San Sebastian, you win at food. and fun.

And I lose at blog post titles.

I'm not that great at selfies either #youcantwinemall

I’m not that great at selfies either #youcantwinemall

I can usually tell how much fun I’ve had in any location based on the number of photos I’ve taken- the less photos that I have to choose from when writing these posts, the more I enjoyed the location. This is definitely the case for San Sebastian. Over the course of 3 days, countless ‘pintxos’ and more glasses of wine than I care to remember, my collection of photos commemorating the eat and play-stravaganza is less than stellar. San Sebastian is the perfect destination for anyone that daydreams about getting fat, drunk and tan at the same time- days are spent lounging on the beach (albeit a bit more crowded than what I consider to be ideal, but when you’re that full of ham, who cares)

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streets of Casco Viejo (old town)

streets of Casco Viejo (old town)

In the last few years, San Sebastian has gained recognition as one of the world’s most highly regarded culinary destinations. After 3 days of stuffing my face there, there is no question as to why. The Basque Country, in general, is known for its ‘pintxos’, which are essentially 2-3 bite dishes, most of which are served atop a piece of bread. Example: thinly sliced cured ham drizzled with olive oil, served on a slice of toasted baguette, a skewer of 3 small shrimp, grilled and served over a piece of baguette, a mini hamburger served on the most adorable bun I’ve ever seen.

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‘blurry face’ is the next big thing in photography, didnt you know. Also note the anchovies on toast in the lower left corner.

Not only does this style of eating appeal to me because of my lack of attention span, almost non-existent patience level and pretty severe commitment issues, but also because I FREAKING LOVE MINIATURE THINGS. C’mon, why do you think mini cupcakes, miniature ponies and those tiny bottles of alcohol are so popular? They are just too damn cute.

So basically the way it works is, you walk walk up to the bar, pick out a pintxo (or 2 or 7) from an artfully arranged assortment spread along the counter. Instead of committing to an whole plate of food that you may tire of in a few bites, or to a restaurant who’s decor may not be up to par, you can literally go ‘pintxo-hopping’ (patent pending- thats a million dollar idea that everyone else already came up with first). Here’s an idea: first course, a glass of wine and a shared plate of 5-6 mussels. Second course, glass of wine and a couple of anchovies on toast. Third course, glass of wine and a mini slider (does the term slider already mean mini? these are even smaller) Fourth course… ok you get it. So by the end of the night, not only are you full, but you are also hammered. WIN.

this is what happens after a shit-ton of pintxos. you can't help it.. it just happens.

this is what happens after a shit-ton of pintxos. you can’t help it.. it just happens.

The most difficult part of the whole process is trying to figure out where to go- literally EVERY bar offers some type of pintxos, and for us newbies its pretty much impossible to pick one over the other. The couple of gems that we found and returned to multiple times over the course of a couple days were totally by accident- one, we stopped to ask a couple of women sitting on a bench for directions and ended up with a recommendation for “La Mejillonera,” and the other because we couldn’t pass up ‘one last pintxo’ of grilled baby squid with a balsamic reduction.. which ended up being the best kind of mouth explosion. (Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place, but its on Fermin Cableton street in the Casco Viejo of San Sebastian).

DEFINITELY GO HERE

DEFINITELY GO HERE

they have beers this big for less than 3 euro

that beer was literally bigger than my head. we measured

Heading to Spain anytime soon? Definitely budget some time for at least a couple days in San Sebastian. However, first probably sell a kidney or two, because it is one of the most expensive places I’ve traveled so far. I went from paying 15 euro a night for a private bathroom and pretty much empty 6 bed dorm in the center of Madrid to paying 30 euro a night for a room that was reminiscent of that scene in Zoolander- “What is this, a center for ants!? The building needs to be at least 3 times bigger than this!” With 6 people and their backpacks in the room, it was almost impossible to move around, and the bunk beds were so low that I hit my head sitting up in the morning (considering I’m like half the height of a normal person, thats pretty ridiculous). Food, although 100% worth it, also definitely added up- though you could fill up on a couple of pintxos of tortilla (spanish omelette) for 5euro or less, a wine-fueled pintxo party in your mouth will probably set you back anywhere from 20-30 euro. That said.. I’m going back ASAP.. as soon as I can find a sponsor for my marathon eating challenge.

so many calamari, so little time

so many calamari, so little time

Relucatantly, after 3 days, it was time to admit defeat. Not only was I thoroughly sick of having to drink wine with every meal, I was also starting to dream about vegetables. When kale starts appearing in your dreams, its time to eat a salad. Also, Barcelona, the city I’ve been lusting after since our brief affair in 2011, was calling. As was the promise of concerts, music festivals, friends, and a room all to myself.

before the (literal) storm. isn't she pretty?

before the (literal) storm. isn’t she pretty?

In my desperation to get to Barcelona, I think I got a little TOO excited, as I had found what I thought was an unbelievable last minute train ticket deal- 50 euro from San Sebastian to Barcelona (other prices I saw were all at least 80+). Well, turns out it wasn’t a cheap last minute ticket… because it was actually for a train leaving the following week. And as soon as I figured that out, it started pouring rain. Though it looked like the gods were shitting on me, the skies parted and I magically found a ride share from San Sebastian all the way to Barcelona, and ended up in Barcelona at the same time the train would have gotten me there!

also considering i am currently living (In Barcelona) next to this big guy, no wonder I was excited

also considering i am currently living (In Barcelona) next to this big guy, no wonder I was excited

 

 

i got 99 problems and beaches are like 12 of them

Just when I thought I felt kind of ‘meh’ about portugal, I headed to the Algarve. For the first few days I was in Faro (the capital of the Algarve, I think its because of the airport), the ‘meh-ness’ continued to grow- with Faro pretty much what you see is what you get.. a city. Faro is touted as a great hub for exploring the surrounding areas- within the city there really isn’twhole lot in terms of nightlife, cultural events, scenery, or beach.. but if you are really into malls you could probably pass a couple lovely afternoons at the giant shopping center conveniently located right across the street from the prison (urban planning fail or win?).

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one that needed to see the ‘real’ Algarve. Teased with promises of sea caves and word class beaches, my fellow work-trade-er set up a tour for us with a friend of the hostel, and after a rough night in which I learned a valuable lesson about how vodka probably doesn’t belong in sangria, we packed into one of those ridiculously tiny European cars and headed to paradise.

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First we headed to Benegil- one of those places you drive up to and groan a bit inside due to the hordes of tourists and ridiculously overpriced restaurants- but then you arrive at your destination and you’re like.. oh nope, I totally get why everyone wants to come here. No hard feelings, fellow tourists, I also enjoy crystal clear water, soft sand, and amazing photo-ops. Turns out I’m not all that different from the guy wearing Tevas with socks and zip-off pants.

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if you look really closely you might be able to see boobs. I mean, its Europe.

This was when my hangover started to cower in fear.. nothing stops that day after feeling like jumping into super cold water. The main attraction here, apart from the amazing beach, is the sea caves (in the photo above they would be sort of down and to the left). After a few irresistible photo ops we ditched our cameras and clothes at the car and swam out to the cave.

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from above the cave

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I like to think I’m not that person.. but I TOTALLY am that person.

Although the trusty iPhone wasn’t hardy enough to brave the swim (at this point my phone case is literally about to disintegrate.. I don’t know if I can handle the trauma of choosing a new one), our friend/guide/chauffeur brought along a GoPro, so you can thank him for the following photos.

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I’m the one on the right that looks both naked and dead. I promise I am not either of those things.

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yup, still dead.

This was one of those experiences where you literally feel like the world has stopped- after passing out on the little beach inside the cave for an indeterminate period of time, the swim back to the main beach was almost an out of body experience. The cold, clear water seemed more buoyant than normal as I leaned back, sun on my face and forgot about the rest of the world. I probably would have stayed like that for a lot longer, but unfortunately I am only human and humans need lunch.

Still in our bathing suits (cause fuck clothes), we headed to Praia da Marinha for a picnic and more photo ops. This beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in Europe, and in the top 100 in the world. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a beach connoisseur, but lets just say if this were a bottle of wine I probably couldn’t afford it.

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just before I slammed my head into the rock. see ya later brain cells.

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BAHAHAHA I have a rat tail. gross.

A few days later, we were fiending so hard for some more epic coastline that we headed west, signs out, thumbs in the air, and ended up in Lagos. Deemed the party capital of the Algarve, I came for the drunk Australians and beer bongs (<- that is a blatant lie, I would do no such thing). Though the allure of guys with sunburns and super short shorts wore off really quickly, I can’t say the same for the coastline. Also, Lagos is home to my new favorite person Cosmos … that guy just makes everything better.


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Tearfully,  left Cosmos (and his killer tattoos) for the western-most point of Europe.. Sagres!