Donostia...don't know how I lived without ya. Spain is divided into different regions, kinda like states; and, at the time, I thought much more autonomous but not so sure anymore.
Barcelona is in Catalonia which has been in the news a lot re: its fight for autonomy:
Enough politics...this is supposed to be fun!
Not only were their politics different but they actually have their own languages too. And, speaking of language, I should come clean here. What little Spanish I could say to have is actually what I guess you could politely call gringo espanol--meaning, I could order the meat for a taco in Baja but could barely order a cerveza in Spain. So lots of lo siento and no entiendos. Here, they might have had signs in two languages but they were in "Spanish" (the official language of Madrid) and then the regional dialect which differ more than a farm girl from Minnesotan talking to a bartender in New Orleans. Case in point is that San Sebastian is known as Donostia to the Basques, tapas are pinxtos, etc.
Much like the 1st leg of my Italian journey, the train ride across the northeast regions of Spain was a kaleidoscope of landscapes and impressions similar to a compressed version of the vast US. The city quickly disappears into rolling plains and flatlands as the train then heads up the Ebro River valley before reaching the mountains of the Iberian and Pyrenees ranges and the north coast.
If you haven't already been blown away by the scenery, once you start to explore San Sebastian all your senses are sated. It's an enclave like an Aspen or Santa Barbara where the architecture, landscape and community coalesce to create a beautiful place for beautiful people (believe me, I just said that cuz I thought it sounded good ;)
Even though, I found the trains to be much more modern and comfortable than those in Italy, it was nice to adjust the packs and set off on foot to find my lodging at the enigmatically-named Akasha Arima. Seemed easy enough:
N on Fredrico Garcia Lorca Pasealekua
L on Maria Cristina Zubia
continue on Valentin Olano Kalea
R on De Bilbao Plaza
R on Getaria Kalea
L on San Martin Kalea
continue on Mirakontxa Pasealekua
continue on Satrustegi Hiribidea
continue on De Zumalakareggi Hiribidea
L on Serrano Anguita
And presto! I'm there...not. Here is where I realized that the many advances in technology that had previously passed me by could come in handy...like a cellphone...or a motorized buggy with a local driver aka a cab, ya numskull.
Well, I couldn't complain about the view as I struggled to find the sidestreets that led me hopefully to a meal and a nap.
Maria Cristina Hotela (not where I was staying)
Playa de Ondarretta
Sagrado Corazon de Jesus
Despite, the incredible views the jetlag was starting to seep from my brain to my legs as if it was immersed in the sweat beginning to gather pretty much everywhere. So I decided to join the 21st (or whichever) century and turn on my cellphone to call the hostess at the pensione. Lucked out here, in that, I had upgraded from a dorm-style room and shared bath at a surf hostel, to a private room in a house-like setting; but still with a shared bath. However, an amenity of the shoulder-season (which also included beaches where you could actually see sand and sea and not just people and umbrellas) is that I had the place to myself. Good and bad, I guess as it's always nice to meet new travellers. My hostess was super-nice and knowledgeable about the region. Like many of the people I met, she was originally from South America but had Spanish roots and gave me an extensive list of things to do and see in my 3 nights there. I let her know, somewhat desperately, pintxos pronto! (or something like that)
My first experience with these authenic versions of whatever you want to call them, did not disappoint. Both of these became staples on the trip: on the left is Iberian ham and queso aka ham-n-cheese hot pocket, on the right is salmon and queso on a brochette aka give me three more!
Luckily, the restaurant was close to my bed as my exhaustion seemed to increase with the rain. And as the rain continued so did my slumber. There's a certain part of travelling where I feel like I need to experience as much as possible like Frodo leaving the shire though sometimes ignoring the rest it takes to do accomplish that very goal. I would like to say I forced myself to sleep away my second day of Spain but it was the path most easily followed.
Travel trip #2 (notice, these are thing I didn't do): Bury yourself in a comfy, convenient hotel room the first couple of nights after any long travel day, especially if it involves altitude and/or time changes.
And, as the rain abated, so did my zzz's but not the growls from my stomach. Still being somewhat dazed from the travel and sleep, I kept dinner simple by going to one of those over-priced spots you would never go to in your hometown but they do serve a purpose...and at La Perla it is the view. Oh yeah, and more hake (not to be confused with sake) and vino tinto (which can easily be confused with red wine;) before retiring for an early night as the next day would be the first without the logistics of navigating hundreds of miles in a foreign country.