San Sebastian: Saturday 14th April
We headed over the border from France which was a bit unnerving with police standing there holding huge guns and just staring. Not sure if that was normal or if there was some baddie on the run.
We were really excited crossing over but we lost Jane as she only works in France - we were sad we had no warning, no chance to say goodbye to her - she was just gone - and we got terribly lost as we headed into San Sebastian. We finally found the down town part of SS after seeing the beach area which was lovely and looked just like the photos. Soph and I hopped out to buy a map as we had no idea where to go. I rang our apartment contact to try and get directions but she could barely understand me or speak English which for someone doing her job I found really annoying and ridiculous in her job dealing with tourists. My 3G on my pad had run out so that was no use. we had a frozen on the screen google map on my pad that I couldn't manipulate but after a couple of calls to Yany again Andrew stopped in a car spot near a park and Soph, George, Ed and I ran around trying to find the apartment - we knew it was somewhere around where we were. I asked 2 women but the kids managed to track Yany down and she took us up to the apartment. There was a big wooden security door and a lovely marble entrance area. There was a small lift but I refused to go in it so walked up the 7 flights of stairs!! They were nice stairs! The apartment was good but a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Eddy had the sofa bed and there was only a small couch and tiny chair to sit on, a small dining table and chairs. Kitchen was good and there were doors from the living room and kitchen leading to a large balcony overlooking the park and river. There was also a balcony off each of the bedrooms - over the rooftops. The girl Yany was totally disinterested, didn't show us round or anything. We paid 200 euros as a bond. Andrew had parked the car and came up then we all went to the car and carried all the luggage up after we had found a car park to leave the car in just nearby. I was finding it hard to get orientated with the city and work out if we were in a good part and if we were in the heart of it all as I like to be. After we settled in we set off for the old town to have Pintxos. We were only about 9 blocks from the centre part, right near the Cathedral so it's a fantastic spot to be. It started to pour so we ducked into a bar. It was great - the man and the young girl behind the bar were so nice and we had a bit of a chat. It's so wierd to be in Spain now and know NO Spanish at all except for Hola (hello), adios etc. I don't know how to say excuse me or anything unlike in France - very frustrating when I open my mouth to say something and I have no idea what to say!!! All I can think of is the French word-- I suck at Spanish!
We had wines and they gave us nuts and chips. It was such a friendly little cosy bar. We were very excited being our first night in Spain. The drinks were so cheap - I was tossing up whether or not to buy a 2nd drink as I thought they'd be around $8 or so a glass but when I paid I realised the wine was about $1.20 a glass!!!! This is my sort of place. The bar (we christened it our local) funnily enough was called "The Vienna bar". After a few drinks we headed off for dinner. The rain had stopped and it all looked lovely. It was quite late by now - about 9-9.30. We were so aware of the fact that no one eats dinner early in Spain so we went late to eat. Headed to the old town through a lovely big sqaure. It was really busy in all the narrow little streets. We found a pintxos place that was really crowded - and so we headed in there. All the tourist books I read tell you to go into the really crowded ones as that's an indication of how good they are. It was so much fun - there were people 2 deep at the bar and plate after plate of pintxos (tapas) on the bar. You get a plate and choose a few - we all did that and shared them. They were all on bread and have things like peppers, anchovies, prawns, egg and you can get hot stuff too if you order it - like calamari etc. We didn't really know what we were doing but a Spanish woman next to us helped us. It was chaotic but alot of fun - and you just stand round. After a few samples of pinxtos there we moved onto another one. We did the same again but this time we ordered some garlic prawns and potato bravas. It was yummy. The white wine is 1 euro 40 - seriously - and the red about the same - amazing. The pinxtos is only a few euros each too. We couldn't believe how cheap it was.
George has extended his trip until we leave Madrid so he's coming with us which is really good. He loves Madrid. We got him a new ticket to fly out the day we leave for Barcelona. He'll fly to London for the marathon on the Sunday.
By the tme we'd finished at the 2nd place we were full. As we were leaving we ran into some Aussie girls so had a chat to them. We wandered round to see if there was anywhere else to go for a drink but it was 11 o'clock by now and places were closing. It had become rather sleezy - full of young people and wierdos - not a scene I liked. We headed back to our place and I was telling George on the way back that San Sebastian wasn't really what I expected. It's certainly alot bigger and I have to get my head around it, get my bearings and work out where we are. I thought SS was just a little beach town.
Got back to our apartment and had a few drinks adn went to bed. It's really cold here, we were expecting Spain to be hot - or at least a lot warmer. It's very exciting to be in Spain but so wierd not to be able to speak any Spanish and to have NO idea how to say anything except Hola and adious amigo. haha. The wine is SO cheap - I'm sure I'd be an alcoholic if I lived here!
San Sebastian: Sunday 15th April
Woke up about 8.30 or so. Soph and I headed downstairs to find a spot to get coffees, breakie stuff and a supermarket for a few bits and pieces. it was dead being Sunday and at first we couldn't find anything open. The streets were lovely - I think we're in a very nice area. There is a lovely park opposite and nice shops in wide streets. We found a patisserie and went to get milk and butter from a supermarket we found open around the corner. It was 10 to 10 and it didn't open till 10 so we headed back to the patisserie for a coffee and muffin together until the supermarket opened. Back to our place with coffees and breakfast stuff, had a relax for a while then headed out. Walked up our street to the cathedral - all the streets are basically a grid. Walked to the beach which is really lovely - big and wide with a wide path running along it. There were also some lovely parks along the wide boulevard. I really loved San Sebastian now - all my reservations have gone - it's absolutely beautiful. The weather was lovely - cold but sunny and we were all complaining about the fact that we didn't have sunglasses. Walked all along the beach edged with apartment blocks - very south of France. There is a massive statue of Jesus up on hte hill - it's amazing. Last night it was all lit up. It looked fantastic looking out over the town. We walked around to the marina - full of souvenir shops and restaurants. I bought a couple of things. Suddenly the weather changed dramatically and it started to pour and then hail - it was mental. So sudden. Luckily we got undercover at the marina so it was OK. We thought for a moment that we might eat there but it was so touristy. We decided to give it a miss. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and we wandered over to the old town for lunch. It wasn't nearly as sleezy during the day and we decided when we go there for dinner again we'll go abit earlier. We were so consious of the fact that the Spanish eat late but I think we were abit too late.
Anyway we wandered round for a while then found a place we wanted to go to so we could have paella and sangria - so exciting. They tried to take us downstairs all on our own but I didn't want to - I wanted to be in the action and it was just because the waiter was too lazy to put 2 tables together. We excitedly ordered sangria and paella. It was so exciting to be in Spain and ordering paella. When it came it wasn't great but we didn't care. I had a bowl of custard for desert - divine!!
After lunch we walked through Plaza de la Construction which is a really lovely big square with little apartments above it. We went on a big walk way up the hill to the Jesus. It was a big long steep walk but fantastic when we got to the top. The view was fantastic - all over San Sebastian and the beach and then on the other side it was the actual sea. We tried to pick out countries on the horizon.
There was a castle at the top with the Jesus. The castle had cannons and areas where they used to shoot canons at the enemies. We could pick out our street and we could see the beaches right around - there is the long La Concha and the smaller Ondarreta Beach is a little more out of town. It was really lovely. Walked back down and back through town and lovely squares. There are lots of beautiful old buildings but also lots of grafetti and quite alot of closed shops - you can see the effects of the problems they are having here - it's sad.
Had another lude in a bar/coffee shop. all the coffee shops sell drinks as well- only shops like the patisseries don't. Sometimes the coffee shops look more like bars than coffee shops. Had hot chocies and cakes. George and Eddy were playing some game - they are so funny with their little competitve games.
We planned to eat at home tonight and have fajitas and guacomole. Sophie broke the glass on the dining table this morning. She lent on it - not hard at all adn it snapped. It already had a chip in it. We texted the useless girl but we were worried that we wouldn't get our 200E bond back. We tried to buy ingredients for dinner but everything was closed. Nothing seems to be open on Sundays - and their bloody siestas are so annoying. The shops close for hours and hours. We went back to our place and worked out it was impossible to have dinner at home. The little supermarkets close at 2pm but the bigger ones don't even open on Sundays at all. We cracked the Moet Imperial and sat out on the rooftop. It had cleared up but it was freezing so we rugged up and had the champs there just to take advantage of the roof top.
Walked back along the lovely streets and along the beach as the sun was going down - it was lovely. Went to the old quarter for more pinxtos. Sophie and i had made a list of recommended places so found the first one - I think it was in the Mayor or one of the streets there. It was fairly quiet but the tapas was great and we could get a spot at the bar. It was 2 old guys running the place and the food was really good. We moved onto another one and met 2 Americans from Washington (older than us) so had a chat to them. It was so much quieter than last night being Sunday night. We went back to the first place we went to last night. It was so quiet. Had a few pinxtos there then headed back to our place for a drink or 2. We texted the girl about the glass table top and she told us a "technician" would be there in there in the morning to fix it.
San Sebastian: Monday 16th April.
Another great day today. The technician came and picked up the glass from the table. Soph and I went off again to get pastries and coffees. Things were all open so got a few things from the supermarket. San Sebastian is full of baby shops and shoes shops - they are eveywhere!! It was cold again and cloudy but it's meant to fine up. We have decided that the Spanish are actually very rude - ruder than the French and hardley anyone speaks English. It's amazing. When you say you don't understand what they are saying they just gabble on in Spanish. Didn't leave after breakie and showers until about 12. Headed up through the streets to Zara. Had a look round there. Andrew had wanted to buy a pair of chinos but they were no good. It's really for under 40's. The street called Txurruka was really lovely with pretty trees and big wide streets - this is one of the main shopping streets. Got to a really nice park - Plaza de Gipuzkoa I think it was. Then walked over Pliente de Zurriola - it was an amazing bridge - very impressive with big sort of pylons on it. It was so windy - and it was coming right off the sea. It was unbearably cold. We walked over the bridge and onto Gros, the other part of San Sab. We had a look at Playa de Zurriola - the 3rd beach here which was lovely but it was SO windy. We headed away from the coast and as soon as we did the wind stopped and it was quite warm and nice. We wondered round trying to find somewhere for lunch but there wasn't really anything appealing - this area isn't as nice, but it's all at a slower pace over here so it says in the guide books. Just as we were about to give up and head to the old town we found Bergara bar. So went in there for pinxtos. It was great. They had tables and they gave us one to sit in which was relaxing. The food was really good and I had a local wine - txakol - a tart white wine poured from a great height.
Walked through a square and Ed and George went on the swings. We walked along the river along the most beautiful part of the city - a gorgeous walk alongside the Paseo de Francia - it was so divine -- across the Puerite de Maria Christina and to Place due Bilbao - a really lovely square (although the fountain was on siesta). It was lovely and hot and sunny. We stopped there for coffees and fries and enjoyed the sun. Had a nice lude there - this is a lovely part of town. We wanted to go down to the beach and park quite a way away we thought so we decided to catch the busy which didn't prove that easy. Had to wait ages for one. These 2 women from Miami started chatting to us - such dicks but at least they told us which bus to catch. The boys were playing some game - chasing and shoe throwing (which has been an ongoing game) The bus seemed to wind all over the place, past the uni ( I didn't realise there was one here) but eventually it ended up at Ondareta Beach and it didn't take very long.
When we got off the bus the wind was howling - it was so bad. The Miami women got off too and George kept stirring saying "Muggsie there are your american friends" really loudly. Eddy wanted to see some sculptures right at the end of the point so we walked round there. It wasn't very pleasant! So windy and cold. We strolled back along the promenade beside the beach. The beach was lovely - big and wide and white sand. The boys were playing on the sand. Nice area too. Walked all the way back along the promenade which was really lovely - right alongside the beach. A few nice little cafes - again in summer it'd be manic. We had to meet up with Yani, the agent for the apartment as we are leaving too early for her in the morning. Along the way we went to this really nice bar we'd seen. We were the only ones there as it was about 5. Had a couple of glasses of wine and a couple of nibbles there. Not only is it a bar but it's also a wonderful wine shop. We bought some wine for tonight. Back to our apartment. Yani came and gave us back our deposit - no question of not giving it back to us with the broken table so that was good.
After she left we all walked up to the Super Amara the huge big supermarket ( not as big as other stupid one we went to in France) it was so well organised. It was funny at the checkout - we pulled out all our Spanish phrases and the checkout chic and the woman behind were laughing. When they realise that you don't understand a thing it encourages them to gabble on in Spanish. They could say anything and we'd have no clue.
The other thing we've noticed in Spain is that everyone smokes and you can smoke in cafes, restaurants etc. Foul. We got ingredients to make Fajitas and Soph is going to make guacomole. Back to the flat. It had turned into a really nice day so we took the chairs out to the back balcony off our rooms and had the bollinger adn enjoyed the sunshine - it was so lovely. Its' so good with daylight saving. It stays light until so late.
The boys cooked adn we set up the outside table in the loungeroom and had a yummy dinner. We were all so glad George could stayon otherwise he would have been gone by now. Had a lovely night. Got organised and packed our bags as we want to get away quite early for Madrid. The beds are so uncomfortable - really really hard and here we have 2 single beds pushed together.
I'm sorry to be leaving SS - it's so lovely but looking forward to Madrid. Another thing we've discovered about the French and Spanish is their hot water is a joke - this place has a really fancy tap etc but hopeless hot water and such a hassle to try and get the hot water to work . It's either too hot or too cold. We actually ran out of hot water too and had to get the Spanish instruction book out to fix it!
Thursday, 8 November 2012
We woke up early and packed up. It was a beautiful day and through the windows we could see markets setting up near the Cathedral. We were so excited and couldn't wait to start exploring Bordeaux.
Checked out and packed everything into the car. Our french girl on reception had marked out a place to go for breakfast and the main areas of Bordeaux to see. We were in the centre of everything - that was one reason why I picked this place. We walked to the square and had breakfast in Cafe Karl that the girl at the hotel recommended. It was like a uni hangout but really cosy and nice. It was great. Had baked eggs with ham + creme frais - so yummy. We all had heaps to eat and it was really reasonable.
Wandered all over Bordeaux - we loved it! It's such a beautiful city and we were amazed as although I'd done all my research it's always so different when you see it in the flesh. We walked all down the shopping streets, window shopping abit (there were about 3 streets in the main area) then walked into the golden triangle full of beautiful buildings and shops with a lovely centre pedestrian area in the middle full of trees - really pretty.
We walked down to the river - it was so divine - with a big wide esplanade all along the river. Across the road were beautiful old buildings. In the middle of esplanade there was a huge pool of water that is a massive fountain with a whole heap of jets. We really wished we had more time in Bordeaux.
I would have liked to have more time to explore the wineries that Soph and I had researched but have to that will have to be next time!!
Sadly left Bordeaux at 12 and headed down the coast to Biarritz. Soph and I had been looking forward to coming here. We parked in the Casino and walked out to the beach. It was raining which ws annoying but it was so good to see the ocean again. The beach was lovely - George immediately ran into the water, Soph, Ed and I ran onto the sand. It stopped raining which was great.
The markets were on and there were lots of small booths selling stuff. Again it's a real summer spot. I can imagine how busy it would be in Summer. Walked along the main road full of market stalls. We ended up at the Mercure bar and had cassis and olives for a little lude. Biarritz was lovely. We headed off and drove to St Jean de Luz all along the coast road which was lovely. We got there and drove through the town but decided not to stop as we were keen to get to San Sab. We crossed the border into Spain - we were so sad to leave france - we LOVE it. We also had such a funny time as we headed to the border - we had a grasshopper clinging on for dear life - didier we called him. We wanted him so much to hitch a ride over the border but then he couldn't hang on any longer! George was videoing it and we were all laughing and crying when he finally flew off. As we crossed the border with great excitement there were all these mean looking guards standing there with big machine guns and staring at us. Not sure if this is the norm or if there was a baddie trying to escape over the border.
We also lost Jane as she was only active in France so we got really lost driving into San Sebastian.
Au revoir France - Bientot I hope.