Monday signaled the end of our Anniversary celebration, but not the end of my trip. Kitty and Michael were returning home since Michael needed to get back to school, but I would continue on for a few more days with Andrew. It was the end of the main part of our trip, but also the beginning to another.
We initially intended to drop Kitty and Michael at the airport and continue on directly from there, but we couldn’t fit their luggage and ours in the car. We left ours back at the apartment and took them the short ride to the airport. Once we knew they were ticketed and through security, we returned to the apartment to get our bags and head out. Since Andrew and I would be flying back from Bilbao a few days later, we were traveling light with two carry-on bags between us. Kitty and Michael had taken the bulk of our baggage back with them.
It was a nice, comfortable and uneventful drive to San Sebastian, punctuated by a brief stopover in Pamplona to see the famous bullring and breathe the same air Hemingway did (using a bit of poetic license on the actual air). We walked around the bullring imagining ourselves at the famous San Fermin festival that is otherwise known as “The Running of the Bulls.”
We didn’t stay long as we directed ourselves once again to Donostia/San Sebastian. As we entered the mountains of the Basque Country and exited the Kingdom of Navarra, the weather and the scenery changed in a dramatic way. The mountains were tall, steep, lush and formidable. It was a beautiful drive despite the clouds and rain or maybe even more so because of it. The mood had shifted from sunny, desert like Aragon to the more somber, wet Basque mountains.
Entering Donostia/San Sebastian by car reminded me what a beautiful city it is. Passing along the river with its mouth at the entrance to the Cantabrian Sea of the Atlantic Ocean, we admired the stately buildings and the regal bridges as well as the approaching sea vessel shape of the Kursaal. We followed our GPS over one of the bridges and made our way to our hotel, the Pension Altair, which is well situated in a cozy neighborhood not far from said Kursaal. Entering the building and going up to find the check-in area, I began to get a sense that perhaps I made a mistake booking there, as the initial impression was one lacking any charm at all. Fortunately, that impression was quickly reversed once we were brought to our room, a very comfortable two room suite with a nice view from two balconies overlooking the street. While the Pension was not luxurious, it was perfectly comfortable and most important, very clean. For €52/night, it was a superb value. Tripadvisor got this one right.
Once we settled in, we walked down to and along the beach all the way to La Bretxa, the wonderful market on the edge of the old town of Donostia. It was a welcome stroll, especially after having spent the bulk of the day in the car.
Monday can be a difficult night to dine out in Spain, but as we had the previous week at Gresca in Barcelona, we lucked out to a fine meal at Rekondo. Located a short drive from the center of town, Rekondo is a traditional Basque restaurant renowned for its extraordinary wine list. While the wine list here was such that I reverted to my old approach of ordering the food to accompany the wine, I still happened to have one of the most purely delicious dishes of the entire trip here – the spider crab! Served in the top shell, the crabmeat had been combined with other ingredients and baked to pure deliciousness. My only mistake was to have ordered only a half portion, which in this case just meant a smaller crab. More on this meal to come.
We returned to the Pension to a much deserved good night’s sleep.