Monday, February 7, 2011

get ready, because this one's a doozy.

sunset, monte urgull

Jessica and Allison's visit to Basque Country was fantastic, just fantastic. But before I tell you about that, I need to take you back in time about a week. Come with me please...

So my mom had mailed me some packages of gear I had put together to hike the Camino de Santiago this June. Don't you love getting packages in the mail? Especially in a foreign country? I know I do, and so it was with much anticipation that I looked forward to getting these little boxes of goodness from me to myself.

Then they came: the letters from Madrid. We have your packages here, they said, and we hope you weren't wanting to get them too easily. Please come to Madrid in person to pick them up, or else contract an expensive company to do it, but if you choose the company you must send us a copy of your ID, birth certificate, college entrance essay and a drawing from when you were six years old that your parents put up on the fridge. After a long and hectic process that involved lots of document-scanning and talking to post office officials on the phone, I figured out that one could have one's friend go in one's place, provided one's friend was in Madrid and was going to be where one was shortly.

rescued backpack

Eureka. So Allison - who I believe should be recommended for sainthood - went to the post office for me, picked up my huge backpack and brought it all the way up north for me. I luh you, Allison.

But wait, you said. This post has "donosti" and "food" tags. Where is all the food and the picturesqueness?

Patience, grasshopper.

Saturday morning we arrived in Donosti to a surprise:


We took advantage of the perfect weather to do the following: walk to el peine de los vientos. get Juantxo's for a picnic (Juantxo's is a bar that specializes in sandwiches. Its name is not actually Juantxo's, it's Juantxo Taberna. Enter How Southerners Handle Establishment Names). Play in the sand on the beach. Walk up Monte Urgull for some perfect views of the city at sunset.

Juantxo's on the beach

Then pintxo-poteo was on (I told you we'd get there sometime). We made it to 4 places that night, and I have to say I think it was the best pintxo experience of my life. I hate to be that person saying pretentious-sounding things like "the foie at La Cuchara de San Telmo was revelatory," so I won't (except I sort of just did, in a cheating way). I'll just show you a picture of it and tell you we went back for more the second night.

Another landmark: my first Gilda. Perhaps the most emblematic of Donosti pintxos, the Gilda consists of guindilla peppers, an anchovy and an olive on a stick I wasn't sure I'd be into it - anchovies aren't usually my thing - but this was Donosti, where things you don't like are still somehow delicious. Salty, briny, tart, with a little bite at the end.** We got ours at Bar Haizea, over near La Bretxa market.

Anyway, not going to describe every pintxo. Suffice it to say: Mmm.

Sunday was lots more walking, including a second (sunset) visit to a very lively Peine de los Vientos, the Eduardo Chillida sculpture at one end of the city's La Concha beach walkway. When the tide's coming in or the sea is especially playful, big jets of air and water are forced up the blowhole part of the sculpture. The tide was coming in.

After that, it was time for Jessica's Basque hazing. I took her into Bar Herria, a locale decorated with propaganda, murals of masked men, and photos of political prisoners. I had only been once before, and on a Real Sociedad-Athletic Bilbao game night when every bar was packed and so the atmosphere was a bit different. This is a class of bar called a herriko taberna, or bars that support the (now-illegal) leftist independence party Batasuna. They're the ones with the big basque flag out front. I ought to mention that these bars are not representative of mainstream Basque society - even most people who support independence are heavily opposed to violence.

Basque hazing complete, we were exhausted so we went to bed at the ungodly hour of 10:00 PM. Wuss-out... or opportunity for crazy amounts of sleep? I think you know.

Monday afternoon we parted ways, and I got back to Bilbao yesterday afternoon in time to teach my evening classes.

**a note to my fellow auxiliares in Bilbao - don't try to get a Gilda in Bilbao. They're always messing it up with onion chunks here.


  1. you crack me up. this blog is soooo entertaining. glad that you are going and doing so much!

  2. thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoy it!