Sept. 3-4: San Sebastián
It’s taken the usual 24 hours for me to get over the sudden panic that sets in when you don’t feel your jewelry on your hands or wrists, They’ve all been left home for safe keeping, along with nail polish and most of my makeup, It will take another day for me to settle into the “Camino me.”
San Sebastián is one of those cities blessed with a beach in its center, The Bay of Biscay, the lovely parks and the lively Old Town make it sparkle. The joy and exuberance of the locals overflows from the bars and restaurants into the streets, as families and friends gather, standing or sitting on steps, and children play quietly nearby. Nary a sweatsuit to be seen, there’s an air of sophistication in everyone’s dress, even down to the babies,
We choose to stay at the Hotel Distrito Oeste, since it’s closer to the Camino start and walking distance to the square. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it’s white, stark, minimalist style is relaxing. The staff is very friendly and accommodating, even taking the time to explain why the whole city is dressed in the colors of their favorite boat racing teams this weekend.
Sept. 5: Zarautz- 13.5 miles
One minute we are walking through a lovely neighborhood and all of a sudden we find ourselves on a single path in the woods going straight up! Every once in a while, the Bay of Biscay peeks out, but there’s only time for a quick glance, Our total focus is on navigating the ups and downs and the rocks and boulders. For what seems like hours, we are in a meditative state, only looking up to say “Buen Camino” (good walk) to other pilgrims as they pass by. Lunch is a much welcome respite and we enjoy dining with a pilgrim from Washington D.C.
Zarautz is a beach town and a surfing mecca in the Basque region. The Pension Tixki Polit is rather basic, but the staff overwhelms us when they agree to do our laundry, but will not accept payment. We settle on purchasing them cold Coca Colas and everyone is happy.
The hotel is located right on the Musika Plaza. Every town, regardless of size, has a plaza, which brings people together with food, drink and music. We are surprised the revelry has continued so late on a Monday night, until we’re told tomorrow is a holiday in celebration of the 500th anniversary of a famous voyage to the new world by an explorer of Basque origin.
Sept 6: Itziar- 12 miles
We breakfast with a young Danish man, who convinces us an app is better than the book we are relying on and kindly sets us up with a Camino travel app. We start the day on a walking path along the Atlantic Ocean, this time able to take in the incredible views and greet passersby with a smile and an “Hola” (hello/hi).
We head up, in and out of the woods, sometimes withj spectacular views of the ocean or verdant farmlands, whose squares of various colors of green beam in the sunlight. This is about the time I remember the saying we came up with on our last Camino- In Spain, what comes up must go up!
We share our joke with a couple from Ireland and find we are staying at the same hotel. With no sign outside, we cross our fingers and hope this first building at the beginning of town is our final destination. Turns out, it is the Hotel Kanala!
Again, though the rooms are rather plain, the lovely welcome we receive and the inviting bar and dining room make up for it. There’s nothing nearby, so we’re in for the night and dine with our new Irish friends.
We are surprised by the elegant meal, from the delicious amuse bouche we begin with to the end of the meal, where what looks like a small mint on a plate becomes a warm towel once the waiter pours a bit of hot water on it.
Sept. 7: Extebarria- 17 miles
The single path of moss covered rocks and the trees canopied above make it look like an enchanted forest. All day, it’s a gradual incline that just keeps inclining! The click of our hiking poles on the ground, an occasional rooster crow or a cow bell is all we hear.
When we ask a woman for directions to our hotel, she insists on walking us there, probably thinking these hot, tired peregrinos (pilgrims) need a break. We warmly thank her and come upon an incredible stone building in the countryside.
The Hotel Antsotegi was a 600 year old foundry, now renovated into a country inn. The massive stone walls, wooden beams and rustic furniture make you want to stay and relax there a while, but we had to be content with the festive dinner we shared with our new friends from Ireland and Denmark, who all happened to be staying there, too. Who knows if we’ll ever see each other again, but tonight, we’re a Camino family.