We are aware our blog is sounding rather Karl Pinkington, we assure you we are having fun but the unglamorous parts are so much more entertaining and where memories are made.
Fed up with France’s lazy attitude towards customer service, we point the car toward Spain and don’t look back.
When we were in Biarittz last week it had been warm and sunny. Just 20 minutes down the road San Sebastián was hitting the high twenties.
We were excited about San Sebatian. We have heard about its food reputation (and remember, Neil likes to eat!). In fact it’s so popular amongst foodies that the most foodie friends we have, named their baby after the city!
We were looking forward to being in a city, with life, people, cars and shopping after being in France where, no kidding, we could have bought a Renault with more ease than buying basic food and water.
We got to our apartment which is on the fifth floor over looking the river facing the old town in the Gros district. Amazing views, ideal location.
We were uncharacteristically early for check-in and Hugh was hungry. Like – need food now hungry. We dashed around for something to eat. You know what I’m going to say don’t you. No not baguette. I’d watch the three of starve before I surrender to another baguette. It was Siesta, everything that wasn’t already shut on account of it being Monday, was shut for siesta. The only thing we could grab in the town that boast the most Michelin stars per metre was a McDonalds.
Never mind, it’s just one meal. We check in, get Poppy settled and explore the city. The weather isn’t great. We bet this city looks amazing in the sun. At the moment it looks like a slightly less angry London.
All the bars are open and locals are knocking back Rioja and eating the most delicious looking pinxtos (tapas indigenous to this region). We make note of all the ones we want to go back to for dinner.
When the time comes we walk back and guess what? They’re ALL closed! They don’t open until 8pm. Which would be great three years ago but with a toddler, that ain’t much fun. We walk tirelessly up and down the quaint old town looking for somewhere, anywhere to eat. We can’t cook in because we don’t have a dishwasher.
Eventually we find a place…. A burger restaurant.
Also for all our complaining about France, one advantage we have is that we can get by with the language. We don’t speak French but we can understand enough of the basics to get by. The only Spanish we know is from Breaking Bad which mostly consists of racial slurs towards white people. Verbally, we have more confidence purchasing crystal meth, than a happy meal. But that’s another story althogether (BTASAT).
Back to the burger restaurant. Not only had we managed to find the ONLY restaurant open in San Sebastián, it also happened to be the most shit! Every guide we have read about this town, say it’s almost impossible to have a bad meal. But we found it. Not only that but each time we tried to order a glass of wine, they’d bring us a massive beer! (Watching Neil drink a pint is like hearing the Queen fart, it doesn’t seem right).
We go back to the apartment and watch Battlestar Galactica.
After another grumble we tell ourselves to the man the fuck up. If you can’t beat them, join them. So we research this “siesta”. We were aware of it before coming to Spain, we knew it was a thing, but thought it was more for those sleepy villages in the middle of nowhere where most employees are in semi retirement and could do with a nap, or for the equivalent of Spanish daily mail readers who want to hang on to some irrelevant tradition. We didn’t expect it to be something economically active citizens who contribute to the running of all sectors and industries were expected to participate in.
Something else I found interesting (and also relieving) is that the current government is planning to abolish it and move the country to GMT which is where it’s supposed to be (geographically). Unemployment is at 21% here in Spain, which is hardly surprising. What global industry would invest in a place where business hours are shut down for nap time! It’s not as if you can do anything productive in your siesta like get a haircut or go for lunch.
Day two, we have it all planned. We’ll get up and have breakfast down the road. Then we’ll explore the town some more and then eat our main meal at midday, trying all those delicious pinxtos and wine at those cute bars in the old town. Then we’ll come home have a siesta before heading out again at 7 for something lighter. Hugh can stay up later because he slept in the day.
We had researched which places were decent and open (none of them were open, obviously). But we found our Pinxtos. And they were frickin delicious! We ate loads. Then we asked the barkeep to bring us his favourite wine. And you know what? that was very good too! And then we saw the bill. Ohh well, we were happy.
Onto the next place. We found a restaurant and ordered a three course meal. The starter was amazing, God knows what it was. For the mains, I was in the mood for paella. I had the best paella ever once in New Orleans and I dream about it to this day.
I’m not a big lover of fish and especially not shelled fish. Don’t like it, yuck. But every now and then I reasses my tastes. I’d prefer to like these foods. I knew the seafood paella would come with shelled prawns but I decided to man up.
I got further than I had ever done before, I snapped of its beady little head. Then it’s brains flew out and I called it a day. I just don’t understand the love of shelled fish, it looks hideous and is basically a wrapped up 50/50 prize between a delicious delicacy or explosive diarreah.
Neil – who never wins the good prize when eating prawns (BTASAT) enjoyed his steak but his favourite part was watching me eat the prawns. Here’s a picture of him encouraging me to eat a muscle.
I ate the muscle, it felt like I ate a fetus.
Luckily the meal came with a bottle of wine which we didn’t waste.
We finished the meal and waddled back to the apartment before the dead hours began. As we sat indoors with our full bellies and aching heads, watching the rain pour down we felt the siesta calling us. Our eyelids got heavy, the sofa seemed extra snuggly… Ahh this was going to be bliss. Except… Hugh doesn’t nap! Hugh NEVER naps. Getting him to go to sleep each night is a sheer miracle. So we didn’t have a relaxing afternoon. It was more endurance waiting for bed time whilst a hangover set in. Bliss was when he fell asleep and we watched Battlestar Galactica.
On our final day we thought we’d repeat the format but with less alcohol before midday! It had been raining the entire time we were there which meant we had missed out on some sights but it stayed clear enough to take Hugh to one of the many parks. To our surprise and amazement one of our top recommended bars was open so we grabbed some more pinxtos. If yesterday’s were excellent, these were like drops from heaven. Slow cooked veal cheek, foie gras, paella (but you know, fancier) and pork – which Neil later told me was pigs ear and I imagine he chuckled to himself for some time after watching me eat it.
Washed down with one modest glass of red wine. We feel so grown up!
We encountered our first English speaking tourists next to us and almost talked to them. It started by them asking us if they could have a chair, but in that way where they think we’re foreign so the point and say “chair” in a funny accent that doesn’t belong to them, in the hope that I’d understand. I respond by flapping my hands saying “Si, Si” in a weird accent, hoping that means ‘yes’. She doesn’t understand and we continue this banter that looks like a naff expressive dance with exaggerated grins to donote to each other we are non threatening.
Soon after we realise we’re both British.
I always find it comforting when I encounter British people abroad. You can finally engage in all that crap small talk you try to avoid at home. Or it goes the other way and you want to run away for fear of association.
In these tapas bars, you can spot the locals because they’re scoffing food and laughing and joking. The Brits (and Aussie) next to us ….well… One of the men almost slapped the tapas out of the hand of his friend because she was eating it in the wrong order and risked “ruining her palate”. They also used words like “molecular” and “experimental” and other words synonymous to “twat” to describe their food… WHICH WAS ALL THEY TALKED ABOUT!!!
Overall we liked San Sebastián, it grew on us the more we explored. We put it in the same category as San Francisco where it had been so hyped with promises that it would be our new favourite place to visit that it could never live up to expectations. We wish we had come here years ago with friends so we could explore the nightlife. There’s also the weather, any city suddenly becomes the best city in the world when the sun is out.
We also have decided to try a different type of Airbnb next time. So far we stayed in a gite (wrong!), apartments in a town (good) and a very nice modest house in the country (very good), next we’re going to try a bigger home in the suburbs near a town.
It’s fun to stay in people’s homes rather than hotels. Check out how this place does their laundry:
Those huge windows open up in the bathroom right next to the toilet so you can have a sit and talk to your neighbour it seems! Suffice it to say we didn’t hang our washing out, mostly because it would come back smelling of pedros-next-door funky tobacco.
Next stop, Portugal!