Friday, June 24, 2011

SAN SEBASTIAN pintxo bakarrizketak

2011-06-24 San SebastianGustav was salivating for a seafood lunch, so we picked a place by the port more or less at random. (I thought the place serving Hay Paella catered more to farmers like Brent.) We had a crab entree followed by “sea-bream for two” – both were cooked well, but really there was barely enough flesh on either creature to serve one person, let alone two – and with no side dishes available to order we expected vegetables to arrive with the main dish. Not only did we not get any accompaniments, we were billed for the rather ordinary bread they kept dropping off. Quite an expensive tourist sting: be warned!tanning zone - looking to Mt Igelda
We didn’t have too much lunch to walk off, so headed back to the car to get our beach gear. Pretty much everywhere we went today was never more than about 15 minutes from the car, which was very convenient. The streets and beaches were all packed so it was just as well we got in this morning before the car stations were similarly filled up.
baginaren bakarrizketak<<< This is how I worked out the Basque word for “monologues”.
P6240002-003_stitch La Concha bathers
P6240007-008_stitch La Concha under the archesMichael @ La Concha
Swimming in La Concha is a bit like being a large salty lake with a gentle fall of waves on a sandy beach, a very crowded sandy beach. I haven’t seen one so packed since my last summer swimming at Bondi Beach in Sydney. The surrounds make it seem more like the Manly beaches (Sydney again). Gustav was very pleased to plunge into Atlantic waters after our visit to the beach in Bordeaux proved to be too wild and chilly for a dip.

My little Olympus tough camera finally decided that it wasn’t going to be waterproof anymore and the pictures in the collage here are its final gasp before going to digital heaven.

La Concha - more toes (and Gustav)

After we’d bathed, burnt and booked by the bay for long enough it was time for coffee and gelato. Gustav was a bit dubious when I passed over a few heladerias because it looked like they sold commercially-packaged product. Finally I found one in the old quarter that looked right. I had to spend some time decoding the untranslated flavours for us – although some like the one of the left below needed little explanation. Who was it said that the recent royal wedding “would have more blue blood than a Smurf disaster epic”? I passed over the pitufo sangre flavour for a mix of “violet” and choc-orange, both exceptionally fine. Gustav declared his selection to be the best he’d ever tasted.

Smurf blue and violet gelato
We whiled an hour or so in the local FNAC (book/media store). As I was checking out I remembered that it’s the only store I know anywhere that needs photo ID to make a purchase. Last time I had to leave a large pile of CDs and DVDs on the counter as they demanded a passport that I didn’t have on me (and my Australian driver’s licence didn’t cut it). This time I had my French licence with me so I passed muster.
P1040223-225_stitch Kursaal across river
We crossed back over to Gros to look around some more and to find a peluquero para caballeros so I could get a haircut. My long forgotten Spanish was creeping back, one word at a time. That haircut was very nicely managed, one of the ladies letting me burble on in my Español para tontos fashion before revealing post-haircut that they had perfectly serviceable English. They probably spoke French too, being so close to the border; I guess many people here have at least Spanish, Basque, French and English under their belts.

Zurriola beach looked to be even more packed than La Concha (see below, click to enplayanate). While browsing in one of the sandy-floored outlets of  Ipar Hego, the Basque Surf Company, one of the sales-chicos asked where we were from. ( I think we stood out everywhere as two of the tallest people around.) On learning that Gustav was from the south of Sweden ( and me  fractionally so by ancestry), he said we should look up some of the references on Viking visits to Gascony and the Basque country prior to the 11th century when the monastery of San Sebastian was founded. I’ve poked around on some forums which have speculation that above-average levels of blondness amongst the Basque may come from Norse contributions to the gene pool, and many placenames  derive from Nordic names: e.g. Bjarnihus –> Biarritz. Read more here, or for coverage of Viking raids in Gascony and in particular the area where I now live: here. 

P1040226-228_stitch Kursaal on river

The Basque region is well-known for its cuisine. The bars of San Sebastian have a variety of tapas known as pintxos (pinchos). I dimly recall that Friday was the day for them in the old town, but maybe that was a seasonal thing and they’re available every day now. In any case I engineered this to be a Friday visit for that reason. The plates of seafood delicacies that we plucked for consumption over a beer and very silky temperanillo (my favourite quaffing red) were much better than our lunch deal. How's them eggs?

The chart above is typical of those displayed outside tavernas in the old part, but we actually ate at Gandarias. Do not confuse the pintxos with the more touristic dull fare shown >>>, with its huge spam-exclusive selection…

All dined and done for the day, we were home in the Gers just as the sun was setting, an excursion helped greatly by the solstice hours.

Txu Txu (choo choo train)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:42 am

    Great, now I can remember one word of Basque - Baginaren.