“Siesta” marks a huge split in the day in Spain. I have been told that for those Spaniards in the corporate world, it is a thing of the past. However, in the small hill towns of La Rioja and even the winding back streets of “La Parte Vieja” of San Sebastian, it is still very much a part of daily life. Therefore, we planned our day to deflect the gap that is sometimes left by siesta in order to pack as much into our last Sunday in Spain. (This article is part two of the article that began here.)
Stop 5: Ostertz – Coffee and Sherry and Regional Education
After a big morning and early afternoon of feasting, some good digestion was in order. Mrs. NH and I settled on a small, busy cafe/bar right along the waterfront on the opposite side of La Concha Bay – facing the new town of San Sebastian. We weren’t the only family that sought shaded refuge and something to sip on for continued strength. After our coffees, I opted for a nice fino Sherry and Mrs. NH suggested that I, “Ask if they can make me a rebujito!” Discovered while touring Jerez a few years back, a rebujito is a drink that consists of Sprite or some kind of bubbly lemon drink mixed with fino Sherry. I prefer not to pollute my fino with anything. However, Mrs. NH doesn’t ask for much so the least I could do is ask at the bar keep. My inquiry was met with incredulity from the bartender and eye rolls and independent commentary from another patron inside the bar. “This isn’t Andalucía,” he offered. Luckily, I had ordered my fino puro first and was able to believably pass off my request for what it was – a request from my wife. When I returned to the table with a fino and a cerveza clara, I marveled with my wife about how truly regional Spanish food and drink is. I also relayed the fact that despite almost being laughed out of the bar for my order, both bartender and patron were curious to know the exact ingredients and proportions of a proper rebujito. The best part, they asked the American!
Stop 6: Merry Go Round and Potato Chips
As a father, I’ve seen a lot of playgrounds in a lot of towns in a lot of countries. If you have kids of your own, you know how it is. If they see a playground, they want to stop. Same goes with merry go rounds. My girls are good travelers so if there is time in the day, I don’t mind spending a bit of it doing things they like. I feel it ads harmony to the overall trip experience (as well as the obvious “carrot” for good behavior). So, kid fun time completed, we proceeded to the paved mosaic waterfront of San Sebastian. On the way we saw a man selling 1.50 euro bags of potato chips and did not waste any time in forking over our coin for a modest bag. The reason we shelled out almost $2.25 for a small bag of chips? Experience. Spanish potato chips can be really tasty – like the ones sold in La Plaza del Salvador in Sevilla. The ones in San Sebastian were no exception. Thick cut, salty, slightly greasy and really satisfying. Between that and the sunset walk along the ocean, it was the perfect primer to an evening of tapas and delightful Spanish mayhem.
Stop 7: Ormazabal
Part of Little NH’s fascination with Spain comes from a part of the Spanish tapas bar culture that seems entirely counter to everything she has been taught about cleanliness. At first, she was terrified to toss a used napkin on the floor of Spanish a tapas bar. However, by the end of the trip, she was asking, “Daddy, are you done with your napkin? When you are, give it to me so I can throw it on the floor.” When in Spain…, right?
For our second to last tapas stop of the evening, we hit Ormazabal for a round of family favorites from our last several days in Spain. The friendly folks behind the counter made a couple recommendations and even delivered the items right to our table – and we had a great time bantering in English, Spanish and sorta-French with them. Our orders consisted of some of the best food we had eaten in Spain and included: meatballs (albondigas), spinach croquetas, peppers stuffed with bacalao, octopus in its ink and beef cheeks. Having settled into a comfortable table in the back with room for the stroller (which at this point in the trip resembled more of a covered wagon), we decided to stay put and made this tapas stop more of a meal. We ordered 2-3 more rounds of food, each accompanied by great banter with the help, and departed very satisfied for a very modest price.
Unfortunately, for Little NH, not all restaurants in Spain cater to the “napkin on the floor” tradition – including Ormazabal. So, we had one more stop.
Stop 8: Munto Jatetxea Redux
One good turn deserves another, right? As we were heading north to France the next morning and Little NH2 was asleep in her stroller, we decided to head back to Munto Jatetxea for our last plates of tapas. Mrs. NH had not had enough pimientos de padrón on this trip and I had no problem helping her gobble up the heaping plate while our youngest slept in the stroller amidst the din of the patronage in the bar. At the other end of the hyperactivity spectrum, Little NH stood outside in the pedestrian traffic only street and danced and sang to a tune residing somewhere deep inside her head. Folks alternately chuckled at her, danced with her and dodged her. We all got to do what we loved best. Of course, Little NH took a break every now and then to come inside, sip some juice and toss down my used napkins.