NauNo Recap: Trip to Spain and France- Part Two

"The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time" //Bill Bryson

Before you read part two of my Spain adventure, be sure to check out Part One here! Day 3 of my trip to Spain was another full day of exploring San Sebastian. Day 4 we headed out bright and early for a trip across the border to Biarritz, France, and then headed back to San-seb that evening for our Thanksgiving dinner at the apartment. On Day 5 we drove down to Pamplona for a great day trip. Here are the details and photos from those amazing days!

Day 3

We spent another full day just soaking up the sights and sounds of San Sebastian. The city is right on the coast, so the beach and ocean views are amazing. There are tons of shops, surfing, restaurants and cafes to browse as well as many architectural sights/churches/buildings/forts/museums to see.

I loved getting to wake up every day and take a stroll two doors down to one of the bakery cafes to get my Cafe con Leche. Getting to drink it from my balcony with this view was even better!

During the trip I started taking pictures of all types and sizes of doors for my "Door Series". I think I have about 30-40 doors from the trip that I am eventually hoping to make some kind of project/art out of them. 

All of the city streets were so clean, it was so nice just to take a solo stroll and see the people interacting and all of the beautiful details of the city. These clocks were everywhere, along with beautiful street lights. Even the cabs were Mercedes Benzs'!

We took a long walk to the beach in San Sebastian from our apartment in Gros- which is the most beautiful view/spot in the city. The beach apparently gets packed in the summer, but even on this cold winters day there were people drawing in the sand, taking walks or playing with their dogs. A few CRAZY people were even swimming laps across the bay!

So cool! Had no idea what he was writing/drawing but he was out there for quite awhile doing sand doodles.

La Concha is the name of the strip/beach where everyone goes. We were able to get a seat at Cafe de La Concha which overlooks the entire beach/bay.

This is something that they would typically eat for breakfast in this region of Spain, so I went ahead and ordered it off the menu. Just a really good piece of bread with olive oil, cheese, fresh tomatoes and greens. So fresh and delicious, but not something I would ever typically eat for breakfast. Hardly anywhere served eggs or bacon or anything like that. A TON of eggs are consumed in their meals/diet, but just not at breakfast!

After lunch Pam told me she had a special treat for me, and had made appointments at the famous La Perla baths. Its is a giant public spa/bath/water relaxation center directly on the beach. I was dying laughing at the caps we had to wear, and you also had to be 100% quiet... which apparently meant no laughing. I could hardly keep it together with how serious some of the people in there were taking it. I was constantly getting the evil eye, but I could not stop giggling/lauhging!

Terrible picture but this is about as sneaky as I could be to try and get a shot of a part of the inside. There was so many rooms it was like a labyrinth. There were heated jacuzzis with jets and waterfalls, all different kinds of water massage things and jets that sprayed you in different muscles or parts of the body. There were cold tubs, steam rooms, exercise rooms, waterbed relaxation rooms... it was nuts! We had a two hour pass so we tried to do a little bit of everything. Pam made me dip into the ice bath and I swear my heart almost stopped- no thanks!! A guy was sitting in it for over ten minutes, I could not believe it.

This is not my picture, but I wanted to include it to give you and idea of the view from the giant jacuzzi room- so awesome! Picture found here.

Room of the muscle jets. Picture found here.

This is the view of La Concha from the esplanade outside of where La Perla was. The sun was setting just as we got out and although it was a bit cloudy it was still really pretty.

Had the BEST time at La Perla- it was so relaxing and calm and something I never really do in the US. I am not really a spa person but this was definitely worth it!

Me on the esplanade bundled up with my goodies!

A nice panoramic view of La Concha

After the siesta we headed back out for pinxtos, and then dinner around 9pm. The way the city is all lit up at night is so pretty, I couldn't stop taking pictures. It is hard being a photographers sometimes, as I forget to just stop and actually take it all in myself rather than looking at it through a lens.

LOVE this blurry accident! The iPhone is hard to focus in low light, but I love the way this picture came out.

And somehwat in focus....

We stopped at my absolute FAVORITE place in all of San-seb. La Mejillonera, which means the muscle. Basically all they served was muscles, calamari and potatoes (bravos) in different sauces. It was so cheap and one of the better things I have ever eaten. I could eat the muscles in the "le tigre" sauce all day. Had no idea what the orange sauce was, but it was out of this world delicious. They are also big on their Caña's (beers).... mine is in the middle and is a regular pint 16oz glass. The other glasses were HUGE! The picture lacks scale and doesn't do the size justice- there's no way I could drink that much beer. (also note the little anchor backsplash- in love!)

A snippet of the menu. The Bravos, which were a potato-like home fry, came covered in a white sauce, almost like a mayonnaise but different. Probably very bad for you, but very good.

I ate about 5 of the plates on the right- "El Tigre"... SO GOOD.

The guys behind the counter were hilarious. I took out my little mirror at some point to look at my hair/makeup and they started DYING laughing. They could not get over it. Classic vain American.... They kept holding up cups and glasses for me to see my reflection, they would not let me live it down. They also did this thing where when you ordered, the guy would yell your order AT THE TOP of his lungs to the cook, who was about 5 ft away and heard the order himself the first time. No matter what you ordered or how close they were to each other they still did it, so funny. The other cool thing was that every time you ate a muscle, you just threw the shell on the floor. There was a big troth at your feet and you just threw all your shells and napkins into it. Not the most sanitary and likely wouldn't fly in the US but it was just a unique part of the experience that made this one of the best places I visited.

The door handle!!! I would insert smiling emoji with tears if I could right now... SO CUTE

Can't go anywhere without seeing a McFloog's!! And NO, I did NOT eat there!

Then we headed out for dinner al La Muralla, which was the sister restaurant of the place we had gone in my first post, La Fabrica (I think I failed to mention the name in post one). They are brother and sister, the brother owns La Fabrica and the sister owns La Muralla. It i's really cool because they serve the same menu items, but each done in their own way. So we were in a sense eating the same food, but it was entirely different because of their style and preparation/cooking methods. Look at these yummy prawns! Prawns are really popular over there and somewhat replace lobster.

The fish soup was amazing... I can still taste it. They had this orange/dark broth everywhere in a lot of dishes but we could never figure out what it was.

Hands down the best dessert ever. It didn't even have a name, it was just the chefs special. It was some type of flan with a coffee-esque ice cream and pistachios with a fruit glaze. HEAVEN.

The owner of La Muralla loved us- she spoke English pretty well and we had a great conversation with her. One of the classes Pam's son was taking over there was cooking- so she gave him this recipe book of recipes native to the region and signed it for him.

Day 4

We woke up bright and early this day and headed out the door to Biarritz, France. The French border is only about 20 minutes from San Sebastian, so it wasn't a bad drive at all. There was nothing I wanted more than a FRANCE stamp in my passport, but due to the European Union, the 28 or so countries that are apart of it can be accessed without having to stop at the borders or have your passports checked. Granted, they can always randomly stop you and have armed guards at all of the borders, but they just let us pass right through. I was so mad!! I would've paid them to stamp my passport, and was trying to look extra sketchy when passing through in hopes that they would stop me... but to no avail.

My first steps in France. I think every girl dreams about the day they'll get to France. Maybe Paris in particular, but any France would do for me!

Gorgeous orange sunrise over the ocean... my favorite color:-)

Freezin my bum off on the beach!

As good as I am at Spanish, I know ZERO French. I don't even know the alphabet, so Oui and Merci are about all that was going to be coming out of my mouth. It was much harder to communicate and order, but Pam had some basic French skills so we were able to get by. We went to Les Colonnes cafe and had yummy coffees and then ordered mimosas... and thats when I saw it..... the WELL champagne for their mimosas was Veuve Cliquot! Which is like the "special champagne" thats $50 a bottle in the US that we usually only get for Mom's birthday. To say this girl had a smile on her face was an understatement, I couldn't believe it! But then in the same breath it also made me realize how not amazing Veuve must be in the scale of Champagnes if they serve it as their well. We were right next to the champagne region, and later that day I bought 3 nice bottles of champagne (30-40euros, which equates to $50+.) I have drank one of them on NYE this past year and can definitely tell the difference in quality. Saving the other two for special occasions in the future.

Soaking in the sights of France. Such a quaint and ritzy little beach town. One of the most affluent parts of France, it's where some of the mega rich go for their summer vacations/beach weekends.

Loved the little open markets everywhere with fresh fruits and veggies. We did some final shopping for our Thanksgiving feast we would be having later that day. We were unable to find a turkey, as they don't really eat them over there. And up until France we could not find cranberries or cranberry sauce, until we went into a little specialty shop owned by a really nice man who thankfully spoke english. He had one little designer jar of cranberry sauce, we were so happy! It probably cost $20, but it was worth it.

THE.BREAD.IN.FRANCE. No words... I could eat those baguettes and croissants all day, even plain with nothing on them. But usually they came with really cute little jars of home made jam or jelly. Some may have accidentally been put fallen into my purse and made it back to the US because it was so yummy.

Gorgeous architecture and colors everywhere.

Some of the only English words I saw all day were this sign that said "lily of the valley", which was my Grandmothers favorite flower. It made me smile and I knew in that moment she was looking down at me. Just the way in which I turned down the alley unexpectedly and saw it straight on, I knew instantly, it was my Nana.

The market! So much food to choose from.... fruits, veggies, meats, bread

Stopped into a very pretty and old cathedral and lit candles at the altar.

Next, Pam and I HAD to go into Galerie Lafayette, which is like a US Macy's/Department store on steroids. Super huge and super high end. Could have easily swiped away my life savings, but luckily made it out with just a French beret and a pair of gloves. Oh, and also made a 4 year old get the hell out of the way move so that Pam could take this picture of me. Not ashamed. It's not every day you get to sit in the princess throne under a 30 ft Christmas tree in France!

Stlyin' with our new purchases on the streets of France like real French girls!

Selfies are acceptable in France.

We were able to make it back to San-seb with a couple hours to go before dark. I was so tired from jet lag and from getting up so early for France, but I just didn't want to waste a single second of my time there. There is a small mountain/rock on the edge of San-Seb that is home to an ancient fort that they used for protection/lookout. It is now made into a pretty steep hiking trail with a huge statue of Jesus at the top along with a historical museum, lookout areas, and cannons. I knew it may be the only time I had to go up to the top, so I decided to make the trek. It was well worth it because I got some of the best photos of the views of the trip by far.

Gorgeous views over the city!

I miss you San Sebastian! My favorite photo

On top of the world, so blessed to have been given this experience!

 View looking over La Concha.

The Jesus statue looks out over the whole city.

Love those mountains in the distance.

Hard to see but there was a really cool ancient staircase carved into the rocks down into the ocean.

After taking the wrong trail down, I had to climb over find my way around a 10 ft fence and then found myself back the the marina and aquarium.

Such cute old men! Taking a casual little stroll.

Had to stop back at my favorite spot... La Mejillonera, for another round of muscles and a caña.

Some more cute San-seb sights! Couldn't get over how CLEAN it was.

We ended up having our "Thanksgiving dinner" Spanish-stlye on Wednesday instead of Thursday, because we had an all day trip planned for Thursday to Pamplona. Everything came together great and it was as American as we could make it. We searched high and low all week for "un pavo", a turkey, but were unable to find one so we settled for a nice big chicken. It was great to be able to still celebrate even though I was thousands of miles from home and my family. 

Day 5

We woke up bright and early again on Thanksgiving day, a holiday not celebrated in Spain obviously, with plans to head down about 2 hours to Pamplona. However, not before heading to a cafe for coffee and pastries. This time though, Zac introduced me to this amazing little gem and my new best friend called a Café Bombon. If anyone can find me one within a 50 mile radius of New England, HOLLER AT YOUR GIRL! It is a 1:1 layer of sweetened condensed milk and a particular type of espresso. They also had a chocolatey version and my were they good! I have been craving one ever since, and had at least two a day for the rest of the trip. There's got to be some cafe in NYC or something that serves them... I'm on a mission!

 Another shot for the door series before heading off!

The drive to Pamplona was just about two hours. After nearly running out of gas on a mountain, we were really excited to be there!

This is the main plaza, Plaza del Castillo, where a lot of events are held and everyone congregates. Hotel La Perla, a famous hotel, is located in this square.

This is the Hotel La Perla- the most coveted hotel in Pamplona. The balconies of this hotel are highly sought after during the Running of The Bulls, San Fermin festival and can run you a pretty penny. Famous guests include Orsen Welles, Charlie Chaplin, and Hemingway (more on him later).

We also ate lunch in the Plaza at a restaurant called Cafe Iruña. It is widely known that one of Ernest Hemingway's most favorite places on earth was Pamplona, and he also loved and frequented this cafe. He visited this city 9 times in total and visited every year from 1923-1927. You can read more about his love affair in The Sun Also Rises. I could see why he loved it, there was just something about Pamplona that was unlike any other part of Spain I saw. Such deep rooted culture and traditions, I think it gives everyone such a sense of community. To think that I was sitting in perhaps the same chair or spot as Hemingway while he drank and wrote was really cool. I could see how this Cafe in particular could spark the creative juices, it was just beautiful with gilded and painted ceilings, chandeliers and more.

More wine please! Or "Vino tinto" as I would ask.

The old town part of Pamplona is SO colorful! I loved all of the streets and could have taken pictures for days. This is right near where the famed Running of the Bulls takes place every year! Definitely a bucket list item for most guys.... no girls allowed.

Can't imagine huge bulls charging down these narrow streets.
 I love orange :-)

Some more for the door series...

The Cathedral of Royal Saint Mary.

It had an interesting sculpture outside the cathedral.. a giant baby's head! Made for some good photos.

I love this door- it was gigantic!

Winding through the quiet streets... it was the best feeling ever. I couldn't stop staring at everything,

So many cute and nautical details throughout the city. I am dying to go back.

Pamplona city hall.

My favorite shot from Pamplona... the sun setting through the buildings of an old town street.

Later that night when we got home, a big important soccer game was on so we went to watch at a bar. I have never seen more grown men literally sobbing crying over anything in my life, let alone a sports game. Needless to say Donostia lost and everyone was DEVASTATED- honestly crying in heaps on each others shoulders. The bar went from about 200 people to 3 in less than 5 minutes. This is the only photo I took at the bar, which I regret. It was just so quiet when they lost you could hear a pin drop, so I didn't want to be singled out taking photos. At least I got a picture of a nice nautical ships wheel!

Late night strolling past the shops... This little red skateboard reminded me of my boy. Made me smile.

And there you have days 3-5 of my trip! Whew- these posts are long. Thanks for reading and following along, I hope you hold out for the third and final part of my trip! I am really glad to get this all written down to have in writing so that I never forget. It's like an online scrapbook of my memories. Stay tuned!

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