is at this moment that Ed reminded me of last year’s supper somewhere in the far reaches of Quebec where we were served bowlfuls of so much cod (this, after reading about the overfishing of cod by the Quebecois) that I swore I could not, would not ever eat cod again and now here I am, ordering it, too late, too late, here comes the cod... With a delightful apple pastry for dessert.

As we leave the restaurant and walk home, all hell breaks loose and buckets of rain fall down from a swirling sky. Thunder crashes and Ed of course doesn’t mind, but I do. We pause only for a minute because the swirling clouds have taken their rains back to sea, leaving only wet and empty spaces behind.