Tuesday, April 27, 2010

San Sebastian, Day 2

Hey! My breakfast bar is closed.
No worry. There are many others. I take my Economist off to a pastry shop with tables, a few blocks away, and have a very good cup of coffee and a Spanish-style chocolate croissant. Next time I'll leave the French pastries to France.
At the bus station I learn that the one for Hondarribia is considered a local bus, so I go off in search of it near the convention center (this new convention center, a huge glass and steel modernstrosity figures on all the postcards, alas!). And here it comes! My bus. 1.90 € for 45 minutes to the end of the line, sightseeing of local bits included.
As my bus passes the real fishing port (as opposed to the show port with its two boats in old San Sebastian) I make a note to get off early on the way back. Now that's a place to explore.
On we go. Errenteria. Other, unspellable, towns, Irun, Hondarrabia. All the guidebooks show a tiny, picturesque fishing town. I wonder where that town is. There's a long long inlet from the sea, and boats piled every which way along muddy alleyways. Further on there are two large marinas full of pleasure boats. Where are the guys mending their nets??
But whatever. This is a great little town. They're working on a lot of the waterfront, with backhoes and other major equipment. The views over the harbor are serene. A view over the ocean is quite a hike - I save that for later. The old town is partly piled up on a hill (the main church and old government buildings), partly down along the elongated waterfront. The hill is interesting and well-preserved. The inhabitants in the pedestrian district all have their laundry out to dry on this fair Monday. Several of the key old buildings are now hotels, so visiting inside is a No, but it means the outsides are kept up. The church is locked. On a corner a crew of four is doing preservation work on the ancient city wall, whose battlements in the southern perimeter are now kept up as a historical monument.
Where to lunch, where to lunch. Lunch is my main meal of the day, so I don't want a sandwich of a kebab&fries. There are several fresh seafood places along the main street (which is divided into two main streets, one each way, making each both narrow and friendly), but I'm waiting on the one advertising a fixed-price menu with Fish Soup number one on the options, wine included, cloth napkins on the shaded tables, to have customers. They appear to be open, but when I peek inside, nobody's home. Yet. It's not quite 1. Only tourists eat this early.
At One on the dot, a family of four shows up for their reserved table, followed by myself and four other tables in quick succession. It's funny how that works. Once somebody is there, other people come, no matter if they've been walking up and down these two blocks the past half hour. The identical restaurant next door never attracts that first table, and stays empty. Better luck to them at dinner! Farther up the square I noticed the same thing at the twin à la carte seafood places. The one that got those first early English tourists filled up to half its outdoor capacity before the crowd spilled over to the other.
Just a few kilometers down the coast, fish soup is similar, but quite different. In my lunching spot today it's spiced differently, heavier on the tomatos, and has tiny fish bits but no hearty chunks. Still an excellent choice. On reflection, it could just be a restaurant difference - who's to say that even right next door to yesterday's fish soup that it would have been identical? I'll be eating somewhere tomorrow, could find out... Now the main course - rice with shrimp and clams. Oh, my goodness. I know why they spend the afternoon sleeping, and it's not the heat!

After lunch, another stroll around town. The tide has come in, way in, and the muddy alleys full of boats are now canals with boats floating in them. Or, most of the boats float.

On the flats to the south of the town, there are garden plots belonging to the townies who don't have yards attached to their houses. And there are some small farms. One thing that makes me laugh is the use of unusual items for scarecrows. In some fields I see stuffed animals like you would win at a fair, and in two others there are cutout cats. Yes, those black things are fake cats.
On the way back west, I get off the bus at the town with the industrial fishing port - what is its name again...
There are plenty of boats, large and small. Most of them have crew on them, and I feel self-concious about taking their picture while being stared at, so I find this one. Nobody watching me watch!Along the long, narrow neck of the bay it's much like San Sebastian - a tight row of houses along a single street, everybody their boat.There's a man standing next to the lighthouse at the entrance to the bay, looking out to sea. The trail here is marked in the same way that the national hiking trails in France are. I seem to have stumbled onto the route from Hondarribia to San Sebastian. Hooray! It's about 4:30 now. I have plenty of time to hike back to town along the coast.
And it is a spectacular coastal hike. From some vantage points you can see for miles. This fishing boat is headed home past that same lighthouse.
Barely visible in this photo is the ruin of an old house, a big one. I bet it was a fantastic place to live, once. Just the sounds of the seabirds calling to each other, and the waves crashing on the rocks.
Yet another finger out into the sea. They were glorious, but my feet were wondering if the next one would be the last one. When was finally the last one, my ears knew it first: the sounds of traffic and dogs and children and people yelling strange languages announced my arrival in San Sebastian.
More tomorrow!

No comments: