It’s kind of fitting that my first blog post ever would be about a trip to the northern coast of Spain. I’ve been saying I wanted to do both for a long time and haven’t ever followed through with either. Until now that is! And now that I’ve finished (sort of) my website and finally taken that trip to San Sebastian, I can honestly say that I wish I would’ve done both way sooner than I did. But moving on from my procrastination issues, I’d like to talk about Basque country.
San Sebastian was our first stop. Ohhhh San Sebastian. Did you ever have a crush on your friend’s older brother growing up? And he’s so cool and so nice to you and so fun but he honestly couldn’t care less if you think so and that just makes your crush on him ever bigger? That’s what San Sebastian feels like. The scenery is beautiful, the people are incredibly nice, the food is fantastic, but not because San Sebastian is trying to impress you. That’s just how San Sebastian is.
We arrived in San Sebastian on a Wednesday afternoon, checked into our hotel and brought some adult beverages to the beach to BASQUE in (I’m just so damn clever) some unexpected sun. Watching people surf while the sun started to set was about as good a first impression as one could ask for (as if the drive in through the countryside wasn’t impressive enough). But now we were nice and relaxed, slightly buzzed, and ready to shove as many of these pintxo things we’d heard about into our faces as we could.
We walked into the historic center, which is absolutely beautiful, and started our little pintxo crawl. I should preface this with the fact that I am a snacker. I would way rather eat little tiny versions of a bunch of different foods than sit down and have a steak dinner (I ended up with both this time but more on that later). Pintxos are northern Spain’s tapas. The majority of them are on little pieces of toast (but not all!). You walk into a bar, and there’s tons and tons of these sitting on the bar top. You ask the bartender for a plate, put what you want on it, he/she counts how many you have and puts it on your tab. I was in heaven. We ate so many tiny pieces of food, I can’t even give you a ballpark amount as to how much I ate. I just know I was wildly full by the time we were leaving the third pintxo bar.
Our buzzed little brains decide we should stop for just one more drink before we walk back to the hotel. A nightcap, because we ate so much food we needed to let it settle (or that was all an excuse to drink more in this adorable neighborhood, whatever, what matters is that we stopped again). We see this great little bar, no pintxos on the counter but just a shit load of tomatoes, and a ton of guys standing around at the bar bullshitting and drinking wine and beer. Perfect. Exactly what we want. Not sure about the tomatoes but everything else works for me let’s do it!
This place was called Bar Nestor.
We sat down and ordered some beers. While we’re sipping on our beers and enjoying the atmosphere of what appeared to be just a little hole in the wall pub, a man walks up to us with a plate and a couple of raw steaks on it and asks us if we want one. Uhhh…? What? But where did those come from? But kind of? But I just ate an obscene amount of pintxos and I’m not even hungry. But I don’t know if anyone has ever just offered me up a piece of meat like that (not since Rob did two years ago anyways, heyooooo!). We both just looked at each other, did a little beer hiccup, shrugged our shoulders and went for it.
I’m worried that this went so well that I’m going to think that everyone who offers me a slab of raw meat is going to deliver like Nestor did. It came with a plate of sliced raw tomatoes (that solved the tomato mystery from earlier) tossed in olive oil and big sea salt shavings, they serve it blue rare on a piping hot skillet so if you want your meat cooked a little more you just topple the steak slices over and let them simmer on the skillet for a little while. And it was amazing. Nothing but delicious meat and some more of those sea salt shavings. We went back the next night and picked an even bigger steak to eat. That’s how good it was. I can’t say this for every situation where a stranger you don’t know is offering you meat, but at Bar Nestor accept the damn meat. Just do it.
I slept like a drunk bear mid-hibernation that night.
The next morning we woke up a tad hung over. Was it from being wine/beer drunk or from being food drunk? We’ll never know for sure. We gingerly put ourselves in the car, sunglasses drawn over our tired, ugly faces, and headed west. Basically I saw a picture online of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe a couple weeks before, told Rob I wanted to go there “so bad! More than anywhere in the whole wide world!” and he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Ja ja, ok, whatever bebe” (that’s me trying to type in an apathetic Dutch accent btw). This is how a lot of our destinations throughout our travels are decided, and honestly it’s worked out almost every single time.
So we drove for a couple hours and dragged our hung over asses up to the church on the cliff that I saw on pinterest one time. And it was so worth it. All of it. I’m telling you, just find a picture of something you think looks cool and go find out if it actually is. I’ve had tons of success with this.
We had perfect weather, surrounded by the sea on one side and dramatic cliffs and rocky beaches on the other. I rang the church bell three times and made a wish (because the internet told me I’m supposed to and the internet had really pulled through for me with the whole ‘picture being way prettier in real life’ thing so I wasn’t about to stop listening) and we headed back to the car to find some lunch in a nearby town we saw from our spectacular views at the church.
The town nearby was a beautiful little surf town called Bakio. There was almost nobody there, so I’m thinking it might be more of a vacation town that really comes alive in the summer time, but we didn’t mind having the beach all to ourselves (except for one surfer). We found (you guessed it!) a pintxo bar, I blissfully snacked on miniature foods and we began to head back.
Instead of taking the much faster route we took to get there, our hang overs had worn off and we decided we were feeling spry enough for the windy highway that runs right along the northern coast. And it was just town after town of beautiful beaches and cliffs, but so much more green than other coastal areas of Spain. The scenery in this area is hands down my favorite in Spain that I’ve seen so far. And goddamn did I miss all those trees and cliffs (Washingtonian over here, I need the green). I highly recommend taking this route at least once, it’s incredibly scenic and I think Rob even had fun driving on the windy roads! My little Max Verstappen wannabe.
We stayed all together in San Sebastian for two nights, the third night we headed to the Pyrenees to go to Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. This is a good example of when picking a place based solely off pretty pictures you see online is not all that smart. Not because it wasn’t breath-takingly beautiful there. It was so so so beautiful. But the actual park was still closed, and there was too much snow for us to hike around like we wanted to. So we ended up driving around and checking out the scenery that we could, which I want to say one more time was so beautiful. But we didn’t quite get the experience we hoped for because I’m an idiot and didn’t think to check if the park would still be covered in snow in March.
All in all we had a fantastic road trip in northern Spain! It’s so unique to the rest of what I’ve seen of Spain, and after seeing that region I think it might be my favorite one in the country so far. Definitely worthy of my very first blog post, and maybe (or hopefully, can I say hopefully already?) even a repeat in the future.
Now we’re back in Valencia, and already I’m hearing firecrackers in the streets around the clock for Las Fallas celebrations. So I guess it’s time to drink and blow stuff up! Should be an interesting couple of weeks 🙂