So, wow. I’m not in my early 20s anymore. Nor do I have the stamina of someone who is. Of course, I’ve known this for a long time but it was especially clear when we arrived in San Sebastian.
We left Philadelphia around 6pm and arrived, a little over 6 hours later, at 7am in Madrid. That’s 1 am where we flew from and according to our bodies. We got off the plane, collected our one checked bag and then hopped in a rental car to drive 5 hours to San Sebastian.
Did you get that? That’s well over 24 hours without any sleep. Better yet, that’s DRIVING on no sleep, through the middle of Spain. You might be thinking something like, “Oh, that sounds so exciting and I’ll bet the scenery was so pretty!” *Cue laughter* I mean, of course it was interesting but the scenery was pretty much just flat lands and open country without much to look at, not to mention the gazillion roundabouts which are really hard to navigate when you’re trying to listen to a very bad GPS system instead of just looking at maps and finding your own way. We went through each roundabout twice, and some just to get back to the previous roundabout. Mind you, I’ve driven in Europe before – all over Southern Spain and up and down Portugal, and from Prague to Amsterdam, but when I was younger, when I had only maps to serve as a guide and oh, yeah… when I wasn’t sleep deprived! (Although, it wasn’t me driving this time, either, it was Mr Nikki.)
PLUS, I had fond memories of driving around listening to wacky European radio, but there was none of that where we were driving. So we had a good couple of hours of absolute silence until I finally figured out how to get the iPod auxiliary thing to work. I’m surprised we lived to tell the tale.
But that sounds like I’m complaining, doesn’t it? Not at all. It was an adventure! Plus, I love renting cars in Europe because you get stick shift. American rental car companies don’t do stick, only automatics and I HATE driving automatics, with a vengeance. (Mr Nikki has a fancy sports coupe, which is an automatic because he expected to spend a lot of time stuck in LA traffic. Well, he barely drove the car but he’s happy to have an automatic for long drives. Not me. I refuse to drive the thing – I stick to our “family” car, which is standard transmission, the only thing I’ve ever really driven. Even during the years where I commuted to Philadelphia through the infamous blue route traffic, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.)
But we did see a few of these, which popped up when you least expected it and was always a delight:
And once we got within Pais Vasco and closer to San Sebastian, it was lots of windy roads through misty, lush, green moutains with sheep dotted all over (and the occasional horse). Though the many huge trucks that went barreling past you (or behind you) were a little intimidating at times.
We were glad that we only had to drive around the perimeter of Madrid, from the airport, because Madrid is insane as far as driving goes. When we finally arrived in San Sebastian, however – also not easy. Not overwhelmed with traffic, but if you know anything about European streets – tiny, weird directions, roundabouts… We got *this close* to the hotel, then got stuck heading away from San Sebastian until we found our way back. Luckily we planned to only walk around town, using the car for the couple day trips we had planned.
We stayed at the Hotel Maria Cristina, one of the (or the most?) well known hotels in San Sebastian. (I think Gwyneth Paltrow and company stayed there during the “Spain: On the Road Again” filming.) Before, I’d always been the type to stay in hostels and tiny, cheaper hotels without much service, but my husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to things like this. This hotel is a 4 star super luxury hotel and I have to admit… it was pretty darned nice to stay in such a place. The staff was wonderful, the service was impeccable, the rooms were nice and you couldn’t beat the view or location. We were right on the river, with a view of it, everything was within walking distance (well, I’m a walker and there isn’t much that ISN’T within walking distance for me when I travel) and the ocean was right off to the side. And OH! I had a wonderful time speaking Spanish all week. Obviously, I don’t get to do that very often.
The only disappointment, for me, was that I AM NOW OLD. So we basically lost an entire day. We arrived at the hotel in the early/mid afternoon, but I was so zonked that I went right to bed and didn’t wake up until 8pm. At least we got in a good stroll but missed a night of pintxos hopping. I still sorely regret not getting in enough eating (I’ll explain the pintxos hopping in the next post), however the fact that we ate at a MICHELIN STAR RESTAURANT totally makes up for it. The best restaurant in Spain, at that. I mean, how many people get to say they’ve eaten at a Michelin in their lifetime? Incredible. Just… INCREDIBLE. But that deserves a post all in itself, which it will get.