Back To Spain, San Sebastian

by Johnny

Not so fast, Spain.  You’re not getting rid of us that easy.  After hanging at Goose’s place in Lisbon for a couple days researching our next maneuver, we found an overnight train from Lisbon to San Sebastian, Spain and a super cheap flight from Bilboa (right next to San Sebastian) to Italy, where we have a couple things lined up in the coming weeks.  Done deal.  We were heading back to Spain.

A €0.75 box of wine can really work wonders on an overnight train

San Sebastian was one of my favorite stops on “Jimmy and Johnny’s European Adventure 2004,” and this time around it was even better than I remembered.  A couple days earlier Anna and I were talking about how we’d like to see more sunrises, so we were stoked when our train arrived right when the sun was coming up.  Even though our room was a good hour away on foot, we were too taken with the beauty of the place (and cheap!) not to make the walk all the way there.  It was really surreal to see the place so calm and peaceful when just a few hours later it would be packed with vacationers.

Rolling my bag through the empty streets Sun’s coming up
Early morning in San Sebastian

Given that the Basque country is considered the culinary mecca of Spain, if not the world, Anna and I were pumped to try all the pintxos we could get our hands on.  My brother Jay trained as a chef in San Sebastian for a year, and he gave us some great recs of places to go and things to try.  This was a huge help because I would have been lost trying to order food from the Eusko menus.  Seriously, every word looks like “tzküzktkükzz.”  Anna’s friend Marta, who works at the Quiksilver office in Biarritz and lives in San Sebastian, also gave us some recs of places to go, so we were armed and ready.

Our first night we headed to Goiz Argi, one of Marta’s spots, which is famous for their brocheta de gambas (grilled prawns on toast).  It seemed liked everybody in the bar was ordering them, and for good reason.  They were friggin’ amazing.  I would have stayed there all night and had about a hundred if it weren’t for us being in the true pintxo spirit of trying a couple dishes and then moving on to the next bar.  After Goiz Argi we made our way to A Fuego Negro, one of Jay’s recs.  English menu, phew!  We had a small grilled veggie salad, a couple of kobe beef sliders and some risotto and went home stuffed and happy.

Mouth-watering brocheta de gambas at Goiz Argi
Kobe sliders and banana chips at A Fuego Negro Risotto at A Fuego Negro

On night two we were given strict instructions by Jay to go to his favorite pintxos bar La Cuchara de San Telmo and try the fois dish and the risotto.  Done and done.  Actually, they were so good that we abandoned any thoughts of bar hopping and ordered about six or seven more dishes.  Some highlights were the pork rib in balsamic vinegar, the baked goat cheese with grilled veggies and the bacon-wrapped scallop.

Howdy Jay…thanks for the recs!

Night three ruled!  We met up with Anna’s friend Jen, a Quiksilver alum, and her husband Juan Pablo for drinks and more gambas at Goiz Argi.  Jen and Juan Pablo quit their jobs and traveled the globe for about eight months before settling in Madrid, and they just so happened to be in San Sebastian for the weekend (check out their travel blog).  It was great to chat them up about their travel experiences and get some first-hand do’s and don’ts and must see places.  The only problem is I’m now trying to figure out ways to add all of Africa and South America to our itinerary (please PayPal money to johnny@ciao-for-now).  Remembering what it was like to be on a tight budget for so long, Jen and Juan Pablo picked up our tab at dinner.  Say what?!  Amazing, and greatly appreciated!  We hope to pay it forward someday.

After dinner we headed across the street for some more drinks and listened to Juan Pablo tell awesome travel story after awesome travel story.  He’s like the most interesting man in the world, and once he started talking about how much he loves REI, my man crush was in full swing.  Before we knew it, it was 3:00am, which wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t need to wake up at 4:30am to catch our bus to Bilbao.  We had a great time with Jen and Juan Pablo…they’re avid travelers so hopefully we’ll see them on the road someday.

Other than stuff our faces with pintxos, we basically just admired the beauty of San Sebastian.  Our room was in the Antigua area on the far west of the city (coincidentally right around the corner from where Jay lived), so we would make the walk along Concha beach to the old town multiple times a day, all the while taking in the sights.  I told Anna probably ten times that if I were a sailor or explorer back in the day and stumbled upon San Sebastian, I would have said, “OK…I think I’ll hang here for a while.”  We hit the beach, got lost in the old town and hiked up to the Jesus statue…a very successful, though too brief, reunion with Spain.  Check out some pics…

The view during our walk to San Sebastian’s old town
The old town’s crowded streets Peppers at Goiz Argi (which I dubbed “Spanish edamame”)
Jesus watching over San Sebastian He’s got the best view in the house
San Sebastian’s old town
Goodnight and Adios, San Sebastian

2 Responses to “Back To Spain, San Sebastian”

  1. This reminds me of when I was there in ’03 and it looks even more beautiful now! The boxed wine from Pingo Doce looks so appetizing that I think I need myself some of that, right now…


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