Day 154-155: A foodie’s paradise

After a rather rude awakening this morning (in the form of a freezing cold shower at our Bilbao campsite!) we set off in the direction of San Sebastian. Arriving at the campsite around lunchtime we set up the pitch and were soon waiting at the bus stop ready to see what the city had in store for us.

Our campsite was located just behind Mount Igueldo, so we enjoyed great views of Santa Clara, Mount Urgull and the bay as we entered the city. Jumping off at the same spot as everyone else we had a wander around trying to work out where we were, before making a beeline for tourist information.

Map sorted we began to wondering around the old town, checking out where all the good pintxos places I’d read about could be found. Unfortunately it seemed that quite a few of them were closed, either opening in the evening only or were closed for the week for staff holidays!

Undeterred we carried on exploring and decided to try a busy looking bar near Santa Maria Church. They had a huge range of pintxos, much bigger than we had seen in Bilbao and we were soon tucking into ham wrapped artichoke covered in a light batter, juicy chicken skewers, scallops gratin and what we think were tiny squid like creatures stuffed in a pepper!! It was all pretty tasty and gave us the energy we needed to tackle Mount Urgull!

We went up the right side of Mount Urgull – taking a path located just behind the San Telmo museum – and were soon met with stunning views over the city, from Zurriola to the east to Mount Igeldo to the west. We had a walk around La Mota Castle and after admiring the views we wander back down the left side of the hill and found ourselves by the harbour overlooking La Concha bay.

We’d clearly worked up an appetite and were in need of more fuel so stopped at a cute looking bar (that also happened to be showing the Japanese MotoGP qualifying!!) for more food and drink. If we thought our earlier pintxos was tasty this place raised the bar with a delicious selection of fishy treats. We were soon snaffling tasty fish (mackerel maybe?) pate, baked cod and salted cod croquettes before realising for the sake of our waistlines and wallets we had to move on.

With the light fading we went in search of the bus stop and were soon back in the van, enjoying a relaxing night in preparation for another day of exploring tomorrow!

Another day brought more San Sebastian adventures and today we planned to begin by going up Mount Igueldo. We decided to reach the top in style so joined the queue for the hundred year old funicular and were soon creeping up the hill in a rickety old carriage, praying we would reach our destination!

At the top we stopped to drink in the beautiful surroundings, admiring views over the bay and down into the city, before exploring the comedy attractions that sat at the top of the hill. This has to be the first time we’ve seen a fairground at the top of a (rather steep) hill and we had a wander around whilst I tried to persuade Rob he wanted to go into the house of terror/on the dodgems/win me a prize on the pick a duck stall. No amount of trying was going to persuade him through, so we headed back down the hill via a few twisty turning footpaths.

Arriving back on level ground we strolled along the promenade that runs the length of La Concha bay – past the Miramar Palace (which is said to be inspired by English country homes), a wedding party and the hundreds of sunbathers – before arrived back in the centre of the city.

I’d heard some great things about a restaurant called Ni Neu, which offers michelin-style dining at affordable prices and so we decided to have a wander over and see if a) they had any space and b) they’d left two hoboesque travellers in! It turns out we didn’t need to worry as whilst the restaurant was fairly busy, it had a great relaxed atmosphere with plenty of families, groups of friends, couples (and the odd tourist) enjoying the food, drink and atmosphere!

Checking out the menu there were two options available; a three course set lunch for €29.50 or a six course tasting menu for €42.50. Having spent the last five months watching every penny and keeping a super close eye on the budget, we decided to treat ourselves to mark the end of a fab summer away (and spend some of our hard earned vendange wages) and so signed ourselves up for the six course spectacular!!

I won’t bore you with every last detail from each course, but I what I will say it that it was all super tasty as we tucked into…

  • Ajoarriero cod salad
  • Spider crab gyozas with roasted onion stock
  • Roasted hake, smooth fish jus and aubergine strands
  • Boned roasted lamb with cheese talo
  • French toast caramalised in the pan with Armagnac ice cream
  • Coffee meringue and chocolate biscuit

Having thoroughly indulged ourselves with lunch we felt the need to stretch our legs so wandered east along Zurriola beach, stopping for a bit of people watching and checking out a game of pelota.

We weren’t too sure what was going on ready – it seemed to be a group of men throwing a very small ball around and hitting in back across a pitch with a gloved hand! – however Rob got chatting to one of the other spectators who it turned out was there to support the Dutch national team and it seems this is an ancient sport, popular in the Basque country, The Netherlands, France, Belgium and South America. Apparently we were watching this year’s international championship, before it moves onto Colombia for 2017!

From here we wandered back into the centre for yet more people watching by the bay, before grabbing a drink at one of the bars we’d been to yesterday.

Even though we were feeling pretty full still from all that food at lunch we’d heard about a place selling epic cheesecake and felt we really had to try it out whilst we were in town. Having found La Vina we went in and soon spied the awesome looking cheesecakes lined up on the bar.

We ordered two portions, however on seeing the size of one soon realised this was a case of our eyes being bigger that our stomachs as one portion would have happily fed us both! Still it was worth it as we tucked into the super light and very moist baked cheesecake – it was unlike anything I’d had before, with almost a liquidy centre!

By now we were both feeling very full so went on a final meander through the streets, taking in a beautiful sunset over the bay and catching another wedding party as they left the church. Now all that was left to do was to bimble our way back to the bus stop and make our way home to the van 🙂

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