Tag Archives: San Sebastián

Swimming in Cantabrian Sea in December

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The weather yesterday was very bad, but I dint want to sit at home and went with my fried to SPA. We went to San Sebastian’s SPA at the coast called La Perla. It is very old and luxurious, before there were relaxing only very important and rich people. Nowadays it is opened to the public.

It has a many jacuzzis, swimming pool, gym under the water, different saunas, rooms for relaxing and a very, very beautiful view on a sea. After I got very warm I decided to make something crazy. So, we run into we sea. The water was about 6 degrees and it was raining like cats and dogs.  But I’ve got amazing feelings.

I would like to visit La Perla once more and I strongly recommend you to do this as well!!

Jon Warren: on San Sebastian and food

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jon-paginaJon Warren first arrived in Donostia-San Sebastian around 2002 on an ordinary summer’s evening that would eventually prove life-changing.

Stopping off for the night during a road trip down to Portugal, the vibrant atmosphere and sight of copious pintxos on the bar convinced Jon and his friend they had hit fiesta-time: “it was like: wow!”

Such was the draw of the place for Jon that on the way back they decided to spend two nights in the Gipuzkoa capital: “We had such a good time; standing on the Concha (beach) I said to my friend: ‘I’m going to live here one day’.”

True to his word, Jon returned to live in the city, though not after four years working in the City of London.

“Working in London.. I never really felt excited. Everyday on a desk,.. doing something I wasn’t passionate about, you think ‘surely this can’t be it’.”

“I quit my job in November 2007 just knowing I wanted to do something else… Doing this, I absolutely love it because every day’s an adventure, doing my own thing.”

Jon’s “own thing” is San Sebastian Food, his own self-run tour business. The aim of the company is to provide tourists over on a short break to the Basque Country with a culinary insight they may otherwise miss. It is inspired in what Jon calls his “six-month gastronomic adventure” sussing out the bars and discovering the best pintxos.

Jon’s personal interest in food is more broadly centred on the entire experience of eating; something which may be linked to some of his earliest memories: “I’ve got some great food memories, but always linked to the people I’m with. “

Reflecting on what aroused his love for all things culinary, Jon recalls his uncle Paddy, an “adventurer” who lived mostly in Sierra Leone, given to roasting whole pigs and baking bread on visits home to the family. It is an almost tangible memory that evokes warm summer evenings and smells of spit-roast pork wafting over lawns of playing children.

Capturing that more sensuous experience is what underlines a lot of Jon’s tours, which move away from the often sterile sensation of a restaurant, to the shouts and smells of a packed bar or busy farmers’ market; “I love Michelin-starred food but I’m a lot more interested in the social side of things,… pintxos, the cider houses, where it’s all about meeting your friends and chatting”.

Life change

Jon made the move to San Sebastian in January 2008. After an 8-week language course at Lacunza he went “armed with dodgy Spanish, a basic CV but plenty of enthusiasm” to seek work at the Villa Soro hotel in Ategorrieta. He did “a bit of everything.. bellboy, porter, barman…” though it would later prove to be a significant decision.

Aside from becoming for many guests an unofficial guide to the best places to eat, he would also, ironically perhaps, meet his English girlfriend Nicole, who came to stay at the hotel one weekend with a group of friends:

“She moved out here last May and I have her to thank for helping me so much; from brain-storming to proof reading she has helped enormously.”

As far as his success this side of the Atlantic, Jon is unreserved in his praise for the Basque people whom he has encountered over the past three years: “They’ve been so incredibly friendly from when I arrived… such warm, open people, so happy to help..

“Thanks to friends, for example, I’ve been able to make contacts with the cheese farm in Urnieta where we Jon Warren - culinar#7B6835do a tour with the owners,” says Jon.

Jon is modest about his own contribution to his success, a trait that goes down well in this part of the world. He is, by his own admission, sociable and often “gets chatting to people”, a characteristic of a natural networker and one that has helped him to open a lot of doors into the heart of the Basque culinary experience, sometimes literally.

Jon says his “strongest” food memory was in the Rioja with Nicole looking for somewhere to eat. With a predilection for talking to people – “old ladies especially” – they were finally led by one senior citizen to a restaurant that was seemingly locked up:

“She turned the lights on and said ‘right, what are you having?’; she cooked this lunch just for us with a nice bottle of wine…

“It was nothing amazing; the TV was blaring and the food wasn’t fabulous but for me that’s what it’s about: That incredible, unique experience”.

Angela Linskey, Naera Haundi: Jam with scruples

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AngelaShopping for jams in the supermarket, I little expected to find Angela Linskey and much less the discoveries I would make when visiting Naera Haundi where the conserves are made.

Naera Haundi is a four hundred-year-old farmhouse officially in the Basque town of Abaltzisketa, though in reality located down a steep path on the side of a valley at the foothills of the Txindoki mountain, an ideal spot for spending a few days if, as the website says, it is peace and tranquillity you are after.

It is more than 30 years since Angela and her Basque husband Jesus Mari decided to leave San Sebastian to “try the rural lifestyle of a traditional Basque farm.” While perhaps happy to escape the increasing buzz of the city, however, it was a different concern that encouraged this couple to make such a radical change:

“We started getting a bit worried about the food we were eating. We read a book called Your Daily Bread by a woman who had been around a flour-refining factory where they were gassing the flour to make it whiter. We started reading more about what we were eating and it just went on from there. The only clear idea we had was that we wanted another kind of life and it had to be in the sphere of organic farming.”

Naera Haundi is dedicated to growing, processing and selling only organically home-grown fruit jams and jellies. “We make between 12-14,000 jars (of “Nahera” jam) a year. About 75% of that is currently from our own fruit… And the whole process is here – we don’t have any machinery, it’s literally spooning it in.”jams and jellies

The decision of Angela and others like her to pursue organic farming coincided with a growing trend for alternative farming during the 1970s and beyond (though still almost unheard of in the Basque Country) among people disillusioned with conventional methods or routines: “Most of us who started that way are from small or large towns… It was a revolution you see – not just going out and shouting in the streets – to go back and work on the land.”

From trend to trendy

Though organic products continue to have a rather middle-class image, Angela staunchly defends their dietary value: “If you’re eating organic, you’re generally eating very healthily – people eating organic food are not often at the doctors… If you take into account the hydrogenated fats and pesticides in conventional foods, what is that costing a country in its health service?” (Interestingly, the UK’s Soil Association recently published a report confirming the nutritional value of organic to be significantly higher than non-organic foods).

Since their compromise with organic farming over 30 years ago, Naera Haundi have taken steps to broaden their commitment to global issues such as climate change. “We have an installation with photo-voltaic panels for producing electricity… Next to them are thermal solar panels for heating water. We heat water for up to 10-12 people.” (Enough for the maximum 8 people they can put up in two apartments plus themselves).

Then there are the two wood-burning stoves: “Wood- produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as a rotting log,” she explains. “We use the ash – potash – as fertilizer and chip the wood we can’t use for compost.”

I point out that in Vietnam, fishermen on the Mekong recycle everything, including rice husks, out of economic necessity: “I think we need to be poor again,” she concurs. “The amount of things that people throw away.. (My generation) were brought up to think throwing food away was a sin.”

Naera Haundi BaserriOne is reminded of a by-gone era at Naera Haundi and not by accident. The modern obsession with packaging is one of Angela’s major grievances: “It’s just so unnecessary,” she says. She confesses to feeling “out of place” in her hometown of Birstall, West Yorkshire, partly due to the demise of high street shops. “It’s so disappointing – there used to be small shops, the dairy etc; now there’s (sic) just the two supermarkets – it really depresses me.”

Almost forty years have passed since Angela and her sister left Birstall  to embark on a hitchhiking holiday in France, deciding on impulse to come this way. She expresses curiosity at an English woman working for (the inherently Basque) EITB, but Angela’s integration after four decades is profound: “To live on a farm in this country, to understand the Basque culture, you have to speak Euskera… So when we came to (Naera Haundi) we decided we would use Basque all the time.”

The entire eleven acres of Naera Haundi, Angela and Jesus Mari planted themselves; trees include apple, quince and pear, though a recent cyclone in the Basque Country blew down fifty in total, twenty-seven of them pear trees, an all too poignant reminder for the couple of the possible effects of climate change. A massive problem, though possibly with a small solution?

“We just can’t continue with the way we’re consuming now,” saying Angela, “eventually we’re all going to have to go back to the 1950s – and that will be a good thing, not only for the planet, but for people’s health, physical and spiritual.”

Start of the last month…

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Another week comes to an end and we’re starting to realize that there are only four of them left. Four weeks to enjoy every moment we have and meanwhile trying to obey our upcoming deadlines. This week didn’t really help doing that, since one of my best friends, Zahra, arrived on Wednesday and stayed until today. No complaints though, I really loved having her over! Continue reading

November, month of visits and work

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Well, it has been quite a while since the last post, time to get back into the blog-vibe. Alas, the flu has caught me by surprise, leaving me sick in bed at the moment. On the bright side: my cousin Anniek, my mum, and her boyfriend Jos came to visit me this week, making me the guide for a few days. Continue reading

Visitors from Belgium, part 2: Swimming in your underwear and partying the night away in Eskoriatza

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This weekend I had two guests in the Basque Country! Sander and Davy came to visit me. After we spent an evening and night in Bilbao, we visited San Sebastian.

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Swimming in San Sebastian

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While the rain is pouring down in Belgium, it’s around 27 degrees in The Basque Country. So yesterday we decided to hit the beach in San Sebastian!

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Waves of happiness

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In my previous post I told you I wanted to enjoy the last bits of post-summer, so that’s what I did in these past days. After a lazy Sunday of recuperating from the weekend, I headed to Donostia again on Monday to spend a day at the beach with Niké and Tiina. Continue reading

Animal Town in Donostia

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The film festival in San Sebastian, that was something that we absolutely did not want to miss. But to spend a complete day in a movie theatre while the sun is doing her extreme best, no that’s maybe a bridge too far. Continue reading

Donostia Zinemaldia!

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Saturday was the last day of the 57th San Sebastian Film Festival. We decided that this was an event we could not miss, so we asked our lagunas (Oihana, Eneko and Irati) to join. We took off in the morning and headed towards the Atlantic.  Continue reading