After a good night’s sleep, we stumbled into the kitchen to see what the albergue’s breakfast offerings were like. We filled ourselves up on toast and chocolate rice krispies, donned running clothes, and went for a jog. Heather, being an intense and very good runner, decided to run the entire Concha. Fazed by the fact that I hadn’t put on my sneakers more than 3 times since arriving in Spain, I opted for a slow jog around what we nicknamed “Jesus mountain” for the enormous statue of Christ on top. The real name of the small hill is Monte Urgull. Unlike in Zaragoza, there were actually quite a few joggers out on the boardwalk and the nice sidewalks in San Sebastian. I enjoyed the ocean view, the waves crashing against the rocky cliffs, and the green mountain on my other side.
After we met up again at the Ayuntamiento, Heather and I decided to climb up to the Jesus statue, where there was also a castle which we could explore – one of the really cool but completely not busy things we found. I loved the walk up, on tree-lined paths – I hadn’t quite realized how much I missed forests!
After returning to the albergue to shower, we were hungry, and so as tends to me my general course of action, I headed for a panadería on Calle Mayor that we had passed earlier with a smell of fresh-baked bread wafting into the streets. We had to edge our way past a group of traditionally-dressed Vascos singing Christmas carols in Basque to get in the door, but it was worth it. The challenges weren’t over, however: the bread was labeled only in Basque. How frustrating to be in Spain, finally have a good grip of Spanish, and then be confronted with a new language, completely unrelated, and with no clue of the pronunciation!
I had expected to encounter some Basque in Basque Country, but I’d never expected a bakery to be completely without any Castilian, or to see advertisements and flyers exclusively in Basque. It really was the principal language – Spanish took the back seat. From a linguistic point of view, the preservation of the incredibly unique Basque is valuable, but from a practical standpoint, it was yet another new challenge. In any case, I ended up with some wonderful bread – delicious, delightfully textured, and still warm. We had to visit a repostería we’d passed, also on Calle Mayor, for dessert, where I bought a “príncipe”, a rolled-up sugar lace cookie filled with chocolate mousse. Absolutely delicious!!
After satisfying our hunger, I wanted to buy some paper and envelopes at a paperlería, and we both wanted to explore the shopping district of the new city. We ventured south into the wider streets, and after exhausting ourselves with exploring, we returned to the albergue for a siesta and ended up chatting with our roommates for a while, until a reasonable hour for dinner. (We knew that the Italian place we’d spotted wouldn’t open until 8.) The little restaurant was called “Capricciosa”, and I was overjoyed to see pesto risotto on the menu for only about 9 euros. Heather ordered a seafood pizza (which she can attest to the deliciousness of). It was a wonderful meal and a very welcome change from the blandish Spanish food in Zaragoza. Between the flavor-filled tapas of the night before and the lovely basilness of the risotto, I was in love with the País Vasco, simply because of the food. Although I must say, the vast beautiful beach and the tree-covered mountain helped win me over.
Another exciting factor of the trip was staying in the youth hostel. We headed back to the albergue around midnight, after another walk on the beach, and used the pretext of thirst to discover who was in the kitchen. We ended up chatting with a group of Italians and French for quite a while, in our common language: Spanish. With an enriched knowledge of western Europe, Heather and I headed to bed, exhausted after another long day, and tried to find our toothbrushes in silence so as not to wake our roommates.