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day 11 :

wednesday, 21 september


After walking around "old town" and the La Concha beach promenade in the morning, we managed to find our way to lunch at Arzak, the other Michelin 3-star restaurant of the trip. Once we managed to park our car in their lot ("smallest parking lot in the world," as Dawn put it), we settled in for an amazing three-hour lunch. We each had a different tasting menu, along with an amazing bottle of Baron de Oña 1985 Reserva. One of the most entertaining dishes of the meal was Dawn's "Strawberry Bubbles," in which the server put a tall, cylindrical glass in front of her, then poured in a liquid that reacted with the cold glass to cause a mountain of, you guessed it, strawberry bubbles. Dawn said it tasted like a gourmet version of strawberry Quik that we had as kids. Our meal here was very well-balanced in flavor, beautifully presented, and perfectly portioned, so we did not feel overstuffed when we were finished. We definitely plan to return if we're in San Sebastián again. We also chatted with Juan Mari and Elena, who were both very gracious and charming and were excited to hear us bring greetings from their friends in Seattle.

After lunch, we waited in line for tickets for an evening film (more on this shortly), then after a walk, recovered from lunch with a siesta in our room.

We set out for an early dinner of tapas prior to the film. The description that came to mind tonight as we wandered around the old town and stopped in for tapas is that the whole experience is an exercise in controlled chaos: bartenders slam glasses on the counter, all in a row, and pour the txakolí from on-high, moving from glass-to-glass without pausing and splashing the wine all around; the patrons crowd in like sardines, pushing, some waving money to pay their bills, others yelling out orders for "txakolí!" and "dos brocheta!" Bar Beta Jai's food proved to be just all right, but Goiz Argi is definitely worth going back to - brochetas with gamberi (shrimp toast) were the locals' favorite, and it was one of the best tapas dishes we had on the trip.

San Sebastián (called Donostia in Euskera, the language of the Basque country) was celebrating the 53rd Donostia International Film Festival during this week. We decided to see what it was all about and attended a showing of Terry Gilliam's new film Tideland. We chose this movie because one of Eric's favorite movies is Gilliam's classic movie Brazil, and we thought it might be nice to see something in English so we could understand it (films were required to have only Spanish subtitles). The movie certainly fit in with Gilliam's unique film style. Besides seeing Terry Gilliam in the theater, our other star-sighting occurred as we were leaving the theater: Angelica Huston (this year's head chairperson of the festival) walked right in front of us along the red carpet on her way to her limo. She's a lot taller than we expected - with heels, she was many inches taller than Eric!

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