The third and final city in our whirlwind tour of Spain was the quaint beach town of San Sebastian. Our stay in San Sebastian was, by a long stretch, the highlight of our journey thus far.
Starting from our train ride from Madrid where we befriended our first Aussie on the trip - a Melbourne lad named Aaron who, it turns out, shares some mutual friends with me and has a Maltese Irish dancing link in his family too. To cut a long story short: my mum, who is of Maltese descent, was a two-time Australian champion in Irish Dancing in the 1960s (don't ask me how the hell a Maltese ends up competing Irish dancing. In Australia!). At 14 years old she was the youngest ever Aus champ. Aaron's mum is also of Maltese heritage and was also an Irish dancer. Aaron's mum was taught by a bloke who was taught by my mum. Christ almighty! Talk about a small world. There's more overlaps in that little story than the Bold and the Beautiful family tree!
Aaron kindly showed us to our accommodation, which was on the edge of Old Town (or Parte Vieja in Spanish). As its name suggests, Old Town is the original walled city that has basically remained untouched since the late 1800s. I immediately fell in love with Old Town. Endless hours were spent strolling through the ancient city streets and getting stuck into beer and Pinxtos (a San Sebastian specialty - more on which you'll find in Jessica's entry on Spanish food below).
Jess managed to drag me from the streets of Old Town to spend a day climbing up Monte Urgell to explore Castle ruins, an old cemetery for British soldiers, some of the best views of the city, and a humungous statue of Jesus that was bigger than…well, Jesus! I could not be happier with the photos we took up there - although I did have to spend most of time wrestling the camera from Jess who was busy trying to get shots of local lizards, seagulls and feral cats. That'd be right! We travel halfway around the world and blow the house deposit to see a 16th century castle and Jess has more fun pretending she's Steve Irwin in a bra!
The rest of our time in San Sebastian was spent over-indulging on the local cuisine and beverages. Ok, mostly on the beverages. You know how the story goes: beer, followed by port, then sangria, then a bucket, then a hangover, then tonnes of regret and spiels about how we will NEVER let this happen again. Yeah RIGHT!! Just like that bloke in the Paris Hilton…ahem…"home movie" I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. San Sebastian is one of the best kept secrets on Earth. Do yourself a favour and include it in your next European trip. You won't regret it.
And now for something completely different, here is... Jess' Food Review!
Ok, I've been shafted to the end, because apparently MY contribution to the blog isn't as important! So I will be the footnotes to 'Gary's' entry.
From street food in Barcelona to Pinxtos (or Tapas as most will know it) in San Sebastian, it's safe to say we are starting to look a little like Spiderman from Madrid. In nearly every restaurant or bar, there are at least 15 whole legs of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling. In Spain, they serve prosciutto (or jamon in Spanish) with nearly everything! It's like giving you a serviette with your meal - 'here have some jamon with that, even though you ordered a hot chocolate'. Gary's favourite has been the 'bikkini', as they called it in Barcelona, and yes you're right, it's a leg of prosciutto in a Bikini! No, it's a fresh, crusty French stick with olive oil (forget the marge love, it's olive oil all the way here) and jamon. That's it. Meat and bread. And it's amazing.
In Barcelona and Madrid, we definitely racked up the Paella's and they didn't disappoint. Seafood Paella in Barcelona was a treat and if you're ever there, do yourself a favour and try one.
San Sebastian provided us with the most authenticate Spanish food. We were able to wander around from bar to bar, trying different things here and there - the old town is well set up for that. What amazed me was that each bar was so unique and created their own atmosphere. Whether it was low hanging medieval light fittings, or cartoon plastered walls, each one just had your eyes doing 360's. Gaz and I, being food lovers, enjoyed picking random things from menus and seeing what we got - salamis, cold soups, fried cheeses with interesting sauces- it was all delicious!
We are looking forward to French cuisine, however we might not be as brave with selecting at random from the menu with all the 'frog legs and snails' talk that we hear! But hey, you know what they say, when in Rome…
Next stop: Bordeaux, France