Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 15: Staying Put in San Sebastian: Museum, Monte Urgull and Munchies

Playa Zurriola from Monte Urqull
Map of San Sebastian,. We spent nearly all day in the area in dark green on the peninsula that juts out into Conchita Bay.
Today was great for a number of reasons: 1. We slept late. Woo hoo. This is one of my vacay guilty pleasures. 2. We had pastry for breakfast. Another vacay only concept--both breakfast and pastry. 3. We walked about 9 miles, but it lasted the whole day, so we barely noticed.  4. We saw the city museum, and 5. We went to the mountaintop on the end of the peninsula and got great views. 6. The weather was neither too warm or too cold.

View of the city from on high.

View of La Conchita Beach. We see many more people on this beach. There are three in San Sebastian and one on an island in the bay. 
Gotta love this. Not tapas but pinchos. Nearly every establishment here serves these very small bites at reasonable prices. 
After getting up AFTER 9 AM (heresy in my life), we walked down to the waterfront to a bakery. And I had EGGS for breakfast. Okay, egg whites...beaten stiff and then some sugar added. Okay. I had a monstrous meringue pastry pictured below for breakfast. Paul had the donut seen in dwarf behind it. Oh well. I drank water. Does that count for anything? Probably not.

This is called literally meringue heaven. It was slightly sweet. I can assure you I shared a good bit of it with the pigeons.
After breakfast, we wandered down to the St. Telmo museum. It is a former monastery and now houses both temporary as well as permanent collections. Paul is seen below standing next to "Los Gigantes." These are large figures used in parades. They originally represented moorish kings, but now represent...a tradition..mostly of crossdressing men, but hey! Suit yourself San Sebastian. Apparently at one time the use of "giants" was banned from parades, but now it is back. Paul need not be concerned that he will be the subject of a forced march behind a high school band.

Los gigantes. Male or female, they all have on a dress (except Paul.)
The museum dwelled some on the art of the region, the costumes, the daily life of the Basque people and their various struggles for independence, the politics of Spain including Fascists and Franco and the past eruptions of violence with particular emphasis on the role of the Basque people and language.

Amputation knife in the museum. They haven't changed all that much.

Arched ceiling of the museum/monastery
Paul got pretty excited when he saw that the temporary exhibit was Pier Paolo Pasolini--his life and work. He was a very controversial director/artist/ poet/ author of the 1950s through 1970s. I have to say that many times when someone says a body of work was offensive to the people of the artist's day, I end up finding it pretty benign. But I am pretty sure a good bit of his work would be found highly offensive even today. He dealt with various figures in the Catholic religion, including Christ, the apostles and sometimes the pope and Vatican, as well as various political leaders.  He was a homosexual and that also presented its own struggle for him. He was eventually murdered in a small beach town. 

Pier Paolo Pasolini

This is a film editing table that Pasolini used in his work. He also used it to defend himself in court for moral terpitude. He lost the case, but the film table survives.

Here is another piece of artistry OUTSIDE the museum. Many people grow flowers on balconies. 

After seeing the museum, Paul and I had some pinchos--tiny little hor d'ouevers. Just perfect for a small meal.
Paul stops intruders at the gates of the Castle on Mount Urqull. It has a moat!

Another great view of the bay and the Conchita beach, full of boats and people on the beach.

There is a statue of Jesus on top of the Mount Urqull, reminscent of  Corcavado in Brazil.

A view out into the bay. Santa Clara island is in the foreground.

A view back into the city from Mount Urqull

We see lots of recreational enthusiasts in the bay... paddleboards, surfers, swimmers and kayakers.

Wildflowers were common as well.

Another set of the local gin and tonic. Paul has fallen in love with the local gin Nordes. I think my suitcase on the way back may be a bit heavier than on the way here :)

Mount Urqull is an old fort and was in a perfect position at the end of the peninsula to protect the city of San Sebastian. It is a bit of a climb. One blogger described the climb as taking 2 hours but I'd say it is more like 20 minutes to the healthy. The fort is fun to see and there are still some cannons around. The vegetation is lush. There is a cemetery, the old Castle and moat, and a museum inside. Lots of great views all around.  From there, we went back to the hotel and sat around on our private balcony for a while enjoying the sunset. '

Then off to dinner at Lanziego, an upscale Basque restaurant specializing in seafood.  Yes, more pictures of food. That's why we walk so much :)

Cod in garlic and piquillo pepper sauces with vegetables. This is the appetizer size. Sheesh!

Scallops au gratin cooked in the shell. Again, appetizer size. 

Spider crab baked in the shell

Dessert: Chocolate cylinders filled with white chocolate and raspberry sorbet. 
A really nice meal and a lovely day and evening. So far, we are loving San Sebastian. It's cool enough that there aren't that many tourists at this time. The scenery is beautiful, the people are very nice and the food will come back to the US, probably on  my thighs. Oh well.

Closing with a poem by Pasolini, whose brother died in an ambush during WWII :

Force of the Past

 Pier Paolo Pasolini, (1922-1975)

I am a force of the Past.
My love lies only in tradition.
I come from the ruins, the churches, the altarpieces,
 the villages abandoned in the Appennines
or foothills of the Alps
where my brothers once lived.

 I wander like a madman down the Tuscolana,
 down the Appia like a dog without a master.
Or I see the twilight, the mornings over Rome,
the Ciociaria, the world, as the first acts of Posthistory
to which I bear witness,
for the privilege of recording them
 from the outer edge of some buried age.

Monstrous is the man
born of a dead woman’s womb.
And I, a foetus now grown,
roam about more modern
 than any modern man,
 in search of brothers no longer alive.

Paul's Ponderings:  A relaxed day in San Sebastian.    We got up late and then did sightseeing.   The Pasolini exhibit was pretty fascinating -- he's a fairly significant figure in post WWII Italian films along with Bertolucci, Vittoria De Sica, and Fellini, albeit less well known outside of film buffs, but far more controversial.  As Lou said, it's a rare talent to offend everyone in 1970 and still offend today, given the shift in typical mores!  We saw a film clip of an interview where the interviewer said "I hope you aren't insulted by this" and his response was "people insult me every day" and he meant it -- it's hard to find fearless cultural figures these days (Kanye West? Someone else?  -- don't think so). Regardless of his views, he was quite a complex and multi-talented figure and in ways not often seen today -- films, novels, newspapers, poems, painting, etc.    A lot of it seems archaic today (outside the films), but there's nuggets in there about the "commercialization of everything" that resonate 50 years later.

Philosophy aside, a great day in northeast Spain...everyone should be so lucky.

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