When I return from a trip it’s hard to let go of the feelings and stories I experienced. I want to relive them daily and God bless the folks that are still asking me about it!
Where were we? Ah, the FOOD. The food was perhaps one of the best parts of San Sebastian. According to Michelin Guides, there are restaurants in SS that deserve the 17 hour travel time alone. I believe it. While I didn’t attend any 3 star establishments this time around, I happened upon two spots that I will highly recommend for folks like me on a budget
In the evenings I headed back from the beach to shower and change at the lovely Pension Amaiur, ready to resume my pintxos tour of the area. This family run hotel with shared bathrooms was spotless, extremely well located, and run by the most friendly woman you will meet. When I closed the door behind me, a wealth of culinary opportunities were minutes away.
I loved starting the evening with the relaxing atmosphere, high end pintxos and chic yet friendly staff at Atari Gastroteka. This was one of those “I’m so hungry and I need to just PICK a place” moments that I stumbled upon a place I returned to three times in my four days. Take a spot at the bar, order a glass of wine and relax. The wine list written on a small chalkboard boasts excellent local wines that are worth the 2Euro price tag. Or of course you could go with the Txakoli (cha-co-li)- the local white wine that when poured from high above the glass becomes effervescent…perfect drink on a Summer night. Ask for a plate (plato or platito) and get grabbing at the cold entries spread before you. The hot food, however, is where it’s at in my opinion. I will tell you, anything I ordered was sublime. From fish cheek to lamb, I devoured each bite and wiped up any remains with the excellent brown bread served here.
For a more authentic pintxos bar vibe, I headed to the ever-popular La Cuchara de San Telmo. This place is packed from the early hour and rightfully so. The food is all cooked to order and absolutely delicious. Walk in and (politely) push your way up to the bar. Ask for an English menu or get adventurous. Their food is spot on an inexpensive. Among the most amazing dishes I tried were the Pulpo and Bonito (scallop the size of the plate)…both extraordinary, both well worth it.
On my last night there, I ordered a piece of severely dark chocolate torte… and by this time, the man known as he who yells your name for you to come pick up your food knew me. An honor I’d say. Anyway, before leaving I noticed the bartenders using a special cap on the txakoli bottles. Shit I thought to myself. I had purchased a bottle at a local liquor store and realized then there was no way the wine would become effervescent without this attachment. Maybe it was the wine or the fact that I’d never see this person again or that I was in SPAIN but I went for it…In butchered Spanish I walked up to the bartender and our exchange went a little something like…
“Una pregunta por tu…”
“Donde puedo comprar esto?” (pointing to the topper).
And wouldn’t you know, he reached under the bar and grabbed one for me! The locals around me laughed as I proclaimed Gracias! about 2 times too many and waved goodbye.
It’s little exchanges like this, the extra ones, that make my solo travel experiences so special. It’s the people I meet, the couple from England, or the one from Venezuela, the single woman from France or the group from Australia, the open my eyes to the pure kindness that exists in our big world. And because of that, I end each journey with daydreams of the next.