Saturday August 27, 2022
Mike and I took different flights to Spain because I stayed in NJ for my mom’s funeral, while Mike flew back to Utah to handle a few things that needed our attention. We met up in Amsterdam and flew to Bilbao together. Because his flight landed at 8:30 and our flight to Bilbao departed at 9:15, his luggage didn’t make it.
My cousin Ismael and his wife Inma met us in Bilbao and drove us to our hotel, stopping at a roadside for a picnic of Basque bread, Jamon de Iberica, Cheese, a traditional Potato Omelet, and a Rioja Vino Tinto Reserva. Inma whipped out a tablecloth and all the food, utensils, glasses, a very fancy lunch.
Ismael and Inma helped us to find a store in San Sebastian that sells Apple products because somewhere along the way I managed to lose my MAC charger. We also needed to get cash and a few other necessities (shirts for Mike, water). Having family who speak the language has been a tremendous help.
We stopped for pintxos, and Inma and I stuck our feet in the water before heading back to Hotel Londres y Inglaterra to get settled in.
In Donosti – San Sebastián, there are too many places of interest to see, particularly while we are preparing for 39 days on the Camino. We crossed the Kursaal bridge over the Urumea River, spent plenty of time in the Old Quarter, lit a candle for my mom in the Basilica de Santa Maria.
San Sebastián is the capital city of Guipúzcoa province. Guipúzcoa (ghee-pooth-co-a) is small, and the landscape is breathtaking. Fishing is a major industry there, and fish a major culinary pleasure of Guipúzcoanos. All of the Basque Country is world-renowned for fine eating, but interest in food and quality restaurants is concentrated in San Sebastián.
San Sebastián is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, placed like a string of pearls around the shell-shaped bay of La Concha. On one side of the city looms Monte Igueldo, to the other Monte Urgull. There are beautiful hotels, Michelin-rated restaurants, boutique clothing stores and shops, the beach, and the waterfront Paseo de la Concha.
The cobbled streets off the port are home to strings of animated tapas bars that feature delicious pintxos (don’t call then tapas), where we were lucky to eat Gilda pintxos, croquetas, as well as delicious dinners.
“The Gilda is the pintxo par excellence in the Basque Country at any time of the year. It is said that its name “Gilda” began to be used in the San Sebastian bar Bar Casa Vallés, referring to the main character of the movie Gilda, very spicy for her time. I don’t know if it is true, but in any case, it is a skewer that is worth making.
“The trick of a good Gilda is that the piparra/guindilla is not very large and has a dot of vinegar, the anchovy is thin and without beards, and the olive is of the “zanilla” type without a pit. It should be taken in one bite to enjoy all the aromas and flavors at once.”
After 3 days in beautiful San Sebastian, we will begin our Camino del Norte on August 30.