Sleepless in San Sebastian

Trip Start May 22, 2012
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Trip End Aug 02, 2012


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Flag of Spain  , Basque,
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dan report: Day 1- Pronunciation: Pintxos = Pinchos = Tapa = Tap Ass!, Beer = Cervajas??, Vino Roseado = Rose, Sun = Cloud :(
Michalian Star(s): up yours, too fancy and too expensive for a strip of sea weed with a square pea.
Food:Pintxos, we had 5 different servings, in one day, totally around;50 euros. this includes 10 drinks, Pintxos (see photos). OTT or just plain excited...
Sunburn: Me (Dan) underarms?!?!
For everything else, there is only Pintxos...

22/6/2012: Another travel day, another airport. Today: Barcelona. Tonight: Paris.

So once again our day in transit allows for a block of time to catch Travel Pod up on our time in San Sebastian. This 6 nights was our big block of rest and relaxation, preferably on the beach with a good book. As it turns out, San Sebastian isn't known for its fabulous weather... When its good its good, when its not its like a humid London. But we sure kept ourselves busy regardless. Now, if you have no interest in food other than its role in sustaining life then you may as well stop reading now, as that is pretty much the entire content of our 6 days in San Sebastian, thus this entry.

We had one night at a hotel on arrival due to our hostel being full, nothing spectacular to note other it being far from the centre of town and it having a very dangerous shower over bath (in dire need of an OTs input even for highly well and functional adults, it was a death trap). Sadly there was a distinct lack of food available at the bar and after our long day we were famished, but some awful service and two plates of deep fried horrors later we had a good nights sleep.

We moved on to our next accom modation, Olgas Hostel in the more central area of Gros. This is next to the Zurrola Beach (a surf beach) and a short walk over the bridge to the old town where we were to spend almost all of our lunches and dinners to follow. The accommodation was quite strange-a dingy hostel one side (the common room being a dark small double room with no windows and a giant TV with a distinct lack of air and atmosphere) and across the hall the 'private side' which was a converted flat with a couple of dorms, a double room, a twin room and a couple of bathrooms. Our two nights were spent on a rock hard double bed with sandpaper for sheets, the next three were in the twin with shared bathroom... and thank god for that. Deliciously soft foamy mattress that enveloped every curve and bump.It was an availability issue that made us shift but then the double came available again and we quickly declined going back to that torture chamber.

By this stage we have been so sleep deprived that the topic is becoming a tad obsessive, I'm sure there is an increasing onus on what we sleep on evident in this blog. So let me try to get it out of my system: Left to my own devices my body likes 9hrs sleep, sometimes 10hrs at the weekend, and needs minimum of 8hrs to be a decent human being. I'm normally very good at sleeping. So after a month of broken sleep I'm struggling. And so is Dan. It has gotten to the stage where we have only been sleeping a couple of 2-3 hour blocks in a night due to hostel noise and horrible beds, which can make for an irritable outcome after nearly a month. As a side sleeper I have turned into a human rotisserie, to avoid getting bruises and pressure sores on my hips and shoulders, which doesn't bide for a good nights sleep for back sleeping Dan, when he does eventually get to sleep. With all these changes of beds my poor body has forgotten how to be comfortable-my 'favourite' side to sleep on is no longer my favourite, and what used to be my favourite position is no longer the familiar comfortable it used to be. Its been a sad state of affairs of late... Lucky this country supports the siesta. I know you new mums and people with children will laugh at this, thinking 'I haven't slept for more than 3 hours in a row for 7 years' or 'Try sleeping that little and taking care of a newborn and a 2 year old instead of lying on a beach and going out for a boozy lunch'. Touché ... But you lot are the ones who tell me to enjoy it while it lasts. So you can understand my dedication to the craft.

Right. San sebastian. We had two half days of sun in 7 days. The time on the beach was lovely but no shade anywhere and my poor freckly English heritage skin doesnt take well to direct sunlight even with 50 on so the duration was short lived on each occasion, i was amazed to manage 2 hours. Dan surprised me by loving it, but sustained some rather unusual sunburn around his armpits. The water continues to be icy cold, so cool down visits to the water were definitely splashed not swims. We tried out the main beach and the surf beach. We saw a lot of boobs. We read our books. We relaxed. And that is the extent of our beach/tourist time.

The rest of the week varied between muggy overcast and 25 degrees, and muggy overcast and 12 degrees. So we filled our time by eating. And there was so much eating to be had. Pintxos (say: Pinch-oss), and lots of them. By the end of the week we had walked every inch of the old town and i believe had eaten three quarters of the Pintxos bars. We were quite adventurous, with the more unusual items being Hake chins, grilled duck liver and slow cooked beef cheeks in red wine. From a more mainstream perspective
there was definitely a strong theme of seafood (tuna, anchovies, crab, salmon) which suited us down to a tee. Our other favourite was Sollomillio (Sol-oh-MEE-yo), a little bit of sirloin steak, cooked rare, on a piece of baguette. However you just cant eat this sort of food everyday. We made a salad. Twice.

A highlight of our time was the Pintxos cooking course by ' San Sebastian Food' where we joined a group of 5 others (3 Aussies, 2 Americans) and went to a restaurant in a little cooking village and learned to make a menu of Basque region Pintxos, about 8 or so in total. A lot of it was just unusual combinations, presentation or ingredients. However we did learn some excellent techniques. We had the local acidic slightly gassy white wine to start (Txakoli) and lots of yummy other local wine with lunch. We got all of the recipe cards at the end which was great, however Dan filmed almost all of it so we can see the secret ingredients and tips they omitted to write down. The chefs were fantastic at explaining what they were doing and why, the Irish Chef in particular seemed quite experienced and was keen to impart knowledge. He taught Dan and I how to fillet a Lemon Sole which had always miffed me-cant wait to give it a go when we get home! All in all a tad expensive but very enjoyable experience.

Dan and I had the pyrenees and the Rioja wine region on our respective hit lists for this region, however it seemed that without driving this was geographically and financially inaccessible. And we just didn't have the mental stability to hire a car (see above: sleep). Because we couldn't get to Rioja we decided to do a tasting course via the same group as the Pintxos course. This was a last minute decision to go to the midday course so we raced out of bed, grabbed a piece of tortilla (egg slice with potato in it) the size of a set of cards and jumped into the tasting. It was a very informative session with lots of excellent information about the methods of production, naming rights and classification scale, however we were plied with 2 glasses of cava and 4 glasses of Rioja within 2 hours and we left absolutely pickled. Ok we didn't have to drink it all, but we did, as at 35 euro a head i was going to get my monies worth! Problem was this didn't occur to us and after a grabbing a couple of small bites to eat (literally) we went home and promptly fell asleep for a few ho urs, then both woke starving and dehydrated with the headache from hell that took excessive doses of anything and everything in our medication bag (this was desperation when the neurofen plus hadn't scratched the surface) and litres of water to get rid of. Wine tasting at midday=game over.

During quiet times when the weather was terrible and we weren't eating we started on a series I'd been meaning to watch for a while: Downtown Abbey (along with Modern Family and The Good Wife).. For those of you who haven't seen it (DTA) yet go get it, however i would imagine it is something that ABC would be showing. In Dan's words: 'How could butlers be so captivating!'

SO i have just realized that this is my last stop in Spain and there is a Zara next to me. Hello bargain shopping. Poor Dan also just realized that he forgot to get a ornamental chicken in Portugal, if anyone is going there please grab one for him!

So with a heavy heart we say adios Spain, you have been amazing.
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