day 13 :

friday, 23 september

We hiked up Mount Urgull this morning, and got the "other view" of La Concha Bay from the top. At the top of the mountain is La Mota Castle, which dates back to the 11th century. There were plenty of stairs and passageways to get lost in, and some sort of gated structure that looked just like the teleporter used in the beginning of Riven. As we walked back down to the city, the mid-day sun sparkled on the ocean waves, and the air was filled with the salty scent of the sea mixed with dried leaves. If only every day could be spent like this!

We wandered around town doing a little window shopping, and worked up a bigger appetite for lunch. The tapas bars we were hoping to go to today ended up being closed for lunch, so we ended up at Bar La Cepe and had pimientos guernika, pulpo, stuffed pimientos, and txakolí.

One of the highlights of our stay in San Sebastián was La Perla. We spent a couple hours there before dinner tonight and wished that we had more time to go again! La Perla is San Sebastián's thalassotherapy circuit, where 18 euros entitles you to use a relaxing series of seawater pools. There are two pools that have a number of jets of water that are used to massage muscles in all different areas of your body - these were our favorite and quite therapeutic. One pool has underwater cardio exercise equipment, which seems like a great idea, especially for those who need to avoid strain on their joints when they exercise. A section of the circuit has a series of contrasting temperatures, where you go from cold water, to a steam bath, to cold water, to a dry sauna, and back to cold water. Altogether, it was a great way to relax and as an added benefit, help our sore leg muscles.

The drive to dinner tonight was tricky after a wrong turn leaving San Sebastián, but we managed to get to Mugaritz (Michelin 1-star) by following the directions from their web site. Having been to a few Michelin-starred restaurants on the trip, Mugaritz seemed underrated - the restaurant was very welcoming, not at all oppressive or overly-formal; service was excellent; the food was creative and perfectly-executed. We loved the décor, which is modern but uses many elements of nature, such as rocks and wood. Our primary complaint was that the portions were too large - we ordered the "small" tasting menu, and were overstuffed and a bit uncomfortable by the end. The most vivid food memory of the evening is the mushroom soup ("best mushroom soup ever" was uttered at least once). Perfect white mushrooms were sliced very thinly and presented by themselves in a bowl. At the table, a very flavorful mushroom broth was poured over them, cooking the mushrooms slightly and giving them just the right bite.

Some things we'd like to do in San Sebastián the next time we're there:
  • Go to some of the other restaurants that were on our list (there are too many to visit in a single trip!): Martin Berasategui, Zuberoa, Akelare, Fagollaga, and Casa Nicolasa.
  • Go to La Cuchara de San Telmo tapas bar, which we really, really wanted to go to, but somehow the stars never aligned.
  • Visit La Perla again!

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