Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 4: Pintxos for Breakfast, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Pintxos for Dinner and Partying in San Sebastian

We made our first pintxos stop at Bar Aralar, conveniently located on the same street as our Pension, for a quick breakfast bite before catching the Pesa bus to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, about 1 hour away from San Sebastian (10 euros).
In the pintxos bars of San Sebastian, the cold pintxos are displayed on the bar and you can just help yourself to whatever looks good and settle up with the barman at the end
It was a typically rainy gray day in Bilbao, but I still thought the Guggenheim was beautiful.  I'm a big fan of Frank Gehry and the scale of the Guggenheim is very impressive.  I love how different the building looks from all angles and the evocative feeling of the big swoopy lines.  It's quite magnetic, totally makes you want to reach out and touch it or give it a hug.  The art was fine, my favorite part was the Richard Serra room, "The Matter of Time."  It was just so powerfully unique; art and an experience that deeply affected your sense of perception and balance; very all encompassing.
Look at the tiny people, like ants
Z's favorite creepy spider
Jeff Koons' Puppy, covered in pansies this time of year.  The front entrance of the Guggenheim
Cool Jenny Holzer installation. I like how it is permanently integrated into the museum
Image from the Guggenheim website of the Richard Serra's "The Matter of Time."  One of those pieces that needs to be experienced in person to truly feel it.  You actually walk through all the coils and pieces which tower over you, caving in and out.  It was a relatively quiet day so we were able to really immerse ourselves in this room.
After the Guggenheim, we headed back to San Sebastian for what we expected to be a rather low key night of pintxos sampling.  After all, it was Sunday night and many places were either already closed or closed early.  Also, it was February, so many pintxos bars were closed for the month.  Unfortunately, there were a ton of pintxos bars that I was really looking forward to try, but didn't have the chance. Just an excuse for a return visit to San Sebastian! We went to a couple of places on Pescadaria and Augusto 31, including Tamboril, Bar Martinez and Casa Gandarias.  In general we preferred the hot pintxos that you had to order off the menu over the cold ones at the bar. We drank plenty of Txacoli, the local Basque slightly effervescent white wine, similar to Vinho Verde, before moving on to vino tinto and cocktails later on in the evening.
Mushrooms with lots of garlic at Tamboril, which is known for its champis
The spread at Tamboril
Bar Martinez, from left the first skewer is one of San Sebastian's classic pintxos, an olive, anchovy and peppers. Then some jamon on toast, shrimp and egg, and stuffed zucchini or eggplant pintxos
Warm octopus dish with potatoes, delicious!
Another favorite: warm skewered squid in its ink from Casa Gandarias
In the front, anchovies over red pepper with a little pepper relish and then anchovies with blue cheese in the back, nice and pungent
Foie Gras, so relatively cheap in Spain!
More Casa Gandarias, nice guy
Warm shrimp pintxo
All the pintxos bars were closing and we were ready to call it a night when we started chatting with these local jazz musicians at the bar.  They were quite entertaining and took us to a nice nearby jazz bar (where they will be performing in a few weeks), Altxerri.  We had a great time, listening to great music, drinking lots of vodka coke and lemon juice, and chatting.  Fortunately for me, they also spoke French and English.
Jamming with tamborines because that's what musicians do
At that point, we were definitely ready to call it a night, as it was Sunday night around 2am or so.  However, on our short walk home to our Pension, we started chatting with these Spanish college girls outside of the same bar that we were at the previous night on San Juan street (I believe) and they convinced us to grab a drink with them inside and we got adopted by them and their big group of friends.  I really like that bar (never got the name); they play really fun, happy, peppy Spanish music that is great to dance to and sing-along to (I didn't know the words but everyone else in the bar seemed to).  The bar ended up closing shortly after we got there, so the barman poured our drinks into plastic cups and we walked to another bar / club a few blocks away, Be Bop Bar where we danced the night away, somehow making it back to our Pension thankfully before dawn.  Really random night, filled with meeting lots of new interesting friends, so fun!
Not surprisingly, most of the photos turned out like this.  I swear it's because the bar was dark, not operator error!

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