Notes from Basque Country

I’m back from Spain. My house feels too big. Terrible news about Mayor O’Connor. Pittsburgh is not the same without him.

Saturday morning (a week ago) we flew from Pittsburgh to Atlanta and had lunch with some family and friends… Then we flew to Düsseldorf, then to Paris. In Paris we took the metro into the city, saw the Eiffel Tower, and had lunch (again) at a café.

Then we flew to Bilbao. At this point I was so tired I was having visions. In Bilbao we got our bags which had made it (!) and took the bus to the city. Despite having a map we were somewhat lost but many Basques helped us. They were walking around wearing blue neck scarves—it was the last night of their Big Week, Aste Nagusia. We finally made it to our hotel, the Husa Jardines de Albia, where we fell asleep to the sound of fireworks.

The next day—Monday—we walked around Bilbao, had sandwiches for lunch, walked some more by the river, saw the Guggenheim Museum and the Puppy and had some beer in a café next door listening to Bob Dylan and then some jazz musicians.

We sat in the Plaza Moyua where kids were playing with inflatable balls and kicking them toward people. An old man hit it back with his cane.

And we had dinner at a restaurant. I had bacalao (salted cod) with some sort of green and red sauces and Lou had solomillo de buey (rump roast?). We drank txacoli, local wine.

The next day, Tuesday, we had breakfast in a sidewalk café, took the metro to the bus station, took the bus to San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque). A few Americans on the bus, last we’d see until plane back.

In San Sebastian, crowded, more than I remembered. Lovely though. We stayed at the Hostal La Concha right near the beach. We had pintxos (Basque for tapas) and beer. Muchos. First canas and then as we got drunker, suritos (little beers). Wandering…

Next day more wandering. First though, the beach. Water was clear. Beautiful warm sunny day. Fantastic time.

Dinnertime, paella. Huge! Should have taken a picture. The crawfish did freak me out though. I made Lou peel them. Then ice cream, tiramisu and chocolate orange.

Next morning, dammit time to leave San Sebastian. Took the bus to Vitoria-Gasteiz where the Azkena Rock Festival, the pretext for this trip, was taking place. Took the taxi to our hotel, Pension La Zuyana, on the outskirts of Vitoria, the only one we could find beforehand that wasn’t sold out. Comes time to whip out wallet, oops, not there. Where could it be? Frantic. Must be on taxi. Call taxi company. Girl at bar checking us in is sympathetic, helpful, talking too fast. I tell her slow down, but still can’t understand her. She says “policia” and says we can go up to our room but must pay cash later or she’ll be in trouble with her boss. Where’s the ATM? Oh, walk this way then that and there’s a shopping center. After calming down some we trudge to El Boulevard – a mall! Didn’t know they had these in Spain. Pay for room, eat, take taxi to the Mendizabala, where the festival is held.

The Young Fresh Fellows! Lou’s favorite band and he’s never seen them live before. He has worn his YFF shirt for this occasion. The band shows their appreciation. Then they play one of the funnest shows I’ve ever seen.

More coming soon…

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