And I lose at blog post titles.
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)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!