Monday, February 13, 2012

Falling in love again

To celebrate Saint Valentine, most people shower thier loved one with red roses, champagne and chocolates.  This year, while happily in love, I would like to dedicate my day of love to the city I now call home, Donostia, because it is true, you can fall just as easily in love with a city.

I arrived on my first day here kind of in shock.  After NYC this little beach town was a massive change for me, but I think more than the drasticness of the change was the fact that I was enthralled by its beauty.  From the crashing waves dotted with surfers washing up against the soft sandy beaches to the rolling green hills with traditional Basque farmhouses in the distance, the landscape was like a postcard - picturesque to a T.  The Old Part's hundreds of pintxos bars, each decorated with wooden tables and bar stools and pig legs hanging from the cieling were inviting with thier tasty treats out on display.  The Basque music sometimes accompanied by dancers or musicians filled the street and seeped its way into my apartment on the edge of the Old Quarter each day.  Even the iconic white railing that runs the whole walkway of the famous Concha Beach is gorgeous and fitting of a Queen, which it once was.  This Belle Epoque city makes perfect sense as the vacation destination for Queen Isabella and her summer palace, Miramar (Sea view in Spanish) still sits atop a sloping hill right on the coast with a view of the church spires and tiled rooftops.
 As I got to know the city better, I only liked it more and more.  Each pintxo bar had a different delectible bite to eat.  Each cafĂ© con leche tasted better than the last.  My daily walks of exploring the city took me to parks, random quarters of the city and into massive churches.  Every time I got lost I was happy to see something different - a door from the Art Nouveau era, a fountain that lit up, a shop with puppets and a moving one out front, an art exhibit in what looked like a shop.  And to finish up the week, each Sunday as the bells rang at the Iglesia de San Vicente out front of my house, I would watch a happy couple walk out hand-in-hand newly married. 

I was happy to be discovering this beautiful gem on my own, but was also delighted to make friends that I could share and explore more with.  With friends I discovered that nightlife in San Sebastian doesn't even really start until 1am and doesn't finish until 7am or later; that get-togethers on the beach with beers, friends, guitars and sometimes even Spanish homework is a perfect way to pass the day; that random hikes open you up to even more breath-taking views of the Basque coast; that youth discounts are available for concerts, ballets and even the Film Festival.

As one year turned into another, my love for the city didn't fade, although it did get more comfortable, as most loves do.  After moving away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Part, I no longer ventured every day to see the morning vegetable market, or to the beach to see the eldery men taking the morning dip no matter what the weather.  I didn't catch the random street demonstrations or pop in for an ice cream on my way home from work (better for my waist anyways!).  As I lived in a calmer neighborhood, I picked up new habits with my love, Donostia.  I religiously drank coffee at a bar on my corner as I read the local newspaper.  I began to buy my groceries from the same supermarket and my bread from a smiling-faced old lady who taught me how to ask for the bread cut in half and cut into two pieces.  I began to see my  neighbors in the steet and bow my head or say 'Agur' (bye in Basque) as we passed.  I started to make it more my home.

When I went 'home' to the USA for a summer, I had a very strange feeling during the hot months.  While I was essentially at home, I had this strange longing for San Sebastian.  It's like I missed it like one misses a loved one.  I had a tugging in my heart and I could picture her beaches and buildings like one remembers a loved one's facial features.  Upon coming back for my second year I felt like I was where I was supposed to be again.  This feeling persisted as I continued travelling, always relieved when I got back to Basque Country - as if it were my real home.  A place where I didn't speak the language perfectly, where I couldn't understand half of the signs since they were written in Basque, a place where the idea of sea snakes and octopus tentacles disgusted me but were regularly eaten meals, where wine is cheaper than water - this was the place I felt at home at.  I had fallen, and I had fallen hard.

With Joseba I saw a new face of the city - the romantic side.  I finally walked hand-in-hand on the beach barefoot, took the city in at the wee hours with a cute boy by my side, drank wine while looking into his eyes like no one else was in the bar, tried meals in restaurants I never would have imagined myself eating and more.  And while Joseba is Basque, he is not from this city, so in turn, when he came to Donostia, it was as if he were coming to 'my city'.  All of a sudden I become the one who knew how to get places, the one who knew a wine bar nearby, a place to buy dessert, where to park.  All of these things in a place that I guess I could finally call my own city.
Now that it is both our city, I am falling in love all over again.  We have recently got into the couchsurfing stuff where we host travellers from around the world who are passing through Donostia.  We let them sleep on our couch and basically agree with gusto to give them an insider's view into this beautiful place.  Walking along the streets with someone who has never seen the elaborate pink marble bridges, seen the modern Kurssal Convention Center juxtaposed against the traditional architecture, the Basques dressed in traditional peasant dress on a festival day - these things I am able to see again through the eyes of a first-timer and it is amazing.  It's like falling in love all over again.

 I still to this day normally walk around with my camera in my purse.  While I am going on my 4th year (this is a long-term relationship we have), sometimes things still catch my eye.  Maybe instead of the beach or a church, now it is a painting on the street or a lovely windowbox full of flowers.  Either way, I can tell I am still head over heels for this place called home because each day she makes me smile in some way or another.

So, although I have an amazingly handsome boy right by my side, today I raise my delicious glass of Rioja wine to toast to my city - may we have many more happy years together.



Mom said...

What a wonderful blog, thank you. You bring such life to your town through words. You make it sound so warm I can almost feel it. Keep them coming.

PC Adventures said...

So beautifully written. You do have this most amazing gift that you share with us so often and for that we are all so very appreciative.

Amanda said...

I'm so happy you liked the blog! I love sharing - so thanks for reading!

Meggan Reddout said...

Oh my gosh Amanada! This is so beautifully written! I felt like I was right by your side taking those walks with you! I miss you greatly but I adore the life you have and am so happy for you! Keep dreaming big and having adventures :)