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San Sebastian – the land of the pintxos

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Well, it feels like ages ago now, but after Valladolid we drove to San Sebastian.

There’ll be three more posts on our holiday after this one, Bordeaux, Il de Re and Paris 🙂

And for a quick London update, we’ve now been here for two and a half weeks, have caught up with some wonderful people, I did my first 5km “fun” run ever (nearly died), we splurged and saw the book of mormons a few nights ago (one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen), we’re trying to sightsee as often as we can, and we have been applying for lots of jobs. So we’re having a great time!

But now back to San Sebastian.

Pintxos, food and the old town

We were staying at Pension San Jeronimo (which led to much loud singing of the Sheppard song “Geronimo”), which is right in the middle of the old town. I was worried it would be terrible, but it was actually quite nice. We were in a room with a double and a single bed and there wasn’t a whole lot of extra space, but it was clean and quiet and the beds were comfy enough. We had a shared bathroom in the corridor but it was literally two paces from our bedroom door, and we barely ever saw anyone else around, so it was no problem at all.

The old town is a bit of a tourist trap these days,but still so much fun. Tiny little winding streets filled with shops and pintxos bars.

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Pintxos are like  tapas, little bite-sized portions of food, and they are lined up along the counter for you to look at and then grab. You can order hot food as well, but generally we just stuck to the food displayed as it was pretty hard to go past.

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By far our favourite place was Atari Gastroteka, in front of an old church that is beautifull lit up at night.

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It was around the corner from our hotel which was handy as well. I think we went there three or four times!

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As you can see, the displays were gorgeous, and full of fresh ingredients with beautiful vibrant colours.

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You can see in the photo below that we all picked up one of the same pintxos, it was like a creamy mornay with salted cod mixed through it, still slightly warm on bread. It was unbelievable.

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I won’t pick out anymore for special mention because then I’d have to mention them all, so I will leave it there 🙂

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Another night we tried Ubarretxena, for some yummy paella. It was huge! We had the vegetarian version and it was really nice. A nice change from all the meat and seafood too. The staff were very dismal and didn’t seem very happy to be at work, but the food was good.

And special mention must go to Suzi’s beautiful bun, that Dan the up-and-coming hair artiste helped her with.

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Suzi and I had a craving for chocolate one day, and we found this artisanal chocolate that was creamy and flavoursome, with nuts throughout. DELICIOUS. We ate it on the beach, which made it even better.

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The beach

We spent an afternoon at the beach, and we were lucky because the rest of the time we were in San Sebastian it was pretty rainy and overcast.

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One thing I couldn’t for the life of me work out was why there was a pool ON the beach. Who goes to the beach, to pay to go to a pool?! Very weird.

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Although to be fair, the water was so cold it almost made me homesick, it was seriously nearly as cold as Melbourne waters! VERY refreshing.

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The view out across the rocks towards the beach was beautiful, we sat and watched a bit of the sunset on our first night. And made the most of the panorama option on the camera.

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The view from the top 

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On our last full day in San Sebastian, it was a bit overcast so we decided to start with a walk up to the top of the hill nearby, which has a giant Jesus statue at the top. We weren’t really sure where we were going, but we found ourselves in a beautiful park that we walked through and up to get to the top.

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As we wandered up, we found tunnels, caves, gardens and all sorts. It wasn’t too busy either which was great.

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Once at the top, there is an old castle with a free museum, and you can go upstairs where there is a lookout platform just underneath Giant Jesus. It was a pretty cool view, and it was easy to see the old town and how different the architecture is to the rest of the modernised city.

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The big Jesus was impressive to see up close, he look out over the whole town and is really quite beautiful.

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It was really nice to get out and about, instead of just chowing down on pintxos all day. By the time we got back into town however,the clouds were looking extremely ominous. We ducked into a restaurant just in time, as the rain started falling about 5 minutes later. So we settled in for a long lunch at Aita Mari, with a three course menu.

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We sat upstairs and looked out over the water. Service was lovely. Wine was included in the three course menu, and Dan and I ordered red, while Suzi ordered white. We were rather confused when a full bottle of red, and a full bottle of white arrived and were left on our table… well, what else could we do but drink them?! And delightfully, at the end it was all included in the set menu price!! Unbelievable!!

The food was good too, I had a lightly curry flavoured carbonara, which was a bit strange but light and quite nice.

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For main, Suzi and I both had a tuna steak dish that was slightly overcooked but still nice, and Dan had a squid in squid ink with rice dish that he raved about. Looked pretty icky to me but I’m sure it was nice.

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Desserts were pretty great, I had a banana crepe, Suzi had a lemon gelato, and Dan had a molten chocolate cake with ice cream. All very decadent.

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Good food, wonderful service, great value for money and a lovely way to escape the rain for a couple of hours.
Once we’d finished lunch, it was still pretty dismal outside, so we decided to go to the aquarium!

The Aquarium

A fun way to spend an hour or two, we wandered through and saw lots of fish and other sea life.

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I love turtles, so it was nice to see one swimming serenely right over us at one point!

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There was a big open pool that you could put your hand in, with lots of fish and an OCTOPUS!! They creep me out, but it was pretty cool to see it in there, and it was very obliging and swam out from under a rock for us.

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It wasn’t the most impressive aquarium I’d ever been to, but it was really fun and a nice way to spend a rainy afteroon.

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The next day we were off, saying a sad farewell to Spain as headed over the border to Bordeaux!

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