Beach bum

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August 30th 2009
Published: September 30th 2017
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Cuchara de San Telmo
Geo: 43.3231, -1.98137

The other group that went out last night had a more eventful evening than us – around 1 AM, Richie (Aussie) and Angela (from the UK, working as an au pair in Madrid) returned. Angela seemed to enjoy the free shots given at a paella place a little too much, and was being put to bed for the night. Richie taught us a valuable trick – he kindly left her a puke bucket, and put some detergent in it so that she wouldn't stink up the joint. How thoughtful!

Around 4 AM, one of the Irish guys returned to the room but I didn't see his friend Duncan. I figured he must be having a really good time tonight, and I went back to sleep. He finally rolled in around 7, but I later found out that he had passed out in the bathroom at 4 AM, and finally regained enough senses to climb into bed 3 hours later.

Crappy eggs this morning - I had some trouble maintaining the pan temperature on the stove, so they kept sticking, and I wound up with a pile of mush. They also ran out of bread which was surprising, since Alex

I'm thankful that Spanish women don't look like this. VERY thankful.
put out a bunch last night. I figure some other backpackers stole a loaf for their own use later on. I supplemented the eggs with some more crappy kiwi yogurt, and a few slices of Serrano ham and cheese. A girl from Toronto was also eating breakfast at the same time – she's moving to Bremen to do her master's degree, and is doing a bit of traveling before settling in. She's yet another person that visited San Sebastian, and fallen in love with it. Sounds like she's fallen in love with every other place she's visited in Spain, too. Her words sounded vaguely familiar to me ... I think she mentioned that Bremen wasn't too far from Hamburg – ahhh ... Hamburg ... another city that warrants a return visit, one day (see blog entry entitled "Carnal Carnival" )

I wanted to head out early this morning for a walk, but was locked out of my safe. I didn't want to disturb David so early in the morning, especially after last night, so I just hung around for a bit until he was awake. Off to "Cuchara de San Telmo" in the old town for an early lunch. Unfortunately,

Only a half portion of the foie gras, but still huge. The rock salt sprinkled on top provided a nice salty jolt, as well as some crunch, and it was all served with some great crusty bread. Very yummy stuff, but it ended up being too much of the same. The dish needed some more apple compote, because overall, it was too rich and too filling. Raciones really aren't meant to be eaten by one person. The bitter beer wasn't too good.
I was told that on the terrace, it wasn't possible to order pintxos, only the larger raciones. D'oh! Despite being on a back alley, I still preferred sitting outside on the terrace, because it was a pleasant day. The waitress was also quite cute, and ordering pintxos at the bar would mean that she wouldn't be serving me; yet another reason to sit on the terrace. I was hoping to sample a few different things here, but was content just to stick to the foie gras with apple compote, which was the main reason I came here. The raciones are too big to have more than one of them.

Cuchara de San Telmo is actually run by two former employees of Ferran Adria (for more info on him, see blog entry entitled "We felt like judges onthe 'Iron Chef'!!!" ), so I was really looking forward to sample what they came up with. This pintxos bar is a bit unusual in that all the food is freshly made to order, instead of sitting out on the counter, ready to eat. The foie gras was served, its heavenly scent announcing its arrival well before it even made it to the table.

After lunch, I grabbed a pastry at Barrentxe, a pastry stop established in 1699. I wasn't all that full from the foie gras, I only felt full because it was such a rich dish.
It's a little bit pricey here, but I really wanted to try this place.

I caught up a bit on my journal, and was interrupted by what sounded like a parade – there's always something going on in San Sebastian. I had planned on doing a daytrip today to Hondarribia or Lekeito, but decided against it – next time! I wish I had a bit more time here in San Sebastian, just to wander around a little bit – I probably won't even have time this go around to even walk over to the Gros district and the surf beach.

Back to the hostel to get ready for the beach – I was supposed to head out there with a couple of Italian guys. Leaving Plaza Guipuzkoa after eating a pastry there, I ran into Domingo, one of Frank's friends who attended the wake last night. We quickly exchanged pleasantries in passing as I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the hostel, and he was in a rush to go have lunch.

The Italian guys weren't back yet, but Elena was there visiting with Alex and David, so we had a bit of a chat

I opted for a pastel vasco, I think - of the two in the picture, I'm not sure which was which, so it's a 50/50 proposition. Both had the same cream filling with chopped and toasted nuts, but one was a cake while the other was a pastry shell (the one I opted for).
while I waited. It's interesting how sometimes two people who are essentially strangers can have a fairly deep conversation, just based on the context in which they met. Elena seemed a bit quiet, so I asked how she was and mentioned that she had a bit of a distant look in her gaze. Without going into too much detail, she mentioned that she's had a lot on her mind recently, and the events of the past few days stirred up some old memories. Even without knowing her all that well, having seen such a personal side of everybody last night, I couldn't help but empathize with her situation, as if I knew her better than I did. It's definitely been an interesting few days here in San Sebastian.

The Italian guys finally came back and we headed off to the beach, grabbing Nick (an Aussie – surprise, surprise ...) along the way. It was a pretty hot day on the beach, and a nice opportunity to nap. When things got a little too warm, I went to grab a bottle of water – those Spaniards amuse me! The little snack shack was more than the typical one you'd see on a

The pastry was a little tough, with a slight toasted flavour. I choked a few times by accidentally inhaling the powdered sugar. It was pretty average, and perhaps would've been better with flavoured cream inside.
beach, it was a little tapas bar, where in addition to junk food, pop, and ice cream, you could get beer, wine, cafe con leche, or a light bite to eat.

Nick and I ended up having an interesting chat (there have been many of these the past 24 hours!) about the meaning of travel. When people speak of the subject, contrived sayings such as “trying to find myself” or “trying to find some meaning” are frequently used. Without a doubt, things like that can sound lame – but not to a traveler that has experienced, and understands it. If you actually have found yourself, or found a greater meaning during your travels, these trite words have profound significance. For some, it's merely about acquiring more stamps in the passport and traveling for the sake of traveling, something which I do at times. But generally, my travels are about finding a piece of myself that I've misplaced, or a piece that I never even knew existed. It's about growing, it's about changing, and it's about learning.

After a couple of hours of baking in the sun, I left the others behind and returned to the hostel, not feeling so well and

Plaza Guipuzkoa.
wondering if I got a little too much sun. All the bathrooms were in use when I returned, so needing to pee pretty badly, I ran over to a cafe down the street to use their bathroom, and had a cafe con leche. Feeling crappier by the minute, I took a nap, hoping I would feel better before this evening, since a few of us had planned to do the tapas thing later on.

After the nap, I wasn't really in any shape for a tapas crawl, but damn it, it still was going to happen! I came to San Sebastian for that very reason, so I was going stuff my face with tapas, even if I had to crawl to a hospital afterward. The whole hostel smelled divine, as the Italian guys made spaghetti amatriciana - I've seen it on menus probably dozens of times before, but never tried it because it didn't sound all that appealing. But after seeing what those guys did with it, I will definitely be ordering it the next time I see it at a restaurant. They actually offered me a taste, but still feeling crappy, I declined, though I wanted nothing more than

One of San Sebastian's many bars for pintxos. It was a lot busier than it looks in the photo, but kind of dead in the old town - it was Sunday, after all.
to sample that beautiful pasta.

Due to some miscommunication with the Italian guys, it ended up just being Nick, Danny, and myself for tapas tonight. It was a little disappointing, as the tapas Pervez, Rob, and I had last year seemed much tastier. It wasn't until we hit the final restaurant of the night that we actually had some excellent Basque pintxos. The night ended way earlier for me than it should have, but I felt like absolute garbage.

Earlier on the beach, Nick had mentioned that there was a special commemoration in San Sebastian tomorrow, on calle 31 de agosto. In 1813, a fire resulting from a battle between combined English/Portuguese forces and the French, burned almost all of San Sebastian to the ground, except for this street. After, the name of the street was changed to August 31 street, the day this all happened. Even without that, I was tempted to stay - for some reason, I've become a bit of a beach bum on this trip, and there's no better place to bum around than San Sebastian.

I spoke to David to see if there were rooms available - there were. I enquired as to the nature

This type of food photography has been dubbed gastro porn, as Nick pointed out. I had the fried fish on the left, with the big toothpick sticking out of it - a bit soggy,and pretty average. Just above it is serrano ham, topped with dried little peppers - pretty good.
of the celebration - he told me that there's an energy on that street all day long, and it builds to an incredible level until the evening. The actual commemoration is a candle light vigil, and David mentioned that the rest of the city is business as usual. If I stayed another day, I'd have to cut out Zaragoza, which I'm not terribly excited about anyway, as it sounds like there is little there other than the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar.

The problem is that it's a long bus from San Sebastian to Barcelona, and Zaragoza would break up the journey nicely. If I stayed an extra night, I'd spend most of the following day getting to Barcelona. I could stay for the candle light vigil and catch a night bus to Barcelona, but the bus schedule wouldn't allow me to stay very long for the vigil, and I'd probably end up having a horrible night's sleep on the bus, something which definitely would NOT help me feel any better. So ...

The decision was made .. push on to Zaragoza as originally planned. I had a terrible sleep, and was feeling iller and iller ... but as crappy

At the top is a fish-stuffed roasted pepper, topped with finely shredded cheese - blah. At the bottom is a slice of cheese, rolled and stuffed with fish, and topped with ham and two blobs of mayo - even more blah.
as I felt, I was happy. This trip was all about finding my lost mojo and without even realizing exactly how it happened, my mojo was recaptured in San Sebastian 😊

Additional photos below
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Txokli - a very sweet cava (Spanish sparkling wine).

The final, and by far THE best, stop of the night. Fried fish with prawns (the forks/knives are pointing directly at it) - juicy, with a great crisp texture, which I think was shredded coconut. The chorizo was also good. Good call by Nick to come here, as he had been here before and remembered how good it was.

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