Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thursday August 18

I woke up and took a shower around 9:30 this morning, and put some roller in my hair.  I got dressed in the long dress I had brought from home, and put on my slip on croc sandals.  After an entire day of shopping yesterday, I didn't even wear anything I bought. It was very humid and it was raining. I didn't have an umbrella, and didn't want to buy one and have to haul it around with me.  My airbnb had a bunch of umbrellas, but my hostess was still asleep and I didn't want to ask to borrow one. The restaurant was about 20 minutes outside of town by taxi, and I still had maybe an hour or so to kill before I needed to head out, so I went back to the coffee bar I went to across from the tourist office and got a café au lait and what looked like a wheat or multi grain croissant.  I knew I should eat something before lunch and wine.  I finished that and had another coffee.

It was still raining, but it wasn't the least bit cold.  Most people had a jacket or sweater on and umbrellas but I was walking around in a sleeveless maxi with no umbrella.  I put lipstick on today also, fancy fancy.  The taxi rank was on the other side of the boulevard and about a block down so I just took my time, despite the sprinkling, and made it across the street and to the taxi rank without becoming completely soaked. 

I picked a great time, a lull in taxi demand, about noon and hopped into a cab and we headed out of the city into the gorgeous countryside, full of farms and beautiful trees, all very green- mountains or rolling hills.  We eventually pulled into the restaurant and I got out.  My reservation was at 12:30 and it was around 12:15.  There were lots of cars in a parking lot so I assumed that other people were also early. 

Insert Mugaritz experience.

They called a cab for me, and I headed back into town.  I had decided to go to a restaurant in Orio tomorrow and texted the Chef that Carlos Walther Meade had recommended to find out if I could get a reservation for tomorrow.  He agreed and told me to come anytime between 1:30  and 3:00.  I went into the tourist office to figure out how to get to Orio from the city center, and found that the tram went there twice every hour all day, so it was very simple to do.

I went back to the airbnb for a nap before I headed back out.  I had decided I was going to go out, find something to eat, and stay out for the fireworks. 

Wednesday August 17

This morning I got up around 10 and my hostess offered me a coffee before I left the house.  I decided today I would walk around the city of San Sebastian.  I walked across the street into the old town part of San Sebastian and into the Brexta building which faced the boulevard where the tourist office was.  I had read in some literature that it was actually a shopping center so I thought i'd check it out.  I walked into one ladie's clothing store but didn't find anything I liked.  I was looking for some sort of cool lightweight jacket that I would wear again, or a dressier top  (for the skirt I had brought with me) to wear to Mugaritz, the 2 Michelin starred restaurant I was going to the next day.  I walked across the walkway into another shop that was a local Spanish designer, and tried on a dress and two tops, one a tunic and more casual, and another one that was too small.  The dress was Ok but it was thin material and my few (ha ha) bulges screamed at me, so I eliminated that right away.  I got the tunic top which was on sale for under $40US.  I briefly looked at a couple of other shops, but I really wasn't in a shopping mood, and didn't want to get into that mode just because I was bored.

I took the escalator upstairs and it was full of athletic shoes and clothing, and I had no interest in either so I took the escalator down to the bottom floor - below street level and found a farmer's market sort of place with individual areas for produce, seafood, meat, charcuterie and a lot more.  The fish displays were the most interesting, and some of the vendors had it down to an art, very appealing a beautiful, so I took pics but didn't buy anything since I had no place to keep it - my airbnb was a bedroom and shared bathroom, no kitchen.   There was also what appeared to be a good sized supermarket that obviously served the local community.  I didn't go inside.

I left the building and turned towards the Cathedral, or the hill near Old Town with the statue on it.  I looked for someplace to get something to eat, and found a place that I could actually see from the airbnb that wasn't too horribly crowded and I ordered a couple of pinxtas  that looked interesting, and a glass of white wine.  There was no place to stand inside at the counter, but I did find a table outside to stand at while I ate.  I can't tell you what I ate, because I don't remember, but I did eat it all.  These places, and there are literally several dozen on every street in the Old Town have so many different tapas and most aren't labeled so you just guess.  I am assuming I had some sort of charcuterie with cheese on one, and maybe ham on another, and some sort of layered pie sort of thing with veggies.

After finishing I walked up and down the other streets nearby and then all the way down to the waterfront, and along the beach walk.  There was another shopping sort of mall area on Saint Martin so I headed that way.  Everywhere I walked today seemed to have music of some sort going on, whether live or recorded.  Parts of the waterfront were barricaded off to ready for tonite's fireworks display scheduled for 10:30pm.  The fireworks were part of a competition between various countries and tonite was Ecuador's turn.  I headed towards a big tent where reggae music was blasting and discovered it was not live. There were a few young people hanging out, but not much happening.

I walked on and found another place where there were people of all ages perched on benches and cement platforms overlooking the water, and where another stage of sort was set up, and a young guy was doing a lot of talking and then playing music.  Everywhere in this part of town there were hundreds of locals of all ages sitting around, despite the loudness and the type of music being played.  It was kind of cloudy today, and humid, and it was that time of day between 1-4pm where all the shops were closed so most people were hanging out.

I kept walking and saw the more ritzy waterfront area with immaculately groomed men & women sipping wine and eating on private terraces or upscale hotel restaurants.  I continued cruising up and down the streets, stopping in a beauty supply to buy a small package of Velcro rollers to use in my hair so it might have some shape for my fancy lunch tomorrow.  I started looking for shoes/sandals of some sort also since I had shipped home everything but my sensible jambu mary janes and a pair of slip on croc sandals.  I saw very few that I liked, and that looked like they would be comfortable and cute, and tried on a few pairs unsuccessfully.  I stopped at another coffee place and had a café con leche and a brownie.  I continued going into shops and eventually purchased another embroidered lacy top that came with a black camisole.  This top was a Norwegian designer, and the cost also was only about $40 US on sale.  There were sales in all the shops around.  I eventually found the shopping center on Saint Martin, and there was a large 3 story Zara store, which I had first visited in Madrid at the airport, and now we have them all over the US so it is not such a big deal.  I went into the ground floor which was mobbed, and didn't have anything I found particularly interesting, and I just didn't have the interest or energy to check out the other two floors.

I walked out into a pedestrian street on the other side of the Zara building, and there were lots of designer and higher end chain sorts of stores that you find everywhere in the world- but I was just not into buying stuff.  I found a restaurant with an outdoor street terrace seating area and ordered some lunch. It was probably about 3 or 4 by that time.  I ordered a mixed salad, which I thought was just greens but turned out to be a pretty substantial salad with tuna on top- or some sort of canned fish I believe.  I had also ordered mushroom risotto, and when I saw the size of the salad I knew I had ordered way too much.  For my drink I had a half bottle of the local cider, which is alcoholic and has a vinegary taste but was good with the salad. 

I ate as much as I could of the salad, and about half of the risotto.  Neither plate was bad, but it was just mediocre after the last three weeks of amazing food, and although it was not real expensive, I wish I had just had tapas to tide me over until later.  I walked back to my airbnb to take a little nap, and showed off my purchases to my host and her friend.  She offered me a beer, and we had another one of our little discussions about life in general using google translate.  After a half hour or so I went into my room and hung out for an hour or so, and cooled off.

I headed out again probably about 7pm, and stopped in Constitution square for a drink and to watch some basque entertainment on a big stage.  The square was packed with cafes and people of all ages having a small bite to eat and drinks.  I ordered a drink I saw on another table that was rum and wine and some sort of fruit juice and it was really good.  I hung out for maybe an hour before moving on.  I again followed the sound of music and walked along the waterfront.  I walked near the area where the fireworks were going to be set off, and up the boulevard to the large gazebo stage, where an orchestra was set up.  I hung out on a railing around a green area and listened for a while. 

I stopped into another bar for tapas and had what turned out to be a burget slider, and breaded melted cheese.  I ordered a glass of white wine while I ate at the counter, then ordered a second to go.  I walked back outside and over to the gazebo area to try to sit and wait for the fireworks and finally gave up and went back to the bnb and bed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Saturday August 20

Friday August 19

Tuesday August 16

I woke up, got dressed and headed out to find the Orange store to find out why my French sim card wouldn't work.  It was about a 5 minute walk, and because I had downloaded an offline map with GPS it was a breeze to find.  After 15 minutes and a new sim card purchased for one week in spain I was back in business. I headed to the tourist office to find out about how and where I can get to Bilbao this week to go to the Guggenheim Museum.

I had wanted to visit the Guggenheim for years, and it was only an hour and a half away.  I looked through all the brochures on the walls, then went up to a vacant customer service person and she printed out the bus schedules for tomorrow and gave me a great map of San Sebastian which helped me orient myself.  It is really easy to get around once you have a map in your head. 

I went across the street to get a coffee and a couple croissants, by that time it was about 12:30 and I decided I would go today, because the museum stays open until 8:00pm.  I walked for about 15 minutes to the bus station under the main train station and bought a ticket- the first bus that had seats was at 3:10pm, and I bought a return ticket for 8:30pm.  I went into a café at the station and had a beer and a couple of tapas, and bought a small bottle of water.  I left the station and walked back towards the ocean for about 20 minutes, made a left and headed back.  It was still too early so I sat in the park on a bench and people watched for a while.  It was still too early so back for another beer and a seat inside the café, until the bus finally arrived. There were several different bus lines going to Bilbao around the same time, so I found out it was important to look at my ticket to figure out which bus to get on.

I got on the bus and we headed out over mountains and to the city of Bilbao.  It is a gorgeous stately city and I enjoyed looking out the window during my bus ride to the museum.  This was a deluxe bus and they offered us several treats, handed out ear buds and had internet, comfy seats, movies and TV series in Spanish.  I had a man sitting next to me who slept the entire way.  I had a young girl who was texting and watching some princess movie on the other side.  We got to the bus station at Bilbao and I found a taxi quickly.  It was about a $5EU taxi ride to the museum.  What I saw of Bilbao was pretty nice, except the bus station which was pretty old and disgusting.  OK to sit and wait, but I wouldn't eat in the little cafeteria there- and fortunately I was not remotely hungry.  I hopped out and took some photos of the enormous, flower covered cat in front of the museum and of the building itself with is pretty awesome.

I walked down a zillion wide steps to get into the entrance, then waited in a short line to get my ticket and the audio narrative gadget.  There was a sign that asked you to start your tour by watching a video, but I lasted about 3 minutes and decided not to waste my time, but just do it.  I walked first around the ground floor, and saw the Andy Warhol exhibit Shadows.  They even had a room you could take pix with your shadow.  Although the signs said no photos, everyone had their phones out and the guards didn't seem to care.  I went into another area that had a really cool electronic sculpture that took up an entire room and consisted of neon signs like you see on the freeway except vertical with words running up them.  You could walk between the uprights and see it from the back side, and watching people walk through was like watching someone walk into a movie.  You can also see it from a balcony on the 2nd floor.  Really cool, hope I took a picture of the artist's name so I don't have to google it.

I took the elevator up to the 2nd floor and happened upon a large scale (several large rooms ) temporary exhibit by _____________  .  These were for the most part sculptural pieces inside cages, inside structures and used textiles and other materials to express emotions.  One whole room was dedicated to depression and isolation, another room the artists feelings about her parents, and other sculptural pieces that were part of her portfolio.  She was in her mid 90s when she died- and this was a very large exhibition that took up most if not all of the second floor.  I looked down and saw the Richard Serra Sculptures from above.  I had missed these massive metal pieces on the ground floor, so I took the elevator back down stairs.  I wanted to see these before I left, and I was running out of time.  I probably could have spent at least an hour in that room alone, but the clock was ticking. 

I walked through the gift shop and just didn't see anything I couldn't live without, so I used the ladie's room downstairs then walked up the stairs and out the door to the café attached to the museum.  I had a half hour or so before I had to catch a taxi so I had a Spanish ham & cheese sandwich and a glass of Mumm's champagne.

After finishing that I hopped in a cab across the street and went back to the bus station.  Of course I was at least an hour early (i'm always early) so I sat in different places and looked at facebook, and people watched.  Finally the bus came and I got on it, this time sitting in a window seat next to a guy in his 20s who talked on his phone the entire way back.  It poured down rain on our way out of Bilbao but stopped by the time we got back to Donostia. I got off the bus pretty quick, it was a little after 10pm, and headed across the bridge to the city center, following lots of people towards the water and the old part of town where I was staying, and where most of the activities for the festival are taking place.  I walked up and down looking in bars serving the pinxtas (tapas) but just didn't have the energy and the hunger after eating so much earlier, so I went back to the B&B about 10:30.

The hostess knocked on my bedroom door when the fireworks started, and I stood out on her balcony to watch and take photos.  It was quite a spectacle and she has a primo view of the entire city above the rooftops. 

After I went to bed and promised her, and myself that I would stay out, and up for the fireworks tomorrow night.

Monday Aug 15, 2016

I woke up and opened all the window and the skylights in the room.  It was about 8 I believe.  I could tell it was going to be another warm day but it was still cool.  I took a shower and got dressed-  I'm thinking I wore the same clothes from yesterday for the journey to save a clean outfit for arrival.  I had a couple pieces of toast with jam, and coffee, packed up and locked the room.

I made it down the few stairs to the hosts apartment/room and knocked on the door to return the key.  She offered to let me leave my bags outside her door, but I didn't want to have to go up and down those narrow stairs again, so I thanked her and left.  I decided to take the tram back to the train station which only involved finding the stop, buying a ticket, getting on the tram A, getting off and changing to tram C right across from the station. I managed to do this with only a little confusion, and the help of a rasta guy and his girlfriend who were also on the first tram and had lots of bags.

Of course my train was not for several hours so I went across the street to a café and had a breakfast of coffee, muffin, juice and croissant.  I finished that, then went into the ticket office to print out my ticket.  I saw a machine and attempted to use it, but it required I confirm the credit card I used to book it, and it could have been one of 3 or 4 cards I took with me so it wouldn't print.  I asked a guard, and he directed me to the line to buy tickets, which was fortunately very small.  I got to an agent and quickly had a ticket in my hand.

Still about 2-1/2 hrs to go so I went outside and sat for a few minutes, then inside for a few minutes and managed to kill an hour people watching.  Then I went into a café and had a chicken caesar salad and a chocolate mousse with a beer and killed the rest of the time.  The station is undergoing renovation and so it was a little confusing, but I managed to find my train, the car, and my seat.  My seat mate was a woman about my age, but didn't speak English.

Across the aisle was a young woman with a dog who spoke English and was taking the dog named Guzman to stay with her parents while she took off on two major trips.  The dog was darling and I petted it and chatted with her on the trip to Hendaye. They don't allow dogs in trains in Spain, so her parents were picking her up at Hendaye for the trip to Madrid.  There was a young girl who sat on the floor and played with the dog, a basset hound, for the entire trip.  She was darling. The dog kept moving to take up the entire aisle, so the girl had to keep moving him every time someone needed to get through.

Near the end of our journey, she shared a macaron with me from Paris.  We got off the train and I headed into the station and found the ticket machine for the tram to Amara Station in San Sebastian/Donostia.  I walked out of the station and down the street into the tram departure station, and got right on it.  It took us maybe 30 minutes or so to get there with several stops on the way.  The countryside is green and lush like the France I've seen over the past few weeks.

We got to the station in San Sebastian and I walked out the front door that overlooks a park with not a taxi in site.  My French sim card would not work without wifi, so I walked into the park towards a map of the city, and in the direction people were walking.  I had no sense yet of how easy it is to get around here, so I just kept walking finally asking a policeman where to find a taxi rank.  I couldn't even try uber since my phone wouldn't work.  The taxi rank was now right around the corner so I hopped in and in no time we were in front of #16.

A nice man leaving the building with his dog let me in.  I had no way to call or message my host, so I went back outside in the heat and tried to see if the buzzers on the outside would show her name.  No luck.  Finally after a few minutes, she appeared.  She was in #14 and had contacted airbnb and had seen I was heading her way and there was mistake on her listing.  By now I am soaking wet.  We enter her building which is very nice, and go up the elevator to the 4th floor.  I meet her friend and her little dog coconut, and after she explains the keys and such, it is around 8pm and I just go to bed. I am disoriented and better to start fresh in the morning.

Sunday August 14

Woke up this morning about 8, took a shower then packed my bags trying not to wake anyone.  Anne was going to get up early to go to the market with me at 9am for my 8 hour bus journey today to Bordeaux. I went into the kitchen and she came in shortly and started the coffee. Carole appeared a few minutes later and we all left the apartment with Didier still sleeping soundly.

Their apartment is in a great location for me.  There is a market just across the boulevard, a boulangerie a few steps away from that, and my bus departure point, on a Sunday, is literally right across the street since Sunday is street fair day and they can't use the normal departure point.  I bought a chicken baguette sandwich, a small bag of cashews, some sliced cheese, one banana, and a lemon mint water.  We left the market and walked to the petrol station and waited for Carol to come from the boulangerie.  She appeared in a few moments and we headed back across the street.

By this time Didier was up, and while the girls were getting breakfast ready, I got my bags from the bedroom, tidied up, and went back into the kitchen.  We had butter croissants and pain au chocolate.  I love this kind of breakfast with strong coffee.

It was nearing time for my departure so Anne grabbed my heavy bag and charged across the boulevard, with the three of us trailing behind. We took pictures before I got on the bus.  We got my bag into the cargo hold, and I used my e ticket and got a good seat near the window.  The flixbus was very comfortable and I had plenty of leg room. I saw my friends leaving waving at a window - they could not see me inside the bus, but I watched them return home, waving before they entered their building. 

A woman with a big smile sat next to me and plugged her phone into the charging outlet and talked quietly for the first couple of minutes, then dozed.  I glanced out the window as we moved out of Clermont Ferrand and into the journey.  We stopped after an hour for a potty/food break at a large rest area with a petrol station and a café of sorts.  It had a park and a playground.  I didn't know we had to get off the bus, so I was sitting there until the driver indicated I had to get off.

I went outside and found a shady spot next to one of the large cylindrical trash cans and ate half my sandwich and threw the rest away.  I took a short walk to stretch my legs, keeping an eye out for the return of our driver.

The wifi on the bus was decent but faded in and out so I mostly looked at my phone or gazed out the window, or ate some of my snacks.  We stopped several more times and people got off.  At one stop the bus drove into a tiny petrol station and had to maneuver several times to make it into the station without hitting a wall, the tanks, or other cars by only an inch or two. Impressive driving!

We finally got to Bordeaux to a bus station that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, with trash piled up against a wall.  I wasn't sure where to go, only a few people headed out of there, apparently others waiting to be picked up.  I finally asked the driver where the Gare St Jean was and he pointed me in the right direction.  I dragged my luggage to the station and tried to find the left luggage storage place since my stay here was only for the night with an early train to Hendaye.  I had packed my big bag to be stored, and my small bag for the night.  It was 7pm or so, and the left luggage place was closed, so I was stuck with my bag.

I rolled and hauled everything back outside, and decided to take a taxi instead of the tram since I didn't know where I was going.  After a few minutes of confusion, I found a cab who dropped me off near Victor Hugo since the street my airbnb was on is a pedestrian retail street.  I found my way to the airbnb and rang the bell on the blue door.  The host buzzed me in, and told me not to go into the courtyard, but to enter the first door to the right.  When I entered she shouted down from the top floor telling me to come up.  In front of me was a circular stairway that went up 4 or 5 floors with no landings.  To the left of me were the trash cans for these apartments behind the door.  I sighed as a hoisted my suitcase up each few steps until I reached the top floor. 

It was a very hot day, and was also a hot evening.  By the time I got upstairs I was soaking wet.  The host led me up a few more steps to the attic apartment that had a small bedroom with a desk, another room with a small fridge, an electric cooktop, a coffee machine, and another area with a shower and toilet.  There was a skylight that opened in the bedroom, in the small dining room and in the bathroom I think.  Windows overlooked nearby rooftops.  And oh, the ceilings were about 5'8" I'm guessing unless you were standing in the skylight area where I could stand upright. 

The listing didn't indicate the low ceilings but I had seen that on the comments, as well as about the 84 stairs, so I wasn't surprised.  I was leaving fairly early in the morning so I knew I could live with it, although I didn't relish the thought of going down those stairs with my suitcase.  The host was very nice and spoke English, and actually has a sister in Carlsbad living near the lagoon.  She gave me a cool bottle of water and pointed out bread, butter, jam in the fridge, and the coffee machine, and made sure to give me instructions for the air conditioner, which she had turned on when I was at the bottom of the stairs.

After she left I undressed and laid down, trying to cool down.  It was about 8pm at this time, and since I had so many snacks on the trip I wasn't hungry, and couldn't bear the thought of walking down 84 stairs and trying to find some place to eat on a Sunday night, so I went to sleep.  I woke once and turned the AC back on since it was on a timer. The bed was comfortable, and I managed not to bang my head on the ceiling even once, although the tiny closet with the toilet had a light that I nailed a couple times. 

Nite all.