San Sebastian and Bilbao

PANO_20120926_090814Despite loving Barcelona and the ambience and fireworks, Spain finally arrived for me when I reached the North coast. Of course I am not saying Barcelona is unauthentic. Its just you have to look harder to find it even when you stay in El Born, a district examplifing the diversity of Barcelona’s population. Away from the tourists, shops selling tat and generic food, we found bars ringing with the Spanish love of conversation, tapas served on the bar, small beers and courtesy. It was totally Spanish.

Everyone advises you to go to San Sebastian and I took advice from the Catalan boys as well as Dougal. Arriving at 5am on the nightbus way before hostel check-in time, we decided to go to the beach to watch the sunrise. Life is slower on the north coast. The sun didn’t appear properly until 8am but we had coffee, croissants and conversation to keep us occupied. I’ve always loved sun rise. Sadly many people associate it with the beginning of a day filled with work, stress, traffic and mundanity.

But after living in many cultures where bed time co-incides with the rising of the sun, its given me a sense of freedom. I still never forget my first night and morning in Japan, drinking tequila and eating cheese toasties with a Kiwi girl at 8am until we wandered home triumphant as the men and women in suits dashed to work. We felt like heroes.

San Sebastian was buzzing that day with anger and anticipation. Before the film festival could kick off in the evening, the city had to negotiate a general strike, demonstrations and shut downs, the longest part naturally being lunch. Penelope Cruz popped in for dinner (next table), the coke machine also sold protein mixs and dildos and the beach guys were so friendly. I hung out with Gab, Renzo and Karim for drinks in the evening.

IMG_20120927_190249Bilbao starts auspiciously  The area around the bus station is ugly. Really ugly. But after finding the hostel we went off to find the Guggenheim Museum, the old town and some tapas. I’ve never really ‘got’ tapas, mostly because like sushi in London, it tends to be overpriced and simple, leaving you feeling ripped off and more importantly hungry. But the north coast really does do tapas well. Bars were covered in trays of tapas, piled high with cheese, seafood, meat and lashings of sauce. Add the wine per order and we were onto a good day 🙂 !

The north coast also has a reputation of having the nicest people in Spain. Sat in lush green vallies and blue skies ahead, I think I just found my new favourite place in Spain.

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