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san sebastian

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“That’s the third bridge, the waves came right up to here”, Maite pointed out the car window. “A few months ago there was a big storm and people were surfing on the river, it was amazing to see”. We were in san sebastian to see what all the fuss was about.

We were dropped at the second bridge and wandered through the old town. It was touristy, but charming. We had chocolate hazelnuts in a paper cone then wandered to the ocean promenade where they were still fixing the storm damage.

It was quiet here, few realising it was reopened. A little white sail boat darted around the island and out to sea. The beach was jammed with sunbathers. When I later described it as a beach for posers Maite burst into laughter “yes exactly, exactly!” It was stifling with heat, any sensible person would be napping in their hotel room, our bedroom was a train ride away. We darted back into the landways to the surf beach on the otherside where it was full but not to bursting. It was baking hot, but as we reached the waters edge too cool to swim so we lay down to nap.

“You must try pinchos” Maite had said to us that morning. “For the Spanish it is a snack before dinner, for English people it is dinner”. With our bellies rumbling at 7pm and Spanish dinner starting around 9pm we thought pinchos sounded like a great idea. We wandered around, places were just opening, we got glimpses of plates of tantalising snack food skewered with toothpicks in every bar, but we weren’t sure what we were meant to do. We had foreigners anxiety, and we didn’t speak the language. We lingered like stray dogs, watching what happened, but couldn’t work it out from a distance, so we decided to grab a drink. Our fellow customers didn’t seem much interested in the tasty looking morsels waiting there for them, we grew impatient. Finally Dylan just went for it, it seemed all you needed was to obtain a plate and choose what you like, they zapped it in the microwave and brought it to you with a bill. Once we unlocked the secret it was like being at a fancy function picking this or that nibble, such fun! “dinner” over we wandered along the river under the welcome shade of the trees and the cool of the water, shadows long, floating on a slight sangria haze.


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urnieta

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The area was a little industrial town but everywhere, even under the highways little vegetable gardens sprouted. People knew how to grow under adversity! As we wandered through the trees we could hear the clang clang of a bell, two goats tied to a tree enjoying an afternoon snack. They looked at us with curiosity but never stopped their munching. We walked up a hill fortified with blackberries and discovered some secret gardens at the peak, not a house or road in sight, cobbled together with recycled materials. An elderly couple were busily tending their plants and barely noticed our presence.

Urnieta where we were staying was a little town held together with with some 80s tickytacky with a backdrop of lovely hills. The local grocery store was so filled with produce that people had to do a silent dance back and forth to get what they wanted. In the window you would hardly know they sold food, shelves packed with strange bobble head toys.

It was kind of lovely to see how people personalised their identical little red brick terraces, a stone pineapple, flowers, mosaic numbers. Our house had three large stones cemented to the fence. Maite was a lovely host who loved the sea. They had a veggie garden complete with hammocks and a lemon tree covered in aphids which we tried to advise them on. It’s nice to feel useful! It was hot and a nap in the hammock and a cool drink made this funny little development close to heaven.


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Ingredients

1/2 cup puy lentils (red split lentilsif camp cooking, soaked in water bottled filled with boiling water)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 onion, coarsely chopped

Rosemary, thyme, marjoram, parsley chopped (fresh better but dried if camping)

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Tomato stock cube/tbsp tomato paste/leftover pasta sauce

100 butter

Any leftover veg cubed: tomatoes, carrots, chard, zucchini, capsicum, etc (anything about looking wilted in the fridge! Even lettuce)

Salt and pepper

This has been our go to meal ever since hawaii. It’s great for clearing out your fridge when things look like they are on their way out and packed with nutrients.

We eat it thick with coconut roti, thinner as a pasta sauce or thinner still as soup.

lentil stew

Rinse then boil lentils until soft in a saucepan.

Meanwhile fry onion and garlic in butter until golden and soft, add the herbs and cayenne

Add chopped vegetables and cook until carrot begins to soften

Add lentils, water to cover and tomato stock cube. Simmer until reduces to consistency desired, add more water if vegetables/lentils not soft enough. Taste and add salt and pepper as required.


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basque country

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Being a graceful young lady of poise and dignity, of course I tumbled off my bike a metre from the Spanish border. I attempted to mount the gutter over the bridge and misjudged the angle doing a slowmotion collapse sideways at someone’s feet. They stepped over me and continued their journey. A grazed elbow was much shallower than the wound to my pride as I wobbled into Irun.

We were sad to leave alexandra and bidart, despite the bathroom “not in very good state” which had a giant hole into the roof space. It all just added to the character, although we were itching to give the upstairs a good reno. Over breakfast she told us she didn’t mind living alone in that old place except that once she thought she had ghosts but it turned out to be skunks in the roof in heat and she only called the police once or twice a year because of strange noises in the night.

We had travelled through some lovely french towns and then hit the heat of midday and the Spanish pyrannees. It wasn’t spain as we imagined it, the signs were all in basque, a curious language with an abundance of X, K, Z and Us. Basque flags fluttered in every other window. Alexandre had told us the french basque’s weren’t as vindictive as the Spanish basque. Our Spanish host later told us that the area had a flush of tourism because that always happens when there is an Era terrorist ceasefire. Hmm…there was a history lesson for us.

As we settled in to our airbnb I heard some strange roaring coming from nearby. The circus was in town and set up in a small parking lot around the corner. Everyday the animals (not whatever was roaring) were let loose in the grass to feed. It was quite surreal to see a suburban area park covered in miniature horses, camels, llamas and ponies, Maite had seen a zebra. Of course the idea of a circus with trained animals doesn’t sit right, but I have to admit the sight of it was entertaining in a surreal out of place way. On our way passed a miniature foal even tried to follow us home and we had to loop back to lead him back to his mama. Spain was full of surprises.


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