Friday, May 4, 2012
The Outstanding Out-of-Towners (Part 9)
We hopped on a bus to an outlying part of San Sebastian called Pasaia. With only 3 neighborhoods, it is quite a small village, but albeit small it is quite lovely. The bus dropped us off in the neighborhood of San Pedro, or the purple side as we came to call it. San Pedro and San Juan, the neighborhood where we planned to go, are seperated by a bit of water that flows to the port. Vicious rivals, San Pedro's color for rowing events is a deep purple and San Juan is a hot pink. During rowing season, you can see flags flying with pride on both sides of the water.
A few minutes walk from the bus was a small little boat that would take us from the purple side to the pink side, which is just too picturesque it should be in every book of cute port towns. The boat only takes about 1 minute to get from one side to the other, but while you're on the water, the town looks even prettier than from the banks where you board. We pulled up and jumped out - for an 83-year old woman, Grammy did amazingly well deboarding that I think she surprised many people around her.
Basically built between the edge of the mountain and the sea, San Juan is a small and narrow little place - with only one road in the whole town. We perused in one direction to start - admiring the window boxes with flowers hanging out, cute and creepy doorknobs and little alleys that led right to the water. Once we reached the edge of town, we merely turned around and headed down the cobble stone street back to the center and this time headed out towards the water. Starting on this path, we could have feasibly walked all the way to Hondarribia where we had been on Friday but its about 15 miles, so that wasn't really on our to-do list haha.
We did however, in the 20 minutes we walked get to see some interesting trees that were grafted together all along the riverside, the main plaza with it's narrow houses and colorful wood beams, and towards the end of our walk - lighthouses! The town is just completely adorable and had we had more time we might have enjoyed the atmosphere with a coffee or something but sunny days were hard to come by during their trip so we moved onto other things that required the rays and caught the bus back to San Sebastian.
We worked our way around the Old Part's mountain, Urgull, and had great views of the Bay of Biscay with the waves crashing against the massive cubed-shaped rocks. After walking about 30 minutes we arrived at a special point on the 'Paseo Nuevo' as the street is called - the point where the painting I had been working on for so long is taken. While working on it, I decided that I wanted to give it to Grammy as a momento of her trip here and was looking forward to her seeing the scene in real life!
Our walk continued in the sun and we meandered through the port passing by all the restaurants with seafood smells wofting from them. We passed by the Old Part again as we made our way to the Concha beach where we grabbed a couple bites of our sandwiches. The ice cream had taken up quite a bit of space in our bellies so we weren't stopped for long!
We continued our Basque stroll along the entire beach, catching some great glimpses through the white rail that is so iconic of the city. Miles and miles of walking lead us to the 'funicular' - the elevator sort of street car that climbs the side of the Mount Igeldo to take us up to the top for spectacular views. From up there we were able to admire Donostia in all its glory. With a turquoise sea right below hugging the sandy beaches with little dots of people on them the water scene seems like a Caribbean view. The lush island smack dab in the middle and the mountains in the background reminded us that we were very much in the Basque Country though. When people come to visit, this is my favorite place to take them - but only if it is sunny. I love the contrast of the sea, the church steeples, the mountains and the beach all at the same time. It always really makes me appreciate the beauty of where I live.
Having passed lunchtime, we wanted to enjoy the sun as much as possible and took the funicular down again to head to the 'Peine de los Viento' - the Wind Comb, sculpture a few minutes walk from the mountain. Created by the famous Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida, this sculpture is probably his most famous and it draws mosts tourists from the Old Part to admire it. With 3 seperate pieces, these 'combs' make a cohesive work as they interact with the mountain, sea and wind that surround them. Each one stands for something different - the past, the present and the future.
Besides the sculpture, the whole plaza area is also lovely to see. With little areas that are like blow holes, when the waves rush underneath the rock, air rushes out and those who are standing on top of one get a blast of sea air! Although I have lived here for 4 years and have seen hundreds of people do it, I had never actually stood atop a blow hole. When Cathy did it, it looked fun and I decided to drag Grammy to one and when the air rushed up we both screamed and laughed at the same time. It was hilarious and very memorable! And I just adore the pic that Cathy snapped of us.
With the pedometer saying almost 10 miles of walking, we decided that that was sufficient for a sunny day's walk and headed to a nearby bar to refresh ourselves with what else but with Txakoli (Basque wine) while Joseba drove to come pick us up.
Having not had so many sunny days during their trip, I was so happy we were lucky enough to have one of the last days be so great! They were able to see San Sebastian and its true beauty :)
at 9:28 AM