Sunday, August 16, 2009

Greetings from San Sebastian (one week late)!

We arrived in San Sebastian in exactly 5 hours at 12:30 stopping only to pick up some French cheese and Perrier for our couchsurfing hosts later on in the trip. We stuck to back roads provided by michelin.maps in an effort to avoid the toll roads and a ton of weekend vacation traffic.

Finding our sleeping arrangements for the night was the first item on our list and it wasn’t too hard. After entering the beach city nestled between two large hills we became easily oriented after driving around for only a short bit and some how managed to stumble upon our pension which was basically an apartment space rented out by a couple for short visits. We were in luck! The couple was incredibly helpful and eager to point us in the right direction. We also arrived on the first night of a week-long celebration, and had four wonderful roommates from Uruguay (two of whom live in Barcelona and you’ll hear more about them in the Barcelona section of our trip). After parking and lugging a few bags up to the apartment, we were headed out – map in hand – as tourists on the go!

San Sebastian is known for their food, and Phillip and I love food! Almost all of the bars display a variety of finger foods, called Pintxo (“pincho”), along the bar top for pub crawlers to munch on with a tasty cervesa!

The city is small enough to be easy to get around on foot in a day which was great for us because we only had a day! We followed the beach where about five dozen surfers were waiting to catch a wave, then headed down the river and crossed over to where the festivities were being set up for the night.

After a hike up the hill on the western bank we made our way back down to the streets where the craziness began!! Somehow we managed to find the beginning of a huge parade through the city featuring locals wearing 3 foot tall paper mâché heads and historic costume followed by a drum and flute band – it was awesome! We marched along with the folks into the streets and stopped at a few more bars for some more food and some great conversation with a few French vacationers!

We were lucky enough to be apart of the parade, but we didn’t expect to end up running from a bunch of protesters in the streets… While walking from bar to bar we encountered a mass of runners (numerous times) and thought that either a bull had been let loose or a bomb had gone off – one can only guess when they’re frantically running with a bunch of Basque Spaniards in a narrow street. Apparently, a large group of demonstrators decided to protest against the inhumanity of torturing and killing the bull for sport and they were running from the police!

It was very exciting and the atmosphere was charged to the max. We had no idea we'd be arriving during such an active time! Another things I have to mention is that the police squad was completely decked out from head to toe including face masks to protect their identity because a lot of them have become victim to attacks of the separatist movements taking place in the region! to put it in layman's terms, there are Spanish regions strong in culture and identity and want to separate and be recognized as their own country apart from Spain. These movements have come with a lot of violence and defiance from both sides.

Our afternoon was incredibly exciting and we'd only been there for a few hours. We met up with our pension-mates in the evening and headed out for fireworks which would take place everynight during the celebration week. I've never seen such awesome fireworks! Each series of fireworks were put on by a different pyro-technical fireworks artist! Although it was drizzing rain, it was super neat! The festival had officially commenced with live dance shows in the streets, and people running around with fake bulls on their heads and fireworks coming out their tail ends. Those Spaniards sure know how to party!

It was only the first day & night and so much had happened! We were exhausted, but excited to see what our next destination had to offer! Stay tuned for Bilbao & Avlés next!

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