Tapas and Vino and Old People

Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
Trip End Jun 13, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Basque,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dan and I are a little obsessed with San Sebastian. We first came here together nine years ago, and we ended up in the middle of a Carnaval parade. We loved the energy of the place and its people: how the elderly couples are still strolling along the beach way past our bedtime, how the tapas bars are rowdy and welcoming, how music is everywhere, and how people here actually know how to pronounce our last name. We loved learning a little more about Dan's heritage and his people: those Basque sheep herders who lived in these parts before moving to Cuba.

I think San Sebastian is also special to us because it was one of the first foreign places Dan and I ever saw together. When we were here nine years ago, we were only just beginning to discover our love of travelling. We made big plans to come back--but also to keep travelling elsewhere. So it seemed appropriate to stop off here toward the end of this year's big trip, as a way to come back, full circle, to where we'd started.

So we couldn't wait to come back here. We took the train down from Biarritz, found our hostel in the casco viejo, and went out on the town. San Sebastian is gorgeous: its old quarter is well preserved, with its plazas and tapas bars and boutiques. The hill between the ocean and the bay provides a gorgeous lookout point. The beach is lively and clean. And the food is ridiculously good.

After walking for a while and then searching out some tapas and vino, we started talking with a young guy at one of the bars. As it turned out, he was from Philly and was in San Sebastian doing a little "research" on Spanish culture. A few drinks in, he let on that he also happened to be a high school senior, a smooth talker who convinced his teachers to send him to Spain for his senior project. We made a few jokes about that--he clearly knew how to work the system--and then learned he's from Lower Merion, our rival high school near Philadelphia. The joke was on us when he tried to play the name game and learned that we were, ahem, twelve years his senior. This has happened a few times this year. The awkward moment is always when the person doesn't believe us--like, "No...tell me for real how old you are..." because you obviously look sixteen and couldn't possibly be some weird thirty-year-old hippies travelling the world...could you?

So then all of a sudden WE were those old people we'd seen nine years ago, but we didn't care. We drank our rioja and ate our croquettas and realized that we may not have come full circle, but we're okay with that. San Sebastian is just the same to us.
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