Following our rather damp introduction to the world of campervans, things started to look up pretty quickly the following day. For a start, it had stopped raining. Also, someone had pitched their tent a few feet from us in what had overnight turned into a pretty decent imitation of a lake. I don’t like to laugh at other people’s misfortune (ok, I do, just a little bit), but I did feel slightly smug as we drove off. Campervan one, tent nil.
I then got a text from a friend, who also happened to be in Hossegor, also in a campervan. They were about to head a couple of hours down the coast to San Sebastian, just over the border in Spain, and asked if we wanted to join them. Of course we did!
San Sebastian is my new favourite city. It’s beautiful, prosperous, young, lively, packed full of Basque culture and tradition, and it has a surf break right in the centre of town. What else does a city need?
We parked up by the main beach and went for our first surf of the trip (it was small and relatively clean – exactly what I needed after a two-year break!) before driving around the headland towards the Old Town where we stopped for the night. By this point, the rain had returned, but that wasn’t going to stop us heading into the cobbled alleyways to try out some pintxos – the Basque equivalent of tapas.
Each bar, and there’s a lot of them in San Sebastian, (seriously, how they all survive I will never know) offered a more bountiful selection than the last. I’ve never seen such vast amounts of food.
I’d never tried pintxos before. I’ve been to a few disappointing tapas places in London, but this was a whole new world to me. I think my favourite was a chunk of bread topped with a huge piece of chorizo, melted cheese and bacon – that’s all your food groups in just one easy-to-eat snack – but there was just so much to choose from, all of it amazingly delicious. You just grab a plate and get stuck in.
For several hours we ambled from bar to bar, drinking beer and snacking on food that, as it always does, got even more delicious the more we drank. After about the fifth bar, we didn’t even notice the rain anymore. Despite the weather, we weren’t alone in our mini bar crawl. In one place, a group of at least 50 Japanese tourists came in, dutifully following their tour guide, while outside another we saw a rather worse-for-wear English woman remonstrating with a table that had deigned to get in her way as she staggered down the street swigging from a bottle of wine. That said, there was no loutish atmosphere; it was all very chilled. The streets were simply full of people enjoying themselves, talking about the surf and only occasionally fighting with tables.
Everyone we spoke to in our confusing mix of English, French, Spanish and Portuguese (we weren’t really sure what language to use and didn’t want to insult anyone!) was welcoming, friendly and helpful, going out of their way to explain how things worked and what everything was. Someone even took the time to explain the rules of pelota to us. I won’t go into it now (mainly because I didn’t really understand at the time and I can’t remember a huge amount now), but it involves hitting a ball at a wall with your hand. It was on TV everywhere.
Eventually, we decided our stomachs could take no more and we headed back to the headland and our vans. The rain was still coming down and the wind was whipping in straight off the ocean, but as we climbed into the warm, cosy van, I felt things were already starting to look up.
To be continued…
PS. Apologies for the lack of photos. San Sebastian is beautiful but it was so wet I didn’t want to take my camera out. Check it out on google images… you’ll be impressed!