Over the last weekend we (Camilla, Suanne, Elze, Paula and I) had Bastille day and so we were given a long holiday to enjoy ourselves. Thank you french revolution. We decided to celebrate by leaving for Spain (so really we didn't celebrate Bastille day at all) and had quite the time doing so. Pamplona is famous for the running of the bulls which is a part of a week long celebration called the San Fermin Festival. Though none of us know exactly what they're celebrating (Wikipedia informed me it's in celebration of Saint Fermin, duh) we knew that there were bulls, sangria, white outfits, red scarves, hot Spaniards, and a handful of deaths every year. Plus one of the biggest parties seen in Europe. What could keep us away?
We stopped in Bordeaux on our way to Pamplona. Sadly we were there on Bastille Day in the morning and so everything was closed but we got to see enough of Bordeaux for me to want to go back. Hopefully Camilla will be able to do her internship there and we all have already planned on sleeping on her couch and enjoying the beauty of Bordeaux (as well as the wine). We left Bordeaux and arrived in Pamplona just as everyone's siesta was ending. Our concierge informed us that most people were recovering from the night before and that we had not missed any serious fun yet that day. So we donned on our white outfits and took the bus to the centre of old Pamplona. Though our excitement was almost overwhelming, we could not help but notice how beautiful of a city Pamplona was. A great thing about Europe is that most of the cities I have been to have "old town" which is filled to the brim with beautiful old buildings and I can't help but be charmed off of my feet, especially considering how young the US is in comparison. We wandered around for a bit, got lost, and asked a local where a good bar was for pinchos (the Basque version of tapas) and ended up in bar Gaucho which was overflowing with people. Always a good sign. We began our night of sangria, which was served in gigantic glasses almost too big for Suanne to hold onto, gave each other a "Salud" and started in on the pinchos. Everything was delicious. It ranged from miniature sandwiches which looked unimpressive but didn't fail to surprise and delight, to fried Roquefort, to toasts topped with ham swimming in a creamy cheese sauce. After finishing our sangria we started on our way around the streets of Pamplona. The last night of the bull run is actually one of the more tame nights in Pamplona and since we did not make it for any actual bull running (we aren't exactly the athletic types nor are we all that into near death experiences) we didn't get to see anything too crazy. Thank goodness. Mostly it was just a wonderful festival fiesta where people of all ages take part. I was surprised to see a good amount of children still out with their parents til late. The last event of the festival takes place at midnight in front of a church and everyone stands and sings and holds their red scarves above their heads and waves them around. Then men carrying a large fake bull with sparklers around it and fireworks shooting off of it chase all the children in a mock bull run. I was unaware of what was going on and was quite frightened at first when the crowd started running in my direction with children looking as if their feared for their life. For a moment I thought that the bull run was not over. Then I noticed the smoke and while this is usually a bad sign, this time I was put at ease, that is of course until a spark from one of the fireworks landed on my head and scorched a small spot on my scalp. This stuff would totally be illegal in the states and this wasn't even a real bull ready to gore me!
By the end of the night (and after many glasses of sangria) we were no longer white but dripping, sticky, and purple, from pouring sangria over each other. This is part of the tradition of the San Fermin festival where people start in white and end up drenched in sangria. It was fun and after calling a truce, breaking it, then calling one again, we decided to go dancing. Paula found a Royal Marine who looked like a greek god and disappeared with him into a corner while the rest of us continued to enjoy sangria and dance. Suanne made her way to an outside bench where her camera, the only one we had from the night, got stolen as she was getting sick from one too many glasses of wine. Elze and I decided to be good motherly friends and pour her into a taxi and take her back to our hotel. Luckily I had had enough to drink that I was able to speak Spanish fairly well. I ordered Elze and I some hotdogs (which were topped with something fried and crispy and were probably some of the best hotdogs of my life), hailed us a cab, and asked the cabby en espanol to take us back to our hotel. Elze turned to me and thanked me because not only was she completely turned around, she also didn't think she could have ordered a hotdog or get back to our rooms. The three of us made our way to our room, crawled into bed, and slept.
At nine o'clock, Camilla, who is always extremely rambunctious, came busting into our room practically jumping up and down. She had met a few men, gotten lost for four hours, and was now just returning from a night on the town. Paula, on the other hand, had managed to return around 5am and was sleeping in the largest of the two rooms which had four single beds in it, all to herself, while Suanne and I were crammed into a single of our own. Camilla pulled Suanne out of bed, dragged her to the other room, and we all fell back asleep (though Camilla of course had not been to bed yet). A few hours later Elze and I awoke to realize that we had overslept our checkout time, took the fastest showers we could (though I would have given anything to spend more time under the hot water, my head was feeling all of the sangria from the night before) and made our way to the car. The other three had, of course, over slept, and we gave them an hour before going and asking the woman at the front desk to let us into their room. We crawled to the car, forced ourselves in, and began the drive to San Sebastian.
One thing about beautiful european cities that can be somewhat frustrating is finding your way around them. Street signs are often hidden and the names of streets seem to change with every block. It makes it especially difficult when you're staying on a tiny one block street in a hotel that is called "Colegio Mayor." What's even harder is when the navigator (Suanne) is using her computer to figure out where to go and it dies just as you're entering the city. Though Camilla is from Guatemala and thus speaks Spanish fluently, it wasn't all that helpful since no one in San Sebastian seemed to know where to direct us. We were sent from one side of the town to the other and one man straight up told us that what we were asking him did not make any sense. Colegio Mayor isn't a hotel, he told us, it's a college. And frankly, I was beginning to get concerned that he was right. After about an hour of driving around I remembered that I had written down the directions myself. It was one of those, "wow I'm an idiot" moments but none of us were too upset at my forgetfulness since we had had a wonderful tour of beautiful San Sebastian while winding around it's old streets. The truth was that we were staying in a college. Apparently the schools turns into a hotel in the summer months when classes aren't in session. The building was beautiful and had a ton of lifelike, life size statues of people who looked to be enjoying the beach. Though these statues were a bit creepy (especially the one of the homeless man who was right by the entrance) the school was absolutely lovely and our rooms were impecable. We were only a short bus ride away from the center of town and after napping for 4 hours until 10pm, we decided we should venture out and get some food. It was late and so the choices were limited but we ended up finding something decent. Probably not the best pinchos in San Sebastian but good nonetheless.
We were more than thrilled to have two wonderful days in San Sebastian. It is probably one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been and I want to live there for a year when if I can. It's right on the beach and has a small island just a ways from the coast. The buildings are the beautiful and white and the streets are lined with trees. The people are wonderful and the food is delicious. There are green hills that stretch up from the beach and the fine sand is covered with people enjoying the sun. There are numerous old churches which are dotted throughout the city and the entire place has a calm vibe that makes you want to put on something light and freeing and eat paella next to the ocean. Which is exactly what we did. Our second day in San Sebastian we went out for a lunch of paella at a small restaurant near the ocean. It was wonderfully fresh. The prawns were incredible and their heads were full of red juices. I told Suanne that she had to suck the heads if she wanted to get the good stuff because all of the juice from the sauce gets trapped in there and mixes with their tiny prawn brains and is delicious. She turned her nose up at it but was more than happy to donate her prawn heads to me and by the end of the meal I had quite the carnage on one corner of my plate. We made good use of a pile of wetnaps and left for the beach, where we lay for an hour or so getting tanned (or in my case, burned) before the tide came up and started lapping at our toes. Though were were sticky from sweating in the sun, and itchy from having sand on our skin and in our hair and between our toes, we decided to get some shopping in before going home to shower. We are, after all, five girls. How could we resist? I managed to find an awesome leather jacket for half off (too good of a deal to pass up, and since being in Europe I feel quite left out not having one. Apparently it's a must for one's closet) and we got some ice cream before taking the bus back to our hotel to wash off the beach.
This night we were determined to find some stellar cuisine. We walked around the center of the town and turned down a street that both smelled fantastic and sounded crowded. I knew that we were in a good spot. The entire street was filled with people. Every bench was taken. You could tell that strangers were sitting next to strangers but no one seemed to care because they all had some kind of food in their hand. Most people were holding long sandwiches. Others had plate of hot pinchos. And all of them had come from one bar. El Quinto Pino. I don't think I'll ever forget it. Elze and Paula weren't up for sandwiches so they went to find somewhere else to eat. I knew they were making a huge mistake. Not only was the bar tender a charming though rugged looking spaniard (he somehow managed to pull of a ponytail and curly beard as if they were in style) but the place was absolutely packed with people. The bar was lined with different types of pinchos but I could tell that most people came here for the sandwiches. Camilla spoke to the bartender who informed her that they only had five sandwiches left and that we had to hurry if we wanted some. We debated over what to get. He returned and told us that there were only now only three left. We made haste and put in our orders quickly. I ordered a chorizo sandwich. Camilla a mushroom and roquefort. Suanne a patatas and chorizo. None of them were over 3.50 euros. All of them were incredible. Though it was only a giant chorizo sausage on a beautiful baguette, it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. The chorizo was absolutely mind blowing and so greasy that it soaked through the bread making its own red, spicy sauce and forcing me to go through one tiny paper napkin after another. Suanne's chorizo and patatas was so big that she could barely fit it into her tiny mouth but she smiled and cooed the entire time she was eating it. I don't think the three of us have ever been so silent for so long except for some random "oh my gods," and "this is incredible's." While eating bite after bite I noticed that numerous patrons were walking away with plate of what looked like grilled green beans. I asked our bartender what they were (happy to know how to say something in spanish) and he went and grabbed to raw tiny green peppers for me. "Pimentos" he said. I went to bite one but both he and two men at the bar started saying "no no no" very quickly. "They need to be fried he said." I got the impression that they were spicy but decided to try one anyway. They were good and tasted like a cross between a weak jalapeno and a green bell pepper. The three men all seemed impressed that I would eat one raw (though I still don't understand what the big deal was) and I ordered a plate. They were, of course, delicious, and much better fried than not. How surprising. Between bites of our sandwiches the three of us ate pimento after pimento and soon enough the plate was empty. We had a cervesa or two and went to meet up with Elze and Paula, so happy that we couldn't stop talking about the incredible meal we had just experienced.
After meeting up with the other two girls we went to a bar and had a beer. I knew I had to go to bed early because we were planning on leaving at 7am the next day. Suanne was still feeling the pain of too much sangria. The other girls, however, wanted to stay out and that they did. Suanne and I made it back to our hotel at 2 in the morning (after waiting for the wrong bus for an hour then getting off two stops after the right one and having to hoof it in the rain to our hotel). I collapsed into my bed and was happy to be mature and smart enough to know when to go to bed. I woke up continually through the night and noticed that Elze had not returned to our room. I figured at first that she must just still be partying. I woke up again and thought she had slept with Camilla and Paula because she didn't want to wake me up. I woke up again and saw light peeking in through the curtains. Suanne was supposed to call me at 7 to make sure I was up. Perhaps she forgot, I thought. So I got up and opened the curtains to see just how light it was. And who do I see making their way into the hotel but Elze, Camilla and Paula in their dresses, wet from the rain, and looking like something the cat dragged in. Just as I looked down at the, Elze looked up at me and I opened the window and called down to them, "just getting in I see?" They laughed. "What time is it?" I asked them. "Eight." Elze said. I don't know how they do it. It's not like they're spring chickens any more. I keep telling Elze she's going to look like hell at fifty if she keeps this up but she doesn't seem to care. She calls me an old lady. And for some reason the three of them thought they were going to be in trouble with me. Really I just wanted to hear the gossip of what I missed. Apparently they had met some spanish guys outside of a club and made friends. They danced with them until the club closed and then went back to their place for some continued drinking and frivolity. By the time 6am rolled around they decided to wait outside of the local bakery hotspot and got fresh croissants for breakfast. They then waited forever for a bus which never came and then in a long line for a taxi. By 8am they were making their way into the hotel and I was getting up and getting ready to drive nine hours back home. Elze was still drunk and trying to convince me that we should stay in San Sebastian and that the guys they had met said we could stay in their apartment for a week. "I'm sure they did," I told her, but I wanted to get back. I was a bit jealous that I missed out on all the fun though as I was driving back and saw them passed out on top of each other in the back of the car, I wasn't all that upset.
I hauled ass back to France and on the way explained to Suanne what the term "hauling ass meant." We made it back in eight hours and managed to miss most of the weekend traffic. All of us want to live in Spain now and Elze and I are trying to figure out how exactly we can justify spending another year in Europe at some other time in our life. San Sebastian was absolutely enchanting and I definitely could go for another chorizo sandwich.
As usual I have to collect all of the pictures from the girls before I can send some along. I'll probably wait until the end of the week so that I can send some pictures of what we're making this week with them. It's creme glacee entremets, which is just a fancy french term for what is essentially an ice cream cake. I am sure I will be thoroughly exhausted this week not only because of how fun this weekend was (and the fact that I'm getting older and can't quite bounce back as quickly as I could when I was eighteen) but also because we're back with Chef Baccon and started at 6am this morning. It will take some time to get used to and I'm going to need a nap! So I apologize in advance if some of my stuff doesn't look as great as it could. C'est la vie.
Also this week I am hoping to lock down my internship. It's looking like I'm going to end up in Paris and I am getting very excited about it. Suanne and Elze are planning on being there too along with our friend Christy who couldn't make it to Spain with us because she was vacationing with her parents in Paris over the holiday. It'll be nice to spend more time with them since after this is done I may not get to see them again and we really do have a lot of fun together. I want to stay at my internship until the end of next March and spend that April travelling around Europe. I'd love to go back to Spain as well as make my way to Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, and maybe go to Italy and Portugal as well.
Miss you guys and love you! Hope you're having your own adventures this summer.