Sunday, October 16, 2016

Spain 2016 - Part 2 San Sebastian

Ah...San Sebastian! We arrived by train from Madrid and hailed a cab to the hotel. Love at first sight as we spied the beautiful horseshoe shaped La Concha beach.

La Playa de la Concha
View from our room at the Orly Hotel
Carl and I first heard about San Sebastian from our friends Greg and Tina.  On June 6,  2012, as I listened to their description of the city's beautiful beach promenade and their meal at Arzak, I made a note in my iPhone. It is the oldest note on my phone and I suppose now I can delete it.

There was so much to see. We loved the beautiful art nouveau architecture, the cobbled streets of the old town, the long, wide beach promenade and the surrounding hillsides. There were beautiful architectural details at every turn, amazing large iron sculptures at both ends of the horseshoe-shaped beach and a collection of restaurants and bars in the old town that kept calling to us all day long.

Laid back but sophisticated...strolling through the Old Town
The Basilica of Saint Mary of Coro. The bells chimed on the half hour.

San Sebastian City Hall
The Maria Cristina Bridge crosses the Urumea River
Carl on the promenade
Peeking through the wrought iron fence that lines the promenade
La Concha Promenade is unquestionably one of San Sebastián’s most characteristic features. It is a seaside promenade bordering the famous Concha Bay, shell-shaped as indicated by its name in Spanish, with two beaches (Ondarreta and the Concha) and an island (Santa Clara.)
There's nothing like taking off your shoes and walking on the beach
Impressions in the sand
Walking along the promenade is one San Sebastian's great joys

Maria Cristina bridge
Maria Cristina bridge
Architectural detail
A ceramic tile sign in Old Town

On a fashion note, I designed a tunic several years ago with vintage souvenir scarves from Spain.  So, it seemed appropriate that I would wear it since it even referenced San Sebastian on the top right shoulder.

Finally! The perfect opportunity to wear my tunic.
See! San Sebastian on my shoulder.
On the day before we left, we walked from one end of the horseshoe to the other and up the hill to the statue of Christ at Monte Urgull.  At each far end we saw beautiful iron sculptures.
El Peine Del Viento - Sound Frozen in Time
Construcción Vacía (Construction Vacant) Jorge Oteiza created this work in steel in 1957 more than half a century later and remains a benchmark in the field of contemporary art

The short hike up to Monte Urgull was peaceful, cool and quiet
The hike offered beautiful views of San Sebastian

Another gorgeous view of the bay
Monte Urgull is the most significant historical heritage in the city. Located in the very center of Donosti, it is usually only discovered by its inhabitants as a place they visit with out of town visitors. Being out of town visitors, it was most definitely on our itinerary.
On this hill standing in the heart of the city, in addition to privileged views, you will find the "History House" Casa de la Historia,  and remains of the walls and canons, witness to the city’s military past.
The museum included wonderful vintage posters
The statue of Christ at the top of Monte Urgull. There's only one way to see it up close.
Yes, for us, it was all about the food. Everywhere we looked we saw pintxo bars and cafes. One of our biggest transitions was dinner at 10. It never really felt right. But when in Spain...  Our second night we had dinner at midnight.

More fashionable strollers
Late dinner at Casa Tiburcio
Sample pintxos fare
A highlight! Spotted Anthony Bourdain touring Old Town. To date, it's my highest rated photo on Pinterest. Thanks, Tony!
(Take note of the gentleman in the rear. You'll meet him later.)

Mercado de San Miguel is a large, indoor marketplace
Jamon everywhere you look
Carl peruses the market
Snacks to go

Another suggestion from Greg and Tina- cheesecake at La Vina Cafe.
The regular portion includes two pieces. IT. WAS. SO. GOOD.

The highlight of our time in San Sebastian was lunch at Arzak. Let me correct that, it was the highlight of our trip.

The restaurant, situated at the top of a hill in San Sebastian, has been in the Arzak family for generations, but it was charismatic chef Juan Mari who revived the menu to make it what it is today. Now 74 years old, Juan Mari still oversees the kitchen while his talented daughter Elena runs daily operations.

Everything from the signage, to the menu to the flatware was exquisitely designed
Arzak’s extensive offering includes multiple tasting menus and an à la carte, with specialties such as the Red Space Egg with a skin of red peppers, pig trotters and mushrooms, and seabass served on top of a tablet computer with moving images of the sea. A special feature of many of the dishes is the crunchy element – dishes such as Big Chocolate Truffle with candyfloss, carob, cacao and chocolate have a range of textures, including the signature crunch.
Ready for the life changing meal
Here are a few photos from our meal.  There was much more than this.
Txistorra with Beer and Mango served atop a scrunched beer can
Marinated prawns on lemon grass and mint served with unctuous preparation of beetroot and crunchy with krill.
Red "space" egg cooked at 65 degrees C, red peppers, cereal ferments and crispy pig's trotters.
White tuna with green melon waves served with jackfruit sauce
Grilled monkfish together with pecan nut paste and hieroglyphics forms of pumpkin and chickpea
The final dessert offering- beautifully designed candy eggs served in a cage.
The lovely Chef Juan Mari agreed to a photo with us after our meal. Do you recognize him now?
On our last day in San Sebastian we learned of an art installation called "The Mile of Peace" It was a mile long exhibition tour, designed to create an open space for reflection and participation on peace and its reversal: war, violence and armed conflicts. Situated along the banks of the Urumea  River,  it included photographs and quotations encouraging world peace and acceptance of all people. The route is based on the idea of the river as a metaphor, a natural border, and the bridges built as objects to overcome this geographical division.

A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
My favorite part of the installation was a mural created by children from all over the world
World peace from a child's point of view
Hope you enjoyed San Sebastian! Next stop- Barcelona.

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