Some piece of random internet travel writing I kept encountering while preparing for this trip would remind me every few days when I found it again, "One can't help but be enchanted by San Sebastian upon first arriving there bla bla bla," or some such travel writing opening-paragraph malarkey.
But, well, "I must say"...they were kind of right. Very little not to like. Above: entering the "old part" of the city (a city which, according to Wikipedia, has been "fucking burned to the ground" about every 50 years or so since the beginning of time, need to look into this a bit). Below: yes, ok, we stood in line goddamnit for Borda Berri for a total of 4 minutes before it opened, along with 20 other tourists who'd been there for who knows how long. Nelson mentally rolled her eyes for pretty much all 4 minutes ("Spanish people would never be in line at 8:30pm for tapas"). She's a bit of a racist.
Grapje! Anyway, the whole Borda Berri experience is quite something. You don't detect a lot of pleasure in the service or the whole process, it's as cozy and inviting as a frozen yogurt stand, more than a little like a "tapas ride" at a theme park. But the food was pretty amazing for the prices. We had a watermelon gazpacho with mozzarella (€3.50), a risotto falso (meaning orzo) with Idiazabal (€2.80), and then one of the best things I had on this whole trip, a squid and squid ink ravioli (€3.80, pictured). Indeed, there was only one Spanish person there, and he really got all the attention from the staff, guess they're straining to keep it real amidst all the hubbub. Anyway, overall: I would've gone back again later if I'd been hungry.
And then we walked around some more. Had a pretty serious glass of Rioja on the steps of the basilica and watched a Chinese mom prepare an incredibly complicated meal of powder and water for her confused-looking baby. And of course we watched everything else.
We had a little ramekin of baked provolone at Atari. And then walked to the harbor as the real Spanish people started to show up for dinner.
And then we walked back to where the hotel was and detoured along the boardwalk. Marveled at their version of the Bimhuis and debated the pros and cons of putting giant text on the side of your building. Had two too-giant ice cream cones that we couldn't come close to finishing. Walked further northeast looking for the perfect nightcap, a bit of a standard Morse wander towards the outskirts of town looking for something that doesn't exist, managed to find the worst tinto de verano ever served. I didn't finish mine, which should tell you something. Then we marveled at some Basque on the way home. Lots of marveling.