Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back to San Sebastián 15 years on, Covarrubias and home again

The bay of La Concha and San Sebastián as seen at sunset from the Ondarreta beach
La casa de Doña Sancha, the most emblematic house in Covarrubias. Now owned by a school teacher who bought it a few years ago for a song.
Hi all

This week I had coffee with Elena. It’s the second time now and we shall be meeting once a month. Elena lost her job recently and it’s sort of comforting to share experiences. I also had lunch with Miguel Angel Muñoz, one of the most famous people in the sector and my friend of many years. We had a good chat to catch up since we last met and also a good gossip about the sector in general.

I have been very busy preparing the company summer party which is going to be in San Sebastián. I am also preparing 2 events mid June plus Oli’s graduation party; so yes, 4 parties or events in one month. The one in San Sebastián is for about 140 people so I just had to do a sight visit and of course, I took along Eladio, my official inspector for this sort of events. His opinion is always invaluable, as well as other things. As most of you know Eladio is my husband of course but he is also my friend, my partner, my chauffeur, my gardner, my valet, my doctor, my nurse, my psychologist, my teacher, my electrician, my plumber, my …, well yes, everything. So now that he has taken early retirement, he can come with me everywhere. We hadn’t been to San Sebastián since my Motorola cycling days in about 1995 so this was going to be another trip down memory lane.

Unfortunately I took a headache with me which I wasn’t actually able to shake off until today, Sunday. But even so I was determined to enjoy myself. Sometimes my work is a real pleasure but not always as there is an awful lot of planning involved that people don’t see. They only see the glamour which of course there is but there is much hard work put in to obtain the final result and in events nothing is ever perfect because it is not a science and depends on many many factors. So, yes, whatever I do, there is always some criticism.

The trip down memory lane began with lunch on the way at the Hostal Landa which is just before Burgos. It is one of those musts when you travel on the N1 north. It hasn’t changed and is lovely as ever.

Apart from a headache, we also took the rain along with us. It rained on and off throughout our trip with the temperatures never rising above 18ºC which is extremely low for Spain in the month of June. Definitely the weather is really weird this year in Spain. We are all dying for a heat wave which just doesn’t seem to come.

Despite the weather, we found San Sebastián as beautiful as ever. It is one of those majestic Spanish cities with a huge plus of being surrounded by the sea. Its only rival for me in Spain is Santander and I can never choose between the two.
Me by the Concha on one of our walks.
San Sebastián is famous for its gastronomy. As one taxi driver told us, “people come here to eat”. How right he was because that’s what we did throughout our stay. The province has more Michelin stars per inhabitant than any other in the world I think, and is the home of one of Spain’s most famous restaurants Arzak.

There were no rooms to be had in San Sebastián but we were lucky that our agency has good contacts and came up with the lovely Hotel Villasoro which must have had a last minute cancellation. What a lovely place, a small hotel on the outskirts of the town which was more like a home than a hotel.
Hotel Villa Soro
When we were not sight visiting, we spent nearly all our time walking and just taking in the breathtaking views of La Concha (the bay and main beach of San Sebastián.
Eladio by the Concha
We hardly ever went further inside the town than El Bulevar so mesmerised were we by the sea and views of the city and its surroundings.
Eladio in the Bulevar, full of people on Saturday
By the María Cristina bridge (I think - well it's one of the most beautiful bridges anyway)
Sometimes our walks were over 2 hours long which in the end gave us a few blisters. They took us along the Zurriola beach, around the Monte Urgulll, along the Concha, of course, and on to the Ondarreta beach where you can find the famous statues by Chillida (El Peine). The long walks were also a strategy in working up an appetite for the wonderful food.
The surfers' beach, Zurriola.
The walk round the Monte Urgull
Me on the Ondarreta Beach
Apart from its Michelin stars, San Sebastián is famous for its pinxos which are really tapas. I can’t begin to describe how varied and good they are so you will have to judge by this photo. You can have them in most bars in town but the place to go is the old town near the port.
Eladio in the port
The port is a fascinating place too with its colourful fishing boats and oldy worldy atmosphere.
The pinxos, see what I mean?
On Saturday the day was ours for the taking and we decided to drive to the top of the Monte Igueldo to see the famous view of San Sebastián from there and to take the coastal road across the mountains to the picturesque fishing and sea side villages of Orio, Zarautz, Getaria and Zumaia. We were unfortunate with the weather as it poured down when we got to the villages. However the views on the mountain road were fantastic and a big bonus point of the whole day was coming across a field full of donkeys, one of which was just a few weeks old. You might think Spain is full of donkeys. But that’s not so any longer so it was quite a rare sighting. I love donkeys. You may wonder why and I think it is because of my English childhood experience of riding on them on the English beaches.
The view from the Monte Igeldo
My lovely donkeys
Very soon we had to leave San Sebastián but our trip was not over as we had planned to visit a well know medieval town in Burgos called Covarrubias. Eladio had long been wanting to take me there and when I saw it I understood why. It is a beautifully kept Castillian village with typical architecture of the times. We booked a table at De Galo restaurant recommended both by the Michelin Guide and the Campsa guide and we were not disappointed.
Me at the entrance to Covarrubias
Then after a walk round the village and by the river Arlanza and several tens of photos later, we drove on back to Madrid, tired but content with our adventures.
Eladio posing in one of the doorways that took my fancy
The river Arlanza that goes through Covarrubias
It was nice to see the girls and my Father again and to be home. Ironically there is nothing better about a trip than coming home.

Cheers till next time

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