Vacation from my vacation # 1 - San Sebastian

Trip Start Apr 01, 2009
Trip End Jul 13, 2009

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Where I stayed
Pension Urumea

Flag of Spain  ,
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Today, I woke up early to catch the TGV train to San Sebastian, Spain for a much needed vacation from my vacation. My train left Bordeaux St. Jean station at 9:45 am and arrived in San Sebastian around 2 PM . Again, I had the whole first class train car to myself, so I sprawled out and slept the entire 3 hour trip. I had to stop in Irun, which is in the far northeastern corner of Spain, to pass through customs and switch trains to San Sebastian.

When I arrived in Irun, the TGV hostess initially pointed me to the wrong train platform to San Sebastian, so I had to quickly run to a different platform to catch my train. Luckily, customs doesn't seem to be very strict in northern Spain. The customs officers asked me to put my bags through the scanner and essentially waved me right through without batting an eye. The officers did not even glance at the x-ray monitor as my bags passed through the scanner nor did they ask to see my passport. They simply said adios and waved me on through to Espana. On a side note, I found it interesting that all the signs in the area are written in 3 languages, French, Spanish and Euskadi, the Basque language.

My train from Irun to San Sebastian was a quick 15 minute hop. When I arrived in San Sebastian, the sun was shinning bright and I was ready to see the beach with a cold Spanish beer in hand! Again, it took me about an hour to find a place to stay, but I found a very nice, but very very small pension, Pension Urumea, near the train station. By very small I mean I cannot fully stretch my arms out in the room! Although the room is very small, the room comes with a full bath, telephone, TV, WIFI internet access and a very comfortable bed.

After settling into my room, I headed directly to the beach. I arrived at Playa de la Concha beach, which is a long crescent shaped beach that looks out over the vast Bay of Biscay, at around 3 PM. Hundreds of people were strolling along the cafe lined boardwalk admiring the many sunbathers soaking up the bright April sun. I stopped at a nice outdoor cafe with a great view of the beach for a beer and rested on one of the many benches that overlook the Playa de la Concha. I then strolled along the boardwalk and admired the many street performers and tourist and then stopped into my first tapas bar for another beer and a quick bite to eat.

I struck up a conversation with the bar tender, Javi, who gave me a quick lesson on Basque culture and food. Javi let me sample the local liquor, Izzara, which is similar in flavor to the licorice flavored pastis found in the south of France. I didn't really like it, but it was nice to try. After about thirty minutes of conversation, Javi, gave me some advice on the best place to watch the sunset over the bay and presented me with a very small, but very thoughtful gift, a Jia Alai ball key chain, which can be found all over San Sebastian. It was a very appreciative of his display of kindness and courtesy. Javi also got a good tip, even though tips are not expected in San Sebastian.

Taking Javi's advice, I climbed to the top of Monte Urgull to the Castillo de Santa Cruz de la Mota, where I snapped a few photos and took in the beautiful evening sky. I was getting hungry, so I decided to head back down the hill and hit the tapas bars or pintxos bars as the locals call them. I stopped at five or six pintxos bars an ordered a beer and two or three tapas at each stop. The rumors are correct. The Basques take their food very seriously! Everything I tried was excellent! I sampled everything from the typical Spanish hamon to shrimp wrapped in salmon on a large slice of bread. After filling up I headed back to my pension for a good nights sleep!

The next morning I planned a much needed rest day, so I slept in until about 10:30 am. After a quick shower, I went down stairs to find a very rainy day outside. I sat around the pension and caught up on all my e-mails, blog and news. In the afternoon, I went for a stroll around San Sebastian and ducked into a few pintxos bars for some tapas and vino! I also purchased a bottle of the local wine, Txomin ( Txomin is poured very high from taps in the pintxos bars and goes very well with the local sea food. After my bottle of Txomin, I hit the sack for a good nights sleep before my early train to Madrid the next day!
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