Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 14: Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastian: A Band of Gypies Goes Down the Highway

So our day began with a 7  AM alarm clock (not a good vacation memory!) and off to the Santiago de Compostela airport which is a lot bigger than we expected and beautiful and modern. We wimped out and flew to San Sebastian because it was a 10 hour train ride. It would have been a great view of Northern Spain, but we felt like maybe we got that on the ride to Leon and the walk across the North. 

I never heard of San Sebastian until about 7-8 years ago when my friend, Jana, and I were on the road with Pearl Jam in Copenhagen. She started to lament that once they played San Sebastian and she just stayed overnight and wished she had lingered. Then we started talking to the waitstaff at one of Paul's favorite high end restaurants in DC, Komi, and they were raving about San Sebastian. So this year Paul said, "We oughta go there for our R&R after walking the Camino." Who am I to object?

A view of the city from the seawall. You see Playa Zurriola in front of the buildings. The river Urumea empties into the ocean beside the beach.

Two happy campers on the ocean! You will note that it is too chilly to swim until very late in the afternoon. I am in a light jacket.

Seaside sculpture. The city is well known for them.
We were able to get fairly easily from the airport which is about 20 minutes outside town by taxi. They have buses around,but in general the system of public transportation isn't as good as Madrid or other larger cities, so the feet are the best method of locomotion. Fortunately, we have PLENTY of recent experience walking.

We started out just walking around town and getting the "lay of the land."

We are staying about a mile up the river Urumea in a nice hotel called Silken Amara. All the action is near the beach. They were nice enough to give us a room with a balcony so we can look out over the town. We need the walk down to the beach because of the great dining opportunities here. Keep looking. Food porn ahead!
We walked down the riverbank which has broad walking promenades and even a nice bike lane. From there we walked all the away around the bay area and the park you see in green in the upper middle of the map. It seemed crowded as we approached the bay of La Concha and we soon found out why!
There was a rowing regatta going on. Lotsa crowds cheering their teams on to victory.
So we walked right into a regatta. Probably 50 different teams of hot, toned , six pack abdomen guys in shorts and tight shirts....don't worry...there were WOMEN for Paul, too. We watched them racing and they are really fit and you can tell ocean rowing is NOT for wimps.

After watching these young folks compete, Paul and I felt like we needed to go to confession :) So off we went to the three major Catholic cathedrals in succession: St. Vincente (the oldest), St. Mary's (with beautiful organ and an a capella choir in practice--heavenly voices) and Cathedral Buen Pastor (the largest and the prettiest). This gave us a good walk around town which included the narrow streets of the old section which are hopping with shopping, restaurants, etc.

The alter piece of St. Vincente Cathedral

The pipe organ and choir of St. Mary's. They were singing a capella--choir practice. The acoustics were great and if there was ever the sensation of angels singing, this was it. The Latin old church music is so lovely on the ear. 

Moden art in the cathedral

Looking up a narrow street to the big Kahuna cathedral, Buen Pastor.

Looking up from the foot of the cathedral

When we got inside the sun was setting and casting these beautiful shadows through the stained glass and onto the walls of the cathedral and the representation of Christ. Even Paul sat down in a pew to admire the light show. Stunning.

From here, we wandered back to the hotel and enjoyed a really nice gin and tonic at a little sidewalk cafe near the hotel. 

We had a short time in the hotel where I lamented my lost luggage and my skanky outfit to eat at a restaurant called Xarma. The chef is female and the food was crazy, crazy good. NOW, for the food porno section. Do not show to babies and the underfed.

Food voyeur, Paul Parris, anticipates the arrival of a meal for the record books. We had the tasting menu. Thank heaven the portions were small.
Foie gras with pine nuts 

An amazing deconstructed gazpacho. Tomato "sand," cucumber sorbet wrapped in melon and a smear of avocado. A flower just for the heck of it.

This salad was more like an abstract art piece than food...until you tasted it. The pink things are bonita. All the rest is vegetables.

An onion and cod flan of sorts with potato chips. RICH!

Octopus--if I had eight hands I would have eaten it faster. Yummy.

Pork in a wine sauce with caramelized figs and vanilla sauce. Seriously?

Citrus puddings

Some kind of chocolate "thang" with chocolate sand and accompanying spheres of various chocolate flavors--white, milk and dark. If you have to have death by chocolate, it should be this gorgeous.

What can I say about this day? A nice trip over on Iberia, a good hotel with a balcony room, a good 6 mile walk around San Sebastian exploring the city, some solemnity and art in the churches with a capella singing and a light show extraordinaire and a dinner fit for  a king and queen. We are having a royally good time and realizing constantly how very fortunate we are!

Paul's Ponderings:  What a day indeed.....San Sebastian reminds me of other ports like Palma and Genoa.   Mountains and/or scenic crescents with old towns surrounding them....just incredibly scenic here.   The Basque language is an odd variant of Spanish (coming from a poor Spanish speaker) with lots of use of "X" for some reason that I'm sure makes sense to linguists.   The high point of the day was the dinner at Xarma....geez these folks can cook.   This is one of several fabulous meals we've had on this trip.   Very highly recommended and right up our alley as a small place doing inventive variants on regional food.  

As a coda, my feet feel fine after a day's rest!

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