While I vowed to blog on this vacation, I’m having trouble finding the time to sit with my fingers on the keyboard. This Spanish schedule is no joke. It’s 10:25 p.m. here on the north coast of Spain and the sky has finally mostly darkened. It’s only late May, but there is still a summertime glow peeking through the dark clouds that hover over the Atlantic. Consequently, our boys have just now finally succumbed to sleep. We have really only been here for three full days, but we are trying to step in time to the Spanish daily itinerary. It’s difficult to get a cup of coffee or a pastry before 8:00 a.m. or even 9:00 and most places close for siesta between 3:00-6:00 p.m. Restaurants typically don’t begin dinner service until 8:00 p.m., which makes bedtime (even for kiddos) around 10:00 at the earliest.
Last night we pushed our boys into full Spanish mode and decided to hop pintxo bars in Old Town San Sebastian until 10:30 p.m. “Bar-hopping with your kids?!”, you gasp. Trust me- it is commonplace here to see strollers strutting and toddlers roaming through the narrow cobblestone streets beneath the moon. Pintxos are the Basque region’s version of tapas: small, bite-size delicacies usually served on a slice of bread like crostini. Everett and Louie embraced the culinary adventure, sampling anchovies, spider crab, sea urchin, mussels, octopus, cod, tripe, and veal cheek. Although they were definitely exhausted and undoubtedly slap-happy, I smiled proudly as they eagerly chomped down on these exotic bites and did silly jigs beneath the bar-tops. Of course boy-wrangling through the streets of an ancient Spanish city is much easier with free-flowing sangria and tzacholi, a sparkling white wine that is ceremoniously poured from an extended arm-length’s height into the glass to add natural aeration and dramatic flair. Just to be clear, these beverages were for me and Ben. The boys were merely drunk on exhaustion.
We have spent our days enjoying the breathtaking natural splendor of Basque country. Zurriola Beach is just steps from our apartment. The boys love digging in the sand and watching the surfers do jumps and twists on the impressive waves. Yesterday we took a hike up the hill from our apartment on part of the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage trail that stretches from France to the far west coast of Spain at Santiago de Compostela, the alleged burial site of the apostle St. James. The side-by-side color contrasts of the turquoise sea and rolling green countrysides is stunning. I’m just sad that our camera can’t adequately capture this living art. We successfully hiked about 4.5 km–and without the aids of the Ergos wrapped around our waists in case of meltdowns! The boys were motivated by hunting for the next trail guidepost: three horizontal painted lines of white, red, and green to symbolize the Basque flag. Everett and Louie are a bit obsessed with practicing their limited Spanish vocabulary and soon took to shouting, “Blanco, Rojo, Verde!” each time they encountered a new marker. Louie, who is undoubtedly our more outgoing child, would wave eagerly at the other hikers we passed with a cheerful “Hola!” or “Buenos Dias!” His confidence sometimes takes my breath away.
Today, we took a short road trip about 20 minutes west to a town called Zumaia to hike an area called The Flysch. Erosion from ocean winds have made these fascinating horizontal ridges in limestone cliffs to create a geometric landscape design that rivals any contemporary art. The views of the coastline were incredible, and the undulating green pastures dotted with sheep and cows and Spanish-tiled farmhouses made me feel like I was walking through a pastoral painting. We stopped in the fishing town of Getaria for a late afternoon sugar rush at a little pasteleria and then got the boys a 30-minute mini-siesta on the trip back home to San Sebastian for dinner. Ben has cooked two meals so far in our humble little apartment here. First was a pasta with Serrano ham and the celebrated white asparagus from Navarro. Tonight, he made a risotto with the same asparagus delicacy, mushrooms, and seasoned with that sparkling white wine that the region heralds. We are ending our night on our balcony that overlooks Zurriola Beach and is hugged by mountains on either side. There’s an open bottle of Belmunt red wine from the Priorat region on our table. It’s seriously delicious. Ben has already checked to see if the winery ships to the U.S. They do and we are taking note.
These last four days have marked an incredible start to another worldly adventure for our family of four, but it has of course not been all breathtaking landscapes and ecstatic tastebuds. There were disastrous moments during our first 24 hours here where we were all miserable from jet lag and travel fatigue. On our drive to San Sebastián that first day, we had to pull off at a Spanish roadside rest area so Ben could sleep. The boys literally gathered weeds in the rest area grass patch while Ben clocked 20 minutes of deep sleep reclined in the driver’ seat. I do not hold the international driver’s license nor know how to drive a stick shift, so this was the only way to safely further our journey.
The boys are fighting and throwing tantrums just like all 3 and 5-year olds do when they are tired and out of their routines. Louie has already broken a champagne glass in our apartment, spit on the floor of a sweet little fruit market, and screamed like a wild banshee in a coffee shop. Everett continues to have to pee every 5 minutes. But, you know what? These same daily moments of insanity happen at home. So we figure–why not mix the daily chaos with a little culture too? The headaches are the same, but the memories of new experiences and adventures will be what endures.