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Spain, September 2010: Madrid, San Sebastian, Salamanca, Segovia


Spain, September 2010: Madrid, San Sebastian, Salamanca, Segovia

Old Jan 4th, 2011, 11:03 AM
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Spain, September 2010: Madrid, San Sebastian, Salamanca, Segovia

This trip report covers a trip to Spain, to Madrid, San Sebastián, Salamanca and Segovia, from September 4 through September 18, 2010. I'm sorry this report is so delayed - we returned home to construction and a lot going on. But we always appreciate the help we get from Fodorites before our trips, so we always post a trip report when we return (even if it's a bit late).

The travelers are Larry and Margie, in the latter half of our sixties (Larry wrote this report, with Margie's help). In our recent travels, we've been doing less photography, finding that it can detract from experiencing the moment. This trip, Margie suggested that we might, for fun, photograph some of the food we ate, and post the photos during our vacation, putting up a few each day. This led to a Facebook photo album called "Eating in Spain 2010". I've incorporated the notes from those photos into this report, which has made it a bit food-centered. Photo numbers mentioned in the text refer to that album. It can be seen at:


After a past trip report, a Fodorite suggested that readers are interested in knowing the prices of things like meals and hotels, to help decide whether to visit a restaurant, for instance. Thus, I've included them where available. During this trip, the Euro was worth about $1.30.

Separate from this report, I've been writing my memoirs over the past year. It's in the form of a blog, in the sense that I add one entry each week. Although I don't write much in the blog about travel, a couple of my entries seemed relevant to this report, so you'll find a couple of links to it in what follows.

Margie and I generally travel to Europe once a year, usually alternating between France and Italy (I speak French, Italian, and Spanish). We travel less frequently to Spain, our last previous trip having been in 2003. Our trip report from that trip can be found at:


We've generally not been happy with the meal schedule in Spain, which together with our sleep schedule usually limits us to tapas every night for dinner. I discussed this issue a bit in a Fodor's thread we started before our departure:


This issue is discussed a bit more at the end of this report.

And now: the report on our trip. I go day by day, so it gets a bit wordy. And again, because we were photographing some of the dishes we ate for our Facebook album, it gets a bit heavy on the food descriptions.

9/4/10, Saturday: We arrived in Madrid in the morning, and took a cab to our hotel, the Madrid Reina Victoria, in the Plaza de Santa Ana. We were lucky enough to be able to check in immediately, so we did what we usually do upon arriving in Europe: we set an alarm clock, and took a short nap (not so long that we would have trouble falling asleep later that night). We were very happy with this hotel, although our room's air conditioning system was not very effective. I thought it was just not a very good system, but when I mentioned it to the front desk, they sent someone up to check it out. It turned out to not be operating properly, and since they couldn't easily fix it, they transferred us to another room - in fact, they upgraded us to a very nice, larger room at no extra cost. Our pre-paid non-refundable reservation, booked through Orbitz and paid in dollars, was $148 per night, which I thought was a decent rate for being right in the heart of Madrid.

We had lunch at a café in the Plaza Santa Ana, and walked around Madrid a bit (we'd been there once before). We visited the Corte Ingles, and looked for art supplies.

It was hot in Madrid, and Margie got very thirsty from all our walking. She commented to me that what she really wanted was her customary Dunkin' Donuts iced decaf coffee that she always drinks at home ("milk, two Splenda"). Then, as we rounded the very next corner, what should we find but a Dunkin' Donuts store, except it was called "Dunkin' Coffee" (but the sign was in the usual font and corporate colors). Although when in Europe we don't generally frequent American chain stores, in this case, Margie had to try their iced decaf, to see how it compared. It was quite good, and we were able to get it TO GO! (we've noted that coffee "to go", and for that matter decaf coffee, have in the past been a rarity in European countries). We spoke to the store manager, who said that about half the chain's stores in Spain are called "Dunkin' Coffee", and the other half have the original name, "Dunkin' Donuts".

Photo 1 in our Facebook album is thus from the Dunkin' Coffee, and photo 2 is a round "Spanish omelet" we had at lunch. I had, among other things, a "tapa" shown in photo 3. We had dinner at a restaurant, Los Galayos, in the Plaza Mayor, recommended by the hotel when we asked for a nearby restaurant that opened early for dinner. We wanted to eat early because it was our first night, and we were jet-lagged. It was OK, but a bit expensive (67 euros).

9/5/10, Sunday: We ate breakfast in the hotel, which had a very extensive selection of dishes, and which was very good. But it came to 50 euros for the two of us! We spent Sunday morning at "El Rastro", Madrid's most famous large open-air market, where we bought some gifts for the people back home. We followed the market with a Spanish tapas "pub crawl" for lunch, down the Calle de la Cava Baja, crowded with tapas restaurants on both sides of the street. At each bar, we had a small glass of beer or wine, and a tapa or two. At one bar, standing at the counter, Margie (who's allergic to shellfish) had skewers of chicken in curry sauce and stuffed mushrooms (photo 4). I'm NOT allergic to shellfish, so I had "sepia" (baby squid (calamari), very tender, not over-cooked), and crab (photo 5). People were very friendly - both the locals and the tourists. Dinner was at the Ginger restaurant near our hotel, about 40 euros.

9/6/10, Monday: We took an excursion to Toledo by bus, which we had purchased along with our airplane tickets. After booking our tickets on the web on Orbitz, the web page recommended a half-day excursion called "History and Culture Tour of Toledo from Madrid", and we clicked and booked it. We had intended to visit Toledo anyway, and this seemed easier than arranging it ourselves. The cost for the two of us was $130. We very much enjoyed the tour, run by the Julia travel agency. The speaking guide, who spoke both Spanish and English, was excellent. Although booked as a half-day tour starting at 8:45AM, we didn't return until around 2:30, so we ate lunch right near the travel agency office to which the bus returned. We then took a cab back to the hotel.

We had chosen to visit Spain at the request of a friend and former college classmate of mine, who was interested in studying Spanish. He and I had once participated together in an engineering training job at the French nationalized electric power company, called the "Éléctricité de France", in Clamart (a suburb of Paris). Partly as a result of his experience that summer, he speaks French pretty well, and he and his wife had planned a week in Languedoc/Roussillon, in the south of France, prior to meeting us for a week in San Sebastián, Spain. He was scheduled to fly into Biarritz, France on a Ryan Air flight, and to rent a car which he would use for their first week of vacation. He would then drive the car into Spain, and we would all use it for day trips during his second week with us in San Sebastián.

But prior to his departure, his wife developed back pain, and they decided that driving around France would be too hard on her. They thus cancelled their first week, and changed their Ryan Air flight to the same flight a week later. They would arrive on Tuesday, pick up the rental car, and drive directly from Biarritz to San Sebastián, only a bit over an hour's drive, meeting us at the apartment.

Well, we all know about "The best laid plans of mice and men." We're always concerned about possible strikes when we travel in Europe, but since this vacation was to be in Spain, we never thought about a strike in France. Yet that's what bit us. There was a three-day wildcat transportation strike in France, and our friends' Ryan Air flight was cancelled.

It was a little like the time I was on a 747 going from Boston, Massachusetts to Las Vegas, Nevada, via Denver, Colorado, to attend the huge Comdex computer convention. As we sat on the plane, it was announced that the flight would be delayed (it was ultimately cancelled) due to snow in Denver. A voice called out in the cabin, "But I don't want to go to Denver". Indeed, given that the huge Comdex show started the next morning, I'll bet that 90 percent of the passengers were going to Las Vegas.

Well, in this case, my friend wasn't going to France, but a strike in France made it impossible for him to get to San Sebastián from Nottingham, England. The only viable alternative, 14 hours or more of driving (including the channel tunnel) was out of the question with his wife's still fragile back.

Thus, Margie and I would occupy the large San Sebastián apartment by ourselves. We had already booked a rental car, through Kemwel, for later in our trip. We phoned Kemwel, who were happy to arrange for us to pick it up earlier.

Dinner Monday was again at the Ginger, this time only $29 euros for the two of us.

9/7/10, Tuesday: We checked out, and took a cab to the Chamartin train station, which is in the northern part of Madrid. After eating breakfast in the station, we caught our train to San Sebastián, which is also called Donestia, in the Basque region of Spain, on the northern coast near France.

We had pre-booked our train tickets in the US before our departure, at a very low internet rate. Others were finding at the time that they were not able to use their American credit cards to purchase tickets. I managed it because I have a French credit card. I discussed how this was done on the Fodor's thread:


Our apartment was booked through Rentalia, and you can see the listing here:


It was a very nice apartment, in a nice, quiet neighborhood only a short walk from the center of town. Of course, with only me and Margie in an apartment that easily can hold five people, we had loads of room. We each had a separate bathroom, actually. Upon arrival, we took a cab to the apartment, and were let in by the sister of Miren, our landlady. We had missed lunch, so we ate our first pintxos at a nearby bar ("pintxo" is the Basque name for the Spanish "tapa"). We walked to the nearby convenience store, called "Todotodo" (literally "Everythingeverything"), where we stocked up for our week Photo 7 shows some fruit we bought, and a bottle of a Rioja called "Campo de Gules".

We came back and unpacked, but when we left the apartment, I managed to lock us out, due to leaving another set of keys in the inside lock (it turned out an inside key prevented the full insertion of an outside key). And since this effectively disabled the lock, not even Miren's spare keys were any use. It took a couple of hours for Miren's enterprising brother to come up with and execute a solution - going into the apartment through a window, from a storage room, using a very long ladder.

9/8/10, Wednesday: We took a cab back to the station, and picked up our car at Europcar. We drove it to the Txofre parking, and rented a space for the week. We then walked into the old part of town, and visited the tourist information office. For lunch, we tried some more pintxos, but we then decided to have a real sit-down meal. During the meal and after, we chatted in French with two couples of very friendly French tourists, at two adjacent tables. We walked around a bit more, and headed back "home".

We had brought along a netbook computer for use on this trip, and had used it to check our e-mail in Madrid, and to upload pictures to our Facebook food album. But there was no internet connectivity in our apartment in San Sebastián. However, there was a bar right next door, called El Muro, where WiFi was available for patrons. We made use of it throughout our stay in San Sebastián - after a couple of days, the owner came to expect us. On Wednesday, after we checked our e-mail at El Muro, we met a couple of Spaniards, Ivan and Oscar, who were watching Spain play in the European basketball semi-finals (they were very disappointed when Spain lost). They then treated us to some pintxos and drinks at a bar they drove us to. The bar was not all that far from where we started at El Muro, and I'm not sure why they took us by car, which entailed a struggle to find a parking spot. I was glad we'd rented a space for the week for our car. Some of the pintxos we selected from are shown in photo 8.

9/9/10, Thursday: The weather looked a bit rainy, so we decided to go to Bilbao (we didn't want to wait for the weekend, when it would probably be more crowded). We drove out and back, successfully using the GPS. We enjoyed the Guggenheim Museum quite a bit, and there was a show there on Rousseau. We got a 100 euros (pay on the spot) ticket on the way back, for making an illegal U-turn. Upon returning, we bought a roasted chicken, and prepared it in the apartment.

9/10/10, Friday: We drove on the highway to Hondarribia, where a festival was in progress. We made lunch reservations for 1:30 at La Hermandad de Pescadores, and then walked around among the revelers. An enclosure had been set up with a small bull in it, and a bunch of young men were taunting the bull, and trying to avoid its cut-off horns. Standing in the higher part of the town, before descending into the marina section, you can look across the Río Bidasoa into France. Lunch was very good. I had a typical local dish, "hake cheeks", called "kokotxas de merluza" locally. The menu was available in Spanish, Catalan, and French only. The French name of the dish was "joues de merlu en sauce verte". The dish is shown in photo 9.

We drove back over a winding mountain road that peaked at an overlook called the Jaizkibel, which had an astounding view of the countryside and the sea. We drove down into the town of Donibane, which had been recommended to us as a place to visit, but it looked like a very uninteresting modern industrial village. Perhaps we missed the old section somewhere. We let the GPS take us back into San Sebastián from the east, through an industrial area, with a complex set of intersections and roundabouts in which, without the GPS giving us turn-by-turn instructions, we surely would have gotten lost.

9/11/10, Saturday: We took a suburban "dBus" to the Museo Chillida Leku, a sculpture museum featuring the work of the Basque artist Eduardo Chillida. Returning, we got off the bus at the west end of town, and went up the funicular to the amusement park at the top of the Monte Igeldo. Taking a bus back to the old town, we had a pintxo to tide us over for lunch, but then decided we'd prefer a sit-down meal, after all the morning walking. We tried a couple of restaurants on the list we had prepared before our departure, but on a Saturday, reservations were needed, and we had not made any. We were able to be seated in the restaurant-asador "Beti-Jai", which proved to be quite good, and had pleasant service, too. Margie had an ensalada mixta and merluza a la plancha, and I had sopa de pescado and Mero a la plancha (the latter a bit costly at 25 euros, but great). It was a fairly expensive meal, almost 76 euros with bread, bottled water, and a 12 euros bottle of the house wine, a Rioja ("Glorioso Bodegas Palacio").

We then found ourselves near a bookstore, Elkar, and bought a cookbook on pintxos, an English version of one that had been highly recommended earlier. We also bought two smaller books for gifts. However, the store did not have the Spanish etymological dictionary I was after. But heading back to the bus to return home, we stopped at another bookstore I had earlier found in the yellow pages, the Hontza Liburudenda, where I found exactly what I had been after (although at 40 euros). I'm very interested in word origins, and I've used it many times since our return. I now have etymological dictionaries of English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Finally, we shopped at Todotodo for a dinner for Sunday, and then went home for the evening. El Muro and the other bars along the Paseo de José Miguel Barandiarán were really hopping on Saturday night, right under our balcony.

9/12/10, Sunday: We drove west on the highway to Zumaia, found the TI (Tourist Information office) open, and walked around a bit. We then drove along the coast to Getaria, where we had lunch at the Asador Mayflower ("Asador" means "grill"). This was one of the best meals of our trip. We ate at a table overlooking the harbor. Photo 10 shows my "dorada". It was called "dorade" on the French menu, and "bass" on the English menu. My Marling Menu-Master for Spain calls it a "gilthead dory". Whatever it was, it was delicious in its garlic sauce.

Photo 11 shows how the fish was cooked. On the terrace is a huge grill covered with burning charcoal. Raw fish are brought out from the back, filleted, salted, and spiced on a table to the right of the grill, and grilled over the coals in individual racks. Both our lunches were excellent, at about 55 euros for the two of us. We drove through Zarautz, and then back to San Sebastián for dinner in the apartment, spaghetti with meat sauce. Our bottled meat sauce was not great.

9/13/10, Monday: Monday was our last day in San Sebastián, so we spent it in the town. We visited an art supply store, and bought some paints for Margie. We had our second excellent lunch at the restaurant-asador "Beti-Jai", spending only 67 euros this time. We then walked back to the apartment to do some packing for our departure on Tuesday.

In our entire week, we had never been to the beach, even though San Sebastián is a town with three large beaches, and our apartment overlooked one of them, La Zurriola, the surfing beach. Margie and I are not particularly beach-goers. We've been known to pass an entire summer in the Boston area without a trip to the shore, even though we have quite a few ocean beaches within an easy drive. But I didn't want to leave San Sebastián without experiencing the beach that was right in front of us, so I put on a bathing suit, and we took a walk down.

Despite being right in the town, the beach was not excessively crowded, although there were quite a few bathers there, in addition to the surfers, who were mostly wearing black wetsuits. I guess they wore the wetsuits because they were spending the whole day in the water. Otherwise, I'm not sure why the wetsuits would be needed, because the water seemed to me to be quite warm. Of course, I wasn't getting out as far as they were, and besides, I'm from New England. After swimming in Maine, everything seems warm.

A great many of the women on the beach were topless, a much larger percentage than I've noted on recent trips to France. In France, the women seem to have been getting a bit more modest in recent years (see my blog entry, "Why do women have two breasts?", at http://ljkrakauer.com/LJK/essays/whytwo.htm ). As we strolled home across the beach, we were passed twice by a completely naked man who jogged by us first in one direction and then the other, apparently on his return trip from the far end of the beach.

Of course, we had to finish out the evening with a pintxo crawl, to end our stay in San Sebastián. Photo 12 shows the bar at Bergara, an award-winning tapas bar in the Gros district. Photo 13 shows the Bergara posted menu, but I didn't make much use of the menu. It's easier to just see what looks good and point to it. Reading the menu: "Pintxos" are small and bite-sized, "Bocadillos" are a bit larger, and "Raciones" are larger still. Photo 14 shows some more of our Bergara tapas, including foie gras, and an anchovy and a small sardine together with a piece of green pepper on a small piece of toast. One of Margie's favorites at Bergara was blue cheese with an anchovy in puff pastry. Although most tapas are served cold, when you selected some varieties of tapas, they were taken off to be heated before being brought back to you. Our "Zuritos" (small glasses of beer) were served in wine glasses at Bergara.

As is traditional, we made the rounds of other tapas bars as well, having things like pato (duck, in French "magret de canard"). I particularly enjoyed a tapa of rather hot chopped chili peppers, and tuna topped with chopped onion (see photos 15 and 16). In this bar, the Zurito was served in an ordinary water glass that was only partly filled - a Zurito is by definition a very SMALL beer. If they filled the glass, it would be a caña. Photo 17 shows a sunset over the Zurriola beach on our last evening, taken in front of our apartment.

9/14/10, Tuesday: This was a day for a long drive, all the way to Salamanca. We stopped for a snack at a roadside service area, where I had a donut. To my surprise, it was served on a plate with a knife and a fork (photo 18). We stopped en-route for lunch at the Europa Centro hotel, just off the road, which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere - it's a big hotel, and I don't know who stays there (the dining room only had one other occupied table).

Upon arriving in Salamanca, we checked into the Hotel Rector, a wonderfully run hotel with a particularly friendly staff. It's just outside the walls of the old city. We stayed in an inside room whose floor-to-ceiling picture windows looked out on a narrow internal courtyard, with other rooms only about fifteen feet away on the other side. Although not much of a view, we prefer this sort of inside room, as it is always much quieter than a room that looks over a street. The windows had the usual combination of a heavy outer block-out curtain and an inner translucent white curtain. The pre-purchased non-refundable room rate was about 127 euros per night, but there was also a 17 euro charge per night for indoor parking.

We walked around the town to get oriented, and had dinner outdoors at the Mesón El Churrasco on the Rua Mayor (39 euros). We chose it mainly because they were serving dinner as early as 7:30 (most restaurants don't open for dinner before 9:00m, or 8:30 at the earliest). We ate out on the street, to watch the paseo go by, loads of people. We started with a gaspacho and a salmorejo (the latter a cold soup of tomato, garlic, and bread). They were good, as was Margie's four-cheese crèpe (photo 19). I had a paella mixta, which looked good at first glance, but wasn't. It was thoroughly overcooked (photo 20).

9/15/10, Wednesday: As I looked up at the sky to try to get an idea of the weather, the view across the narrow courtyard momentarily became more interesting when a woman in the opposite room pulled back her block-out curtain. Apparently, the translucent white curtain stuck to it, and went along for the ride, leaving her standing naked in the window. We saw each other, and were both rather startled.

Since we were staying two nights in the Hotel Rector, we had a full day in Salamanca. We started at the Museum of Art Nouveau & Art Deco, which essentially overlooked our hotel. It is a wonderful museum, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Walking into the old town, we had a very nice lunch at the Casa Paca, a very good restaurant with good service. We started with "Delicias del Cerdo Ibérico", a selection of various cuts of sliced pork sausages and ham (photo 21). Margie had Tostón asado, although she almost balked at the English translation, "Roasted piglet" (photo 22). I had Cabrito Asado - roasted baby goat (photo 23). The meal came to 74 euros, and was followed by a short siesta.

We walked around Salamanca. Although we of course went into the Plaza Mayor, it contained an ongoing festival, with rock bands playing at an ear-splitting volume capable of causing hearing damage (I'm not being hyperbolic - I seriously think the sound levels were so high as to be harmful). Even after inserting the earplugs I always carry with me, I couldn't stay there long. There was a McDonald's is just outside the Plaza Mayor (photo 25), but we didn't go in. We visited another museum whose name escapes me, and also toured Salamanca's famous university.

Our lunch having had more fat than we usually eat in a week, we really couldn't manage to eat a large dinner. Apparently even we have our limits. Thus we ate outdoors again at the Mesón El Churrasco. Despite their bad paella, we loved their cold soups. Margie had another gaspacho, and I had another salmorejo (photo 24). Note that the word "Mesón" is just the Spanish spelling (and bad pronunciation) of the French "Maison".

9/16/10, Thursday: We drove to Segovia for a one-day visit. We had a bit of a hard time finding the Hotel San Antonio El Real, because it is not really quite on the street whose address it uses - it's off one end of the street. It has no number, so the GPS didn't know where it was (we had guessed at a number to be able to enter the address, as the GPS insists on one). The hotel is in an old convent, and the room rate was 95 euros for one night.

It was around 3:00 before we walked into town, so we stopped at a random restaurant along the way, the "Restaurante Lateral". We ate our lunch outdoors despite the threatening skies. I started with Sopa castellana (photo 25), which seemed to contain egg, ham, bread, and some sort of garlic based stock. It was very good. Margie had another Gazpacho, which she thought was even better than the ones she liked in Salamanca. The Gazpacho we encountered was much more homogenized than the ones we usually get in the US (photo 27). I took the photo in part to show the garnishes served with it - red peppers, croutons, and chopped onions. After the soup course, Margie had oven-baked Lubina (photo 28), and I had "Rabo de Toro" (bull's tail, photos 29 and 30). Margie had flan for desert, and I had a chocolate torte with crème anglaise (photo 31). The crème tended to pool on one side of the plate, because the outdoor tables were on a considerable slope at the foot of the Roman aqueduct. We managed to finish our meal just as it started raining - the first bad weather we had the entire trip. All the diners who were still eating picked up and moved inside.

We walked through the town in the rain, clear across to the other side (but stopping at the cathedral). At the far end, we toured the Alcazar, one of the main attractions of Segovia. Since the rain was still heavy when we were done there, we phoned a taxi to get back to our hotel. We ate dinner at our hotel. I had "Raviolis de Merluza y Gambas sobre Crema de Boletas", described in English on the menu as "Hake and Prawns Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce" (photo 32). It was quite good. During dinner, we talked a bit with a French couple at an adjacent table. They motioned us over to their table when we were done, and we chatted into the evening in French and English. He is a retired physicist, she a retired chemist, and by the end of the evening, we had been invited to stay with them at their home in Lille, and we had invited them to stay with us if they're ever in the Boston area. We've corresponded with them a bit since our return. To ease our communication, I write in English, and he writes in French.

9/17/10, Friday: We generally drive to a hotel near our departure airport for our last night, to be sure that no last-minute glitch can cause a problem catching our international flight. Indeed, it took us quite a while on Friday to fill up the rental car (it was hard to find a gas station) and figure out where to return it. We had pre-booked a really sizeable room at the four-star Axor Barajas Madrid, at a good advance-booking rate (87 euros). We walked down to a local shopping center, and walked around, although we didn't buy anything.

We had a rather bizarre experience upon returning to the hotel - our room's key card didn't work in the door lock. When we went down to the desk to report the problem, we were told we were in the wrong hotel. It turns out that there are two nearly identical Axor hotels right next to each other - in fact, they seem to share the same address. Upon leaving the four-star Axor Barajas, we had walked right past the nearly identical three-star Axor Feria without noticing it. Upon our return, we had entered the first hotel we encountered that looked like ours - the Axor Feria. Of course our room key didn't work - it was not our room! Upon really close inspection, there were some differences in the décor we might have noticed had we been really alert, but the two hotels, side by side, really are close to identical, and even the lobbies and the hallways don't look very different. So much so that we were able to go all the way up to what appeared to be our room door without noticing any differences.

We ate that evening in the hotel's restaurant, where Margie had steak for dinner (photo 33), and I had a dish with salmon wrapped around chopped hake (photo 34). The dinner, with wine, was about 60 euros for both of us.

9/18/10, Saturday (return flight): After all our good meals on during the trip, airline meals on the flight home were a bit of a culinary come-down. The choice on Iberia flight 6165 was presented to us by the flight attendant as "meat or pasta?". I heard a passenger nearby ask, "What KIND of meat?" I think it was some kind of veal loaf. Not bad, but still an airline meal. Picture 35 is of our second in-flight meal, a snack box handed out shortly before our arrival. You may be able to make out the "greengrocer's apostrophe" in the English text, "left-over's". Why would the plural noun "left-overs" have an apostrophe?

Some final thoughts: We were in Basque country, the tapas capital of Spain, and the tapas variety was indeed stunning. But the problem with tapas still remains - it's not really a relaxing, long, sit-down-and-be-served meal. And you still have a hard time getting anything other than tapas in Spain before around 9:30 PM, when we're getting ready for bed.

I did finally figure out what to do about this, although too late for this trip. The solution is described in my blog entry, "The tyranny of the clock", which can be found at:


Basically, you just have to set your watch, so to speak, two hours earlier than the time in Spain. This is because Spain is actually to the west of the western end of the Central Europe time zone. And then you can live a "normal" US schedule. When you wake up with your watch reading 8:00 AM, the clock in your Spanish hotel will read 10:00 AM, but once you can wrap your head around that, everything will work out. Read the blog entry - as the subtitle says, "The pain in Spain is mainly in the brain." Maybe we'll try it on our next trip to Spain (we've never been to Barcelona).
justretired is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2011, 02:52 PM
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Thank you. Very enjoyable and informative. I am planning a trip to Spain this year.
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 07:27 AM
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Loved your report. You may find interesting to take a look at my blog on Off the Beaten Path places in the Basque Country, www.blogseitb.us/basquetourism. And, BTW, it´s quite easy to know why we dine so late...we have some zuritos and pintxos before dining!! And zuritos are small because bars are places to socialize, not to get drunk, so small sips of beer or wine are better than big servings. And so, that´s why we eat pintxos standing, so we can go from one place to another and socialize with different people.
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 07:28 AM
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Chillida Leku has, unfortunately, closed on Jan 1st
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 12:17 PM
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Great report! Sorry you missed Donibane/San Juan...
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 06:28 PM
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Mikelg, I like your blog, and wish we had seen it before our trip. Your description of the difference between pintxos and tapas is very interesting.

Our problem eating in Spain is that we sometimes don't WANT to eat late, and don't want only tapas for dinner. In that case, we're often out of luck - the restaurants just won't serve a regular dinner menu before around 9:30. Actually, that wasn't entirely true - we were able to dine early in Salamanca. But even though the Italians usually don't eat before 9:30 or so, the restaurants generally WILL open for dinner two hours earlier, even though there are very few people there.

Chillida Leku is a nice museum - I hope they manage to re-open. The announcement on their web page is rather cryptic - "The Chillida-Leku Museum has requested a temporary labor force adjustment plan and has agreed to close the museum starting on January 1, 2011."

Kimhe, it was clear to us at the time that we must have come in to Donibane from the wrong side, since we were aware that you had recommended it to visit. But it was late in the day, we didn't have all our information with us, and it wasn't at all clear how to get where we belonged. Maybe next time.

- Larry
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 06:57 PM
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This is a very entertaining report - thanks for taking the time to write it! Bummer about the ticket though.
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Old Jan 6th, 2011, 06:49 AM
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This is Margie, the other half of "Justretired."

The ticket was actually my fault- I did not see the "no u-turn sign," and here in BOston, we are sometimes allowed to cross the tracks of the "T"- our trolley. My expensive mistake! The policeman was friendly and I think LArry actually enjoyed talking with him.

Actually, I had printed material out from Mikelg's web site and put it in my book. I totally forgot about it.

As an added note about eating- I have a shellfish allergy and don't speak Spanish. LArry is rather conversant and has also made cards that describe the allergy to give to waiters in restaurants. Since the tapas bars were crowded and I had to rely on Larry to make sure of what was in each of the tapas, I found that sometimes eating in these bars was tense. Everyone was friednly and helpful, but, because they were crowded, it sometimes difficult to grab the 'waiter" to find our what was in the tapas. Sit down restaurants are easier for thoses of us who have allergies.
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Old Jan 9th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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Loved your report. Worth the wait.
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