Unbelievable as it may sound, I finally made it to San Sebastian in once piece and with all my stuff. I had initially planned to stay here for less than a day then move on to Madrid. But since I was running out of time, and I didn’t think 1.5 days in Madrid would be enough to do anything worthwhile, I just decided to chill out in San Sebastian instead. I had a good time, but did not do any major activities or visits. So expect this post to be short.
It was sweltering outside. I had my backpack and daypack on me, one on each side, walking the streets looking for a hostel. I walked into a penśion that turned out to be full. But they are happy to refer me to another neighboring pension. This next one is also full, and finally refers me to a spot with a vacant bed. And this is how I am initially acquainted with the friendliness that runs in San Sebastian, the first of many such experiences. As soon as I get my room, I take off my clothes, put on my swimsuit, run to the beach, then jump in the fresh water! What a great relief! Then, I just hang out on the beach for a while until it’s time to eat. At which point I head to a seafood restaurant, my plan being to gorge myself with as much seafood as I can! Over the next 2 days, I will eat every meal in a seafood restaurant, and will have fish, shellfish, fish soup, calamari, and fish cake (I’m kidding about the last one). The calamari was prepared in “ink” (a thick black sauce); and since almost everyone spoke only Spanish or Basque I was never able to figure out what the was. Real octopus ink? I can’t think of any seasoning or food that is pure black.
Even though very few people spoke a language I understood, I was still able to meet and befriend many locals, a testament to this friendly city. I spent an evening with a fisherman on the port that was hoping to catch a big prize (unsuccessfully). With very basic expressions, he was able to convey to me his discontent with how “things are turning out” in the fishing industry: pollution, over-fishing, monopoly of big corporations, etc. He also referred to how many of these issues never exited in the “good old days” . Cliche indeed, but true nonetheless*. I also had a long chat with the pension owner about people’s avoidance of the unknown or the uncertain (e.g. The need to plan a trip in detail). During the day, I was also approached by a stranger asking if I needed help after noticing me walking the same street three times. I was offered a free coffee when I had no cash on me and the coffee shop did not accept credit cards. I was given a public transit pass by a stranger having noticed I was struggling to buy one (my credit card was refused). I had a fun evening with a waitress who spoke only Spanish as we tried to communicate in different ways, sometimes with funny outcomes. And more… All these random encounters make solo traveling such a special experience!
* Talking about the old man, not his complaints. I’d rather not venture into political territory.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep (the first in a few days), I start my day at the aquarium. Hitting the beach before 3-4pm on such a hot day is lethal; you may die of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and skin cancer all at the same time. The aquarium was lots of fun, especially the part where you get to see a shark up close and personal. I’m adding diving with sharks to my bucket list for some other trip. In the afternoon, I sat down in a park overlooking the beach and the horizon to write**. At dinner, I meet two artists, a Dutch and a Quebecois, traveling across Europe combining pleasure and work to make the best of it. I spend the rest of this pleasant night with them.
** This stuff doesn’t just appear from thin air on the net, there’s hard work and sweat that goes into it!
This quickly sums up my stay in San Sebastian. It was not very eventful, but the people I met made it very worthwhile. The next, and final stop, is Seville. I can’t believe I am approaching the end. This whole month flew by so quickly. Even though I am looking forward to heading back to Lebanon and getting some downtime, I want to keep on vagabonding! Anyway, let’s keep these reflections until after my trip. I’ll have more than enough time to dwell on the “what if’s”.
[This post is part of a series on my 2011 eurotrip, check out the whole series here]