Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Basque Disney?

Hondarribia feels, and I mean this in the most respectful way possible, a bit like Basque Disneyland.

Not in that it's too clean or packed with tourists or full of employees dressed as characters or anything. It's just that you hit a certain street and suddenly you find yourself looking at what Basque Coastal Town Perfection must look like. You don't want to use the words "quaint" or "picturesque" because you know they're too cliche but... this town is all of that. Even cliche, in a good way.

I mean, look at the adorable green-and-white painted fishing village-style houses. It's just a little too perfect.

There are even cute, fuzzy woodland creatures with big, watery eyes (OK, he's a puppy named "Gudari," or "soldier").

And these potted plants! Are you kidding me?

Just when you're about to be overwhelmed by the fairyland adorableness of it all, you remember what that lady you met earlier told you: you must go to Gran Sol. She told you to order whatever you wanted and promised it would be good.

So you find Gran Sol, which is exactly as packed as an excellent pintxo bar on a pretty holiday afternoon should be. You order the first hot pintxo on the menu, the "medieval."

And just like that, the Disneyland metaphor dies. Because while Disney has plenty to offer with respect to picturesque almost-otherworldliness, it is a known fact that theme park food is overpriced and generic.

This is neither of those things.

"You eat this one," the barman explains to you, pointing to the layered green cup, "and you drink this one," indicating the foggy shot glass. You look back at the menu to remind yourself what you're eating/drinking. "Medieval: Mushroom stew with vegetable game, little quail egg, air of spinach and Jaizkibel mist."

Then suddenly it occurs to you: if this were Basque Disneyland, the food couldn't be mediocre or it wouldn't be Basque. You remember that all fairy tales have a magical component: Cinderella has her fairy godmother, Snow White a magic kiss. Here, the magic's all in the food.

You take a bite.

Maybe that lady who sent you here was your fairy godmother...

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