Sunrise at Stansted, supper in San Sebastián

Trip Start Apr 13, 2013
Trip End May 25, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Basque Country,
Saturday, April 13, 2013

3:15am alarm: I cannot think of a more miserable, befuddling hour to wake. Frantic final packing ensues, followed by a cold shower (ever-vigilant Barry has already turned off the boiler) then a dash to the waiting cab.
Then the joys of a BUS, yes, a National Express BUS from Victoria to Stansted airport, with Barry muttering about the incompetence of the driver. Mood levels: Low.

5:50am: We pull into Stansted. The sun is rising, the mood improving. They let me get away with an overweight bag, and we pick the fastest queue to get through baggage check - boom! I even stay smiling as I endure a still-drunk Mancunian, fresh from a 21st birthday (still in his suit and bow tie) on one side, and a loudly snoring woman (proper head back, mouth open) on the other for the 2 hour flight. I'm officially on the road!

We land in Bilbao, then hop on a 75 minute bus through some gorgeous forest-y hills to the Basque seaside town of San Sebastián. It's incredible. Our pension Ondarra is perfectly formed. The temperature: 25 degrees.

We hit the streets, and are bathed in an unfamiliar, warm, golden light I believe is known as 'sunshine' in various parts of the world. My ankles can't comprehend that they are free - they keep exchanging glances, figuring there's been some huge error and that any moment I'll realise that I've forgotten to embalm them in stockings and two pairs of socks, London-style.

We head straight for the Old Town, famous for its warren of streets packed with pintxos bars. Barry, my little project manager, has a whole list of the best ones, so we drop in at Border Berri, Zeruko and Nestor over the next two hours, having a few bites and a little glass of beer in each. Each dish is designed to be a little taste of gorgeousness, from traditional bread-based ones to crazy Heston Blumenthal-type ones. Barry tries a few of what look like Oreo cookies but turn out to be squid ink & cream cheese concoctions - utterly divine.

Then it's on to incredible gelato-style ice creams and a siesta on the (wonderfully uncrowded) beach.

9pm: Worryingly, we are hungry again already. Conveniently, it's time for Barry's birthday treat for me. We grab a cab that heads outside of the city, and are dropped outside what appears to be a country house. Barry reveals all: It's Martin Berasategui's gaff - three Michelin stars, baby, woohoo! A 12 course tasting menu of epic proportions follows, including the likes of: mille-feuille of smoked eel, foie gras and green apple; roast pigeon with Iberian pig's snout & ginger juice; and sautéed black garlic with beet ceviche, ice radish and raifort cream (which looks like candy floss). Insanity! You get a personalised menu once you've made your choices of both food and wine, with an individual embossed cover. I've never experienced anything like it and probably never will again. They even give us a tour of the kitchen, unprompted. Incredible end to an epic first day of my sabbatical.
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Shell-formerly-travelling-podster on

Trying not to let jealous rage consume me as I tuck into my student discount kidney beans and pasta delight...keep it coming!!xx

Alexandra Jones on

I just LOVE this!

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