Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First meal in San Sebastian

I’ve decided to stop searching out restaurants. That is, I’ve decided that at least while traveling, I will not go around and around in circles looking for something specific cited in some guide written by someone I don’t even know. I’m just going to walk into whatever feels right.

Yesterday, I arrived in San Sebastian around four in the afternoon. The sky was gray but the city still gleamed. The bus station, really just a small parking lot, opened directly onto a path by the city’s ría, a shallow ocean inlet. By following the ría north, I quickly came to the sea, the beaches that line San Sebastian’s northern edge and make it astonishingly beautiful. I’m sharing an apartment with a single Spanish mother in the Gros district, literally blocks from Playa de la Zurriola. It’s too cold now to go in the water—not that it stops the surfers—but it’s still so emotional to be living by the ocean. I was so inspired, I went for a long run from the end of Playa Zurriola, around the northern crest of the Casco Viejo, and then along Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta. I wish I could live by the sea always. It makes me glad at least to live in New York and not, say, Cleveland, Ohio, though people always laugh when I say NY has beaches.

Being the end of a holiday weekend and a Sunday, many restaurants were closed. I wandered around, trying to figure out if any of the open bars were serving anything more substantial than pintxos. I’d had pintxos and a plate of fried calamari for lunch in Bilbao and I was starving for something a little hefty. Finally, I found a little slip of a bar that advertised “platos combinados” and a nice owner who exclaimed, “Claro!” when I asked if the kitchen was open.

So this is what I ate. It’s not very impressive, really, but it was filling and satisfying. I hadn’t known that a hamburguesa wouldn’t come with a bun, so the American hegemony isn’t as powerful as I’d thought, but there was plenty of good crusty bread. Even the iceberg lettuce and greenish tomatoes tasted good, being fresh. The fries were freshly fried, the meat had good flavor.

The best part, though, was when the owner caught me taking a photo of the food. I’d tried to wait until he went back into the kitchen, but he suddenly reappeared with the ketchup and mustard, noticed me, and asked, “Are you putting the photo on the internet?”

What a world we live in. Apparently, I am not the first American to be caught taking pictures of her food in his little Bar Diz.

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