DRIFT Travel magazine - - Inside This Issue -

An in­sider’s look at what’s to come.

Pin­txos are not as large as tapas, the small plates of Span­ish cui­sine that have be­come ubiq­ui­tous across the U.S., and are de­signed to be just a bite or two, of­ten served on just a nap­kin, not a plate.

And while vis­it­ing a pin­txo bar can be a ca­sual out­ing, there’s a def­i­nite style of pin­txo din­ing that lo­cals prac­tice and trav­el­ers would be wise to ob­serve, a kind of pin­txo pub crawl, if you will.

Here are two pieces of ad­vice-of­fered by Gabriella Ranalli of Tene­dor Tours, which takes tourists on culi­nary ex­cur­sions in San Se­bas­tian--that will help you have the best ex­pe­ri­ence and will keep you from be­ing la­beled a tourist.

1. Eat only one pin­txo at each bar as each has its spe­cialty. Sa­vor it, along with a glass of wine, and move on to the next place.

2. Most pin­txos are served on nap­kins, and the way you dis­pose of the nap­kins will mark you ei­ther as a lo­cal or an out­sider. When you are fin­ished, don’t leave the nap­kin on the bar or look for a garbage con­tainer. To demon­strate true Basque style, raise the nap­kin into the air and throw it to the ground un­der the bar. Don’t just drop it like a kid feed­ing veg­eta­bles to the dog. True lo­cals fling to the floor with flair, take one last swig of wine, and move on to the next place.

San Se­bas­tian is about 60 miles from Bil­bao, the largest city in north­ern Spain’s Basque Au­ton­o­mous Com­mu­nity, which is home to the iconic Guggen­heim Mu­seum, and where there is no short­age of pin­txos. A culi­nary ex­cur­sion can eas­ily in­clude both cities with easy

con­nec­tions via car, bus or train, and enough pin­txos to fill your stom­ach. Ranalli’s Tene­dor Tours of­fers culi­nary-themed ex­pe­ri­ences for trav­el­ers to the Basque re­gion in­clud­ing cook­ing classes, mar­ket trips and vis­its to Basque cook­ing clubs. She’ll even take you on a walk­ing tour of her fa­vorite pin­txo bars in San Se­bas­tian. If you pre­fer to go it on your own, here are some pin­txo bars in the city’s old town that are worth a visit:

Borda Berri on Calle Fer­min for stewed beef cheeks. Tx­epetxa on Calle Pescade­ria for the best an­chovies in town. Bar Nestor on Calle Pescade­ria for the best tor­tilla, a Span­ish egg dish, not a Mex­i­can wrap. Casa Urola on Calle Fer­min Cal­be­ton for ar­ti­choke pinx­tos. Al Fuego Ne­gro on Calle 31 de Agosto for the rice, tomato and egg pinx­tos. In San Se­bas­tian, you must also stop in at the Ho­tel Maria Cristina, a grande dame ex­traor­di­naire, if not for a stay then at least to sa­vor a gin and tonic, one of the ho­tel bar’s spe­cial­ties. An overnight would be a splurge for sure, but it’s ex­tremely luxe and in a great lo­ca­tion.

When­ever I’m in Spain, I try to stay at one of the gov­ern­ment-run paradores, re­fur­bished his­tor­i­cal build­ings turned into ho­tels. About a half hour’s drive from San Se­bas­tian is the Parador de Hon­dar­ribia, one of my fa­vorites. It’s a 10th Cen­tury cas­tle with an es­pe­cially nice feel with views of France. Hon­dar­ribia is a fish­ing vil­lage, a pic­turesque town with stone streets, homey restau­rants, spe­cialty shops and great wa­ter views.

In Bil­bao, the Guggen­heim Mu­seum is a mod­ern art-lover’s dream. But even if that’s not your thing, the mu­seum is en­gag­ing and sur­pris­ing in the way space is used. It’s def­i­nitely worth a visit. A good place to stay is the Gran Ho­tel Silken Domine, which is just across the street from the mu­seum. It’s a luxury spot with a mod­ern art feel and a bit of whimsy in a great lo­ca­tion.

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