Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 5 - San Sebastián, Spain

What we did today:
As I mentioned yesterday, our pace has dramatically slowed down. We struggled to get going this morning. It felt sooo good to sleep in. Our missions today were laundry, train tickets back to Barcelona and to figure out the regional train system and schedules. We were finally out the door around 11 am, maybe a little later. We stopped at a small cafe for a quick, light breakfast then walked to the main drag in search of a taxi. It stayed overcast all day and was also about 4 degrees cooler than yesterday. It's still humid, although much more tolerable with the cooler temp.

The lavanderia was small considering there are apparently only 2 options in a city this size. Once laundry was folded and packed, we headed off in search of the national train station. Turned out it was only a 10-15 minute walk from the laundromat. From there we headed to the regional train station, another 20 minute walk. The area around both train stations is much quieter (mostly residential) than Old Town (where we're staying) and the streets are quite pretty.

Notice the separation between pedestrian sidewalk, bike lanes and car/bus lanes in the photo below. The bike lane even has it's own signal. I want this in Seattle!!! Correction, we need this in Seattle.

View over the Rio Urumea

Missions accomplished. We set off for Old Town, stopping for lunch at Rojo & Negro. I really do have to talk about the food again ... When folks tell you the food is "good" in Basque Country, it's not the whole story. The food is truly fabulous. We enjoyed a goat cheese salad, Squid Risotto topped with bacon, Beef Tenderloin with potatoes, and fresh Monkfish with potatoes. I also had the txakoli (local sparkling wine) ... I will always know how to say this now. Our waiter taught me. With a heavy accent he said "say chololate very fast." So I said "Chokaleet," he smiled and said "si, si, si."

We were off again. Getting to Old Town required a walk through Centro (central district). Centro is blocks and blocks of great stores and loads of people. At last, we made it back to the hotel, hung the laundry that could not go in the dryer and took a quick siesta. We love siesta. Dean says, we should all go home in the middle of the day to have lunch and take a nap. We were back out again around 7 pm. We headed back the Centro area to do some shopping and see what there was to see. I confess I bought another pair of small boots. We thought about that cheesecake from La Vińa all day so we headed back for more. We've been to La Vińa three times in two days and they definitely recognize us now. We'll be going back again, and again, before we leave San Sebastián. Everything we've eaten there is good. The people here take great pride in their food and the bars and restaurants have a lot of competition. They work very hard to make great cuisine. Even the octopus and anchovies are tasteful. They're not the salty, disgustingly fishy anchovies we get in the States. These are not cured or salted and they actually are enjoyable.

Today's Observations:
Weddings- Our hotel is about a block and a half away from Église Santa Maria Church. The church bells go off every 15 minutes ... you do get used to it. Today there were at least 2 weddings in the church. The bells go off at the end of a wedding as well. When we stopped for breakfast this morning we noticed lots of very dressed people up headed towards the church, many with cocktail or beer in hand. Sure enough we look down the street towards the church and you just know it's a wedding. This group of guys came by with this "take your photo with the bride and groom" picture board. The men told us it was one euro/photo. We're pretty sure they were serious as this is a fun way to collect cash for the happy couple. Sort of like the tradition of paying a dollar to dance with the bride or groom at a reception. When we got back to Old Town today we also noticed wedding guests walking away from the church with cocktails/beers in hand. We have no idea where they were all headed after the wedding, though it certainly made us curious about wedding customs in Spain. I plan to research it or ask someone before we leave.

Puppies- We've noticed a lot more dogs in San Sebastián. Mostly small dogs and all very well behaved (or small enough to be carried in bags and doggy purses). Many of the dogs are off leash and are trained to follow their person.

Fashionistas- Most people here dress very well. Lot's of folks have jeans on yet we noticed at night people get very dressed up to come out for dinner and socializing. Even if they have jeans on, they're dressy jeans with fancy shoes, tops, jewelry and handbags. Even the men dress smartly. It's like a runway fashion show to us, sitting on the church steps with loads of other folks watching the outfits go by.

Tomorrow, we head to Bilbao (rhymes with "cow"). Tell you about it soon.

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