2014 France, Spain & Portugal Letter 3

Friday, 5 September 2014 12:21 am

Still sunning ourselves in San Sebastian but Portugal here we come…

I am starting this whist still in San Seb, as I am not sure what internet we will have for the next few days. The weather has been divine, the natives friendly and food stunning, so there’s no complaints!

Our Loft in San Sebastian

Our Loft in San Sebastian

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

my office.....

my office…..

my view when I get tired of working

my view when I get tired of working

I think I left off with an evening walk, passegiata, which I think is the same in Italian and Spanish or perhaps I just made it up. Anyway we ‘did’ the river walk via the newer part of the city, it’s very Haussmann meets Barcelona in San Sebastian, so think late late 1800’s and I love the way that cars come second, another thing him in charge back in Oz should ponder on (‘reflexionar’ as they say here). There’s a lane for buses, a lane for bikes, one or two for us nice walkers, and if you are lucky one for the cars. That said, they ‘do’ motor ways very well too. We meandered around for a few hours and as it was getting dark (9ish) we then dined at home, a sort of ‘clean out the fridge’ type of meal. Take one third of a baguette (we had eaten the rest for lunch), fried in virgin olive oil with some saucissons, three hard boiled eggs (quartered), some of the collection of French tomatoes, basil, green olives, half a dozen cooked & skinned baby spuds, some mild green chilies and I think some cheese and I had more or less cleaned our one section of the back log of my market purchases. We drank Red & White, because we also have a back log of wine to drink and we are doing out upmost to use it up. The lad was intrigued with the flue/trumpet like music wafting up, so we checked it out before dinner and there is a dance class on the local square. It’s traditional Basque folk dancing and I think he’s itching to join in…….

a 'clean out the fridge' meal

a ‘clean out the fridge’ meal

Next morn, the pitter-patter of little feet followed me as I did my morning walk, he wanted to see our neighboring hill, so we did it together. It is quite amazing, at home I walk at 6- 6.30, but here it’s been more like 7-7.30 and its quite dark and no one other than the myriad council workers out cleaning the city. Every thing is washed and brushed and readied for the hoards who do not appear until 10-11am.  Mind you lunch is 2pm dinner is 9pm, so I should not be so surprised, but you do get to see the building so much better with our everyone around. We found that the monte was the main defence for the old city, but whilst they seemed to be constantly at war with someone or other, it also seems they were pretty good a blowing themselves up. The gunpowder store had gone up a few times, once by lightening and it took out half the city and again when someone dropped a match. There’s been a lot of re-building done because of all that. A few more buildings and churches and god what filled in the morning, then more French cheese and meats and baguette for a late lunch followed by and hour playing beached whales on the nearby Playa de Zurriola beach. However we did not fee too bad, it’s a sea of brown cellulite and huge man boobs, we more or less fitted in, just being the white version!

His first 'dawn' in San Sebastian

His first ‘dawn’ in San Sebastian

early morning

early morning

Dinner that night was back to Pintxos so we bar hopped to the traditional one called Gandarias and the stunning contemporary one called Atari, contemporary on their take in preparing the food. The staff are pretty spiffy too. Both are in our little street/lane/path so not far to stagger home. We spent two hours at the museum next door. Called the San Telmo Museum, a fascinating collection and history of the Basque culture. Housed in an old convent, with a very stunning and clever addition that gives the MONA a bit of run for it’s money. We also now know what is behind the wall we look at and then above to monte Urgull, it’s the old cloisters of the convent. Sated with art and culture we moved on to food.  Our attempt to book into some of the Michelin rated restaurants sort of back fired, we ended up double booking, well they both accepted our booking for the same day and time and I had already confined with Zuberoa, which is about 10-15 minutes out of the city when the one of choice (Martin Berasategui) advised we could go there as well. We could only afford one extension of the mortgage this early in the trip. So off we went in our little motor, confident I had set the Sat Nav to the correct address (mind you it would not take all of it), a pretty simple drive out, only a few crunches of gears and the odd cut off on the driver behind us, nothing serious in my book. I am so glad to know they give the international leased cars red number plates, everyone knew to keep away! All going well until I tuned into the street, strange they garden sprinklers on, but watering the road, not the grass, so we got a free car wash and zoomed up the street, and bingo we were at the cement works! Well the car is more or less clean. So I tried the next thing and motored on, I had done a google number and had a fair idea of what it looked like, but their web site gave co-ordinates so I stuck them in the Sat Nav and off we went, zoomed up a road that was more foot path than road, but other cars used it then turned into an even narrower one with a bit of horn tooting from others, drove along and then the silly bitch told me to turn left, it was not even a goat track and I also new there was a creek at the bottom… 15 point turn, back along what we now know was a pedestrian track in a park, back onto the narrow road and more by luck found a likely building which in fact was the restaurant, we were only 12 minutes late, and managed to gasp out ‘drink please’.

the courtyard at the San Telmo Museum

the courtyard at the San Telmo Museum

(I have to put a warning in here, Alberta, Mary & Alexandra, skip this paragraph, young animals are mentioned)

Anyway, food, Zuberoa is a one star, not two as our host had told me (oh yes I’ve been told, Tokyo has more Michelin stars, so I’m now not quite believing everything the kind Luis is telling me, he seems very San Seb centric!), we had planed to do the Grand Tasting Menu, about 12 courses in all but as I was sort of hoping we might be able to change the double booking one to Thursday, I thought restraint was needed. The place is lovely and lunch is served on the terrace (all very rustic but with mod Black/white linen and super gardens). As I was driving we had planed to keep alcohol intake low, and I’d already blown it with the glass of Cava (it’s the Spanish version of Champagne to calm the drivers nerves and settle the petal sitting beside me). So we chose from the menu, he had the Norway Lobster ravioli and seafood sauce, three quite large ravioli with a large chunk of lobster that I assume sailed in from Norway. Me, I did the daily special, a plate of the tiniest, freshest, sweetest grilled baby calamari (did their mothers know they were out to lunch?) on a bed of braised veggies with a bit of ink for colour. I should add that they served a little number before we started on the ‘ordered’ bits, a very creamy mousse of foie gras with some mushroom infused and a gel of what we were told was a local sweet wine on top. I was is heaven but I’m a foie boy and all you animal lovers just leave it alone! Mains were interesting, mine was a house specialty, baby suckling pig and I’d love to know how it was done, a delicate ‘round’ of pork, cooked to perfection with a disc of crisp skin but no other ‘fat’, a very soft mashed potato and some apple where the garnishes. Him across the table ordered the daily special (he had fallen for the charms of the waitress, she was soft cuddly and motherly, he was in his I need nurturing mode) Anyway the special was slow cooked milk fed lamb, also with the potato mash and a salad. The little face on the other side was a treat, he tries so hard to hide I but when something arrives that not quiet what he excepts, well……………! Two wedges of lamb perfectly cooked, but it was a big serve and for him who needs vegetables, a big plate of meat just does not cut it. So I talked him through it a bit, and he did well after he removed all the ‘bits’ he does not like, about 2/3’s of the plate. I did not dare raise the ‘milk fed’ bit, but warning bells should have been there, he probably had thought it through a bit more, as I suspect he had half or perhaps a quarter of the animal on his plate. He did enjoy it, I loved mine. Deserts, he went all petal like and had mille feuille with a seriously good vanilla ice-cream, I had an orange number, sort of a mini rumbaba but like a tyre, orange puree, a syrup and ice-cream and a few other bits and pieces, again great. Coffee came with a little selection of petit fours, his favourite was the chocolate truffle, mine the best ever hazel nut glass biscuit. We had a (glass) of white and a Red, the white was a Txakolia, great but I do not know it’s heritage and the red la Montesa Rioja 2010, bloody good. All in all a great lunch and I very glad we did not do the Grant Tasting Menus as we could still be sitting there glided to our seats. We were told the serves from the menu where small, which they were not!

Zuberoa

Zuberoa

my slow cooked pork

my slow cooked pork

his slow cooked lamb

his slow cooked lamb

The drive home was worth filming, thank god I drank so little, I think because I sort of abused (only verbally, mind you) Ms Sat Nav she decided to pay me back BIG time. Punched in the return to home command, which has worked well in the past! First thing she did was tell me to turn right, onto the other end of the previously almost visited goat track, not me, I drove on, she then directed me to turn at the next road, which was a road, so I did and off I went, down a lane, round a corner and then up and into perpendicular dead end, much to the joy of group of builders working on a new house. A few more crunches of gears, smell of burning rubber as I executed a very fine 5 point turn we then zoomed up a few more streets and finally made it to some sort of normal road and eventually got back to our underground car park without too many hiccups.  We dined late and very light on a few Pintxos for dinner.

Next morning I was off, out and walking and did the La Concha Promenade (entire main beach front) so I could return to the wonderful sculpture at the very end ‘Peine del Viento (or Wind Comb) by the late Eduardo Chillida. A local lad who does some seriously wonderful work. Sadly we understand that a museum dedicated to his work has closed due to the economic situation which is really sad as I think it was set up and planed before his death.

One of  ‘Peine del Viento (or Wind Comb) by the late Eduardo Chillida

One of ‘Peine del Viento (or Wind Comb) by the late Eduardo Chillida

After my early morning art feats we then set forth to Bilbao and the Guggenheim museum for an art feast. This would be our third of their four museums and like the Getty in Los Angeles, some times the buildings and their architecture overwhelm the art in side! Bilbao does just that, a truly astounding Frank Gehry number, just google it! The main exhibition I wanted to see was due to close this week, it is a retrospective of Yoko Ono and was worth the trip. Not you go out and buy half a dozen pieces, it does confront, confuse and intrigue. Many where films and others performance pieces, but it goes to show she’s a huge lot ore than Mrs John Lennon. One piece was an old black and white TV, she installed a camera to directly transfer the sky to the screen, this in the 60’s pre video tape, pre internet, per everything we know now, and she called the piece ’Sky TV’, one wonders if she’s been paid royalties! The other big event was the Georges Braque exhibition, a huge collection of his work and very good audio on his life and work. We then drove home via the coast, exhilarating to say the least. My driving skills have improved out of sight, but I seemed to only need the first two and sometime third gears for the two hour drive. Very narrow roads up very step hills and very narrow roads along the coast line. We had packed a picnic, so at 4pm we found the perfect beach at Saturraran, but parking was an issue, so we ended up on a road to a villa quite a few hundred feet above the beach, we used the short cut to get down, it put a new meaning on breath taking, sort of akin to para gliding down a hill, thankfully some kind sole had added a rope to assist you. Picnic and swim was worth the effort! Tan lines are appearing, sort of off white against pure white back ground.

The Guggenheim museum at Bilbao with several sculpures out front

The Guggenheim museum at Bilbao with several sculpures out front

more of the Guggenheim

more of the Guggenheim

and more of the Guggenheim

and more of the Guggenheim

We arrive back in San Seb in time for the boy to go watch the 8pm dance class, I just know he will be doing it before we get home. More grazing Pintxos Bars for dinner, himself is paying far too much attention to some of the waiters, but the food is fabulous and the wine goes down a treat. Today (if I finish this tonight) was a ‘home’ day, I walked and walked, sort of took a detour around the Miramar Palace, some long dead queens holiday shack on 10-15 acres of prime seafront real estate and I think is now owned by the local government and used for music studies. The gardens are serene, especially at 8am and silly me did a big spin around them and decided to leave via the back gate thinking it would take me along the road that ran parallel to the seafront. It’s amazing how you get things wrong, but I more or less walked up a fairly steep incline for what felt several kms, finally found a road to the left (and therefore the sea), that wound around for a few more kms and eventually did return me to said seafront, all of 200 metres from where I diverted! It was close to a 9 kms ‘walk’, he was still slumbering when I retuned. We walked other parts of the city, popped into see the cathedral (closed, and no indication of when it would be open), did some window shopping, purchased some fabric for table mats (sort of an up market traditional Basque fabric, if you can have that sort of thing) and plopped the off white bodies on the beach for an hour or two before coming home to start the ‘pack the car’ bit and attended to work emails and bookings. We finally did a Pintxos bar crawl at 10.30 and now we are midnight, so I’m stopping! This may or may get posted in the morning, we have a 5 hour drive to Ciudad Rodrigo near the border of Portugal. It’s our over night stop before Sintra and Lisbon.

Thanks for all the wonderful emails, and as I’m now ‘modern’ Facebook comments as well!

Adios

Him and himself xo

 

 

 

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