With beautiful landscaping, ponds, trees, and interesting white marble clock-table, surrounded by Neo-classical buildings, it made for a nice stop to stroll, people watch, and just enjoy the fresh air.
I'm sometime interested in statues you'll find in these parks. The one I saw here is for native son José María Usandizaga, a Basque Composer who succumbed to tuberculosis at the young age of 28.
The meteorological pergola (gazebo) was quite interesting as well. Though I really couldn't quite make out how it worked. It did keep me occupied for a while though.
We wandered a bit more through the street of "Centro"....doing some window shopping, the Missus considering a few purchases.
Until She'd had enough. It was time to walk back to the apartment.
So, we got back to the street where our apartment was located.....
And suddenly decided to make one more stop. This one was close by, just a few doors down at Casa Urola.
The upstairs area features a well regarded restaurant; but we decided to sit downstairs and have some pintxos.
We started with the Ensalada de Hongos, Pinones, en Idiazabal.
A nice refreshing salad; the light Idiabazal (this one didn't taste smoked) cheese bolstered by the pine nuts.
The Brocheta Pulpo y Papada (pork jowl fat) was amazing......
Tender octopus draped in pork fat......need I say more?
The Carrillera was passable. Man those potatoes had a texture of thick cream......
And no meal would be complete without some "Basque Butter" Foie Gras.
You'd think that after having Foie Gras for almost every meal; sometimes twice, we'd be getting tired of the stuff. Ummm.....no way! Nicely seared Mi Cuit with an almost jelly like interior. Decadent and delicious.
Along with a couple of beers (for me) and a "tinto" (for the Missus), this was a nice low keyed last meal in San Sebastian.
Casa Urola Fermin Calbeton 20 San Sebastian, Spain
Our apartment was literally a few steps away from Casa Urola. Eating that last piece of Foie Gras, I was suddenly worried that we'd be marching back up Monte Urgull. But the missus only wanted to take a short walk, "to help digest" and all that.
While walking around we passed these two American "street kids" whom we first saw begging for money near Brexta Market. We later saw them partaking of the "cash crop" on Mount Urgull, and now they asked us for money the second time around. We acted like we didn't speak English or Spanish. It was time to go..........
But first, we had a nice Txakoli break.
While I couldn't get up to the pouring height of the really nice bartender at Bar la Cepa; Txakoli is a very dry, acidic, "fresh" wine that is traditionally poured from a height of about two meters to aerate the wine, creating bubbles, and reducing the carbon dioxide. It was a nice way to end our last evening in San Sebastian.
The next morning we headed to the train station. Instead of catching a cab or the bus the Missus (of course) chose to walk.
Actually, it was a nice walk. We had a cup of coffee in the train station, then caught the train to Hendaye, then Saint Jean de Luz.
After a nice self catered lunch and a short nap, the Missus decided we needed to "do something".
Not quite sure what "something" was, we headed out. The streets had definitely gotten much more lively with both tourists and locals. As we arrived at the port, the Missus looked up, pointed, and said, "this is where we're going".....
She had pointed at the Statue of Christ at the top of Monte Urgull.
So we headed off......
There's a church located at the port and there was a wedding taking place. And you know....the (amateur) paparazzi just love a wedding.
Especially when, whom I think is the Flower Girl, looks so adorable.....
Even the washroom attendants have to watch!
I really enjoyed the port area......even though there are touristy restaurants, the aquarium and all that, there's still a "lived in" feeling to the place.
The walk up the Mount Urgull was nice....there weren't too many people to be found.....except small groups of young folks partaking of the...ahem....."cash crop".
For some reason, I really like cannons....don't ask me why. Even when they seem to be pointed in the wrong direction. These were aimed back at the city.
The view at the top is rather anti-climatic, though it's a nice little walk and the views are quite nice. I'm sure on a clear day, it's quite stunning. We'd always look to find the Cathedral, which rises quite distinctly above the San Sebastian skyline.
There was this pair of street kids.....ahem musicians we kept seeing; first earlier in the day at the bandstand; then outside Brexta Market asking for money. We saw them up here having a nice "smoke" as well. The Missus told me, "you know, when we start seeing the same people over and over, it's time to go, right?"
But, there were more cannons to see!
We headed back down on one of the trails which actually led back to Old Town.
And so we ended up back in Old Town. The Missus however, wanted to see more. So I told Her, why not head on over then Urumea River to Gros; which kind of looks like San Diego with a decidedly Spanish vibe. I was told this is San Sebastian's version of Surf City. My bad for not taking photos of the beach....which...well, being from Hawaii and living in San Diego...you know...
Gros was interesting. It seemed more local. I had a recommendation which I followed up with some research of a tapas shop that had won a bunch of awards named Bar Bergara.
So, I really thought it would not be right if I left San Sebastian without trying just regular tapas, the stuff from the counter.
And there's no denying, the stuff here looked very pretty.
As a whole it was a mixed bag, for me, the bread really did not stand up well. Especially with the Piquillo Peppers and the Anchovy. The flavors though, were quite good.
The Foie Gras was very tasty; but again, the bread had suffered from sitting around.
The one item that really did well was the "De Pato al Calvados", basically duck in a apple brandy in puff pastry. The pastry held up quite well, the pine nuts really added to this this.
Overall, a very inexpensive meal, though I'm not sold on the counter top tapas. Very nice folks, the place has the feel of a fast casual restaurant. And while I'm still not sold on the stuff lying along the bar....the presentation at Bergara is quite stunning.
Bar Bergara General Artetxe Kalea 8 San Sebastian, Spain
As we walked back....of to try more tapas; it became quite clear. There's unfinished business here; we'd arrived on the wrong days, there was much more to see and eat, we'd have to return some day soon. And all of this before our last stop of the day!
As I mentioned previously; Sundays (and Mondays) weren't prime days for many of the better Pintxos (tapas) places during the off season in San Sebastian.
Still, I knew of one place on my list that was open. Right across from The Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro is Atari Gastroteka.
Atari came highly recommended by Candice, so we were glad they were open and doing some pretty good business. I quickly noticed "another Atari" around the corner. Sirimiri Atari Akademy, so I thought why not start there?
It seems that Sirmiri is more of a craft cocktail place. Since it was relatively early; just after 7pm, we managed to get a seat at the counter in the back.
Not in the mood for the typical pintxos on the counter, sitting at a table means ordering the pintxos calientes....basically items off the menu, which suited us fine. The missus got a tinto and I had a crianza (an older aged wine).
We really enjoyed sitting here because we got to watch the garde manger area and the folks expediting the dishes. And isn't that a sous vide immersion circulator?
Of course we started with the Foie Gras Terrine. Remember when I coined the term "Basque Butter"? Well, I think this is a perfect example of that.....looks like a stick of butter, doesn't it?
This was quite a huge portion. It was nicely "foie forward", the pear puree added a mild sweetness without going overboard, the butter toasts were almost like brioche. Hard to fault this.
The Ensalada de Queso de Cabra wasn't very exciting. But we felt a bit guilty having all that foie.
The Solomillo was very tasty, though a bit on the chewy side.
That cherry compote did a nice job of cutting the rice mushroom based sauce. Nice dish.
At this point we had finished our wine and decided to make it Atari times 2 and go next door.
Man, the bar was packed.
We asked on of the Servers for a table and she said it would be a short wait. So the missus got a glass of Txacoli and I got a beer. I really didn't get my hopes up because the place was so busy, but wouldn't you know it, somehow the woman found me about 10 minutes later and told me our table was ready. I was quite impressed and thankful. I told her I really appreciated her work and she said, "oh, do not worry.....this is your table, all night if you want, please enjoy!" And we did our best.....
Starting with the Huevo a Baja Temperatura - basically an egg cooked at a low temp..... The Missus was in heaven.
The texture was amazing, rich and velvety, the flavors tempered by the jamon; this was really good.
Only to be topped by the Foie a la Plancha - this was so good, seared, rich, the flavor amazing.
And yet, the Carrillera (pork cheeks) might have easily been the best item of the evening...perhaps of our entire stay in San Sebastian.
Fork tender, the sauce having a slight hint of sweet, teetering on the edge of too rich....but just holding that line. The texture of the pork was just plain perfect for me. Not falling to pieces, but yielding to the touch.
Plus our Server was just amazing. So busy, but also very friendly and efficient.
So, perhaps we missed out on places like Zeruko, Ganbara, La Cuchara de San Telmo, and A Fuego Negro, but we got to do Atari times two, and that made our stay in San Sebastian a success.
Sirimiri Atari Akademy and Atari Gastroteka Calle Mayor 18 San Sebastian/Donostia, Spain
After dinner we took a walk around. Business was picking up, but things were still rather quite as we walked to the muelle (port).
Then past the City Hall......
Then back to the apartment for a nightcap of Txakoli........
To be perfectly honest, I should have planned our arrival in san Sebastian a bit better. All but one of the places on my were closed during our stay which spanned from a Sunday, leaving on a Tuesday morning. But like the Missus said, "we had a direction and a plan of where we needed to be when and you can't just skip Sunday and Monday!"
We caught the best from the Bilbao Bus Station....basically a big parking lot and ended up at the Amara "Bus Station", basically another big parking lot. From there we caught the local bus to the "Boulevard" and rather quickly found the street we were staying at on, Calle de Fermin Calbeton. Our apartment was basically right at the edge of things; a great location.
So even though the apartment was rather old the location couldn't be beat.
I guess May is still the low season, the places I thought were only closed on Sundays, were also closed on Mondays and visa versa. So we had a bit of a scramble on our hand when we went looking for a place to have bite for lunch. On De Agosto Kalea we came across a place that was doing some decent business. The bar was covered with pintxos (tapas), but as I mentioned in my post on La Vina del Ensanche in Bilbao, I really never took to those.....they looked pretty, but it just wasn't my thing.
Instead we usually went for pintxos caliente or like this meal, some charcuterie. In this case, the lomo iberico de Bellota, cured pork loin sausage.
he portion was quite generous and this combined with the bread made this more than enough for a light lunch. The sausage was very tasty, paprika forward, with a light garlic and herbal touch. Not overly salty, tender and not too waxy.
The Missus also wanted to try Txakoli, a very dry, acidic, "fresh" wine that is a specialty of Basque Country.
It is traditionally poured from about a two meter height. I was told this is to aerate the wine, creating bubbles, and reducing the carbon dioxide. Our bartender was all to happy to demonstrate..... he was really a friendly and funny guy.
The Missus really took to this and I'd try; with mixed success, to try to pour it from a decent height without spilling stuff all over the place. I guess that's best left to the professionals. and while I've read that special pourers are available to help with the process, this guy didn't need that.
La Cepa was a relaxed, fun place to have lunch and a couple of glasses of Txakoli.
Bar La Cepa 31 de Agosto Kalea Donostia / San Sebastián, Spain
After our meal we needed to "burn off the meal" and headed off; around Monte Urgull. That's Playa de Zurriola and Gros in the background.
On the other side of the Mountain is Isla de Santa Clara and Concha Bay.
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro is quite striking, sitting at the base of Mount Urgull. Completed in 1774 it looks impressive when viewed down Calle Mayor. I'll have a bit more on this place in a future post.
We ended our walk at Plaza de la Constitución.
Established in 1723, this version was rebuilt in 1817 after being destroyed by fire. The apartments ringing the plaza have large and distinctive numbers. You see, these apartment used to be boxes from which to watch bullfights that used to take place in the plaza.
On this day, the entertainment was perhaps a bit less exciting......
At this point, the Missus decided we should take a nice afternoon nap, then head out for some evening tapas. Sounded like a good idea to me!
Can you believe we're almost two-thirds into our trip? Time is flying by. Anyway, we haven't ever eaten as well in recent memory. Three cities in two nations and the home to a proud people, who eat quite well.
On our first stop we did two huge tasting menu dinners. Amazing.
What could possibly be my favorite piece of artwork in the world. I just couldn't pass it without taking a photo.
Here's one of my favorite.....if a bit spooky photos.
We did a day trip to a town with a famous tree.
Which was the site of a tremendous devastating bombing which inspired this painting.
Next stop is a must for the food pilgrim.
At this point, I started wondering how long it would be before the Missus hit the Foie Gras wall.
Amazingly, it hasn't happened yet.
Last stop was another wonderful seaside town.
Where we had a comforting and delicious dinner.
We headed into the sunset happy with full bellies.