April 2, 2018

Paella, the rich man's jambalaya

Paella, the rich man’s jambalaya

The E1 to San Sebastian

  Thanks to HUMINT from my new patrons at the
Bilbao tourism office, I was able to travel to San Sebastian for four euros and
in just two and a half hours aboard Basque lightrail. My way, via Eurail’s Rail
Planner, would have cost thirty euros and taken more than four hours on the
state run railway. By the time I left Bilbao, I had taken its busses, trams,
funicular and lightrails, all for about ten or so euros total.

  GPS and I had another round of ring around the
rosey finding the hotel in San Sebastian,  turning essentially an L square
that was the actual path from the train station into something more like a
rhombus. But we found the place. It was strategically located across from a
square housing three tapas bars. The shared bathroom was down the hall (yes!),
separate from the other guest rooms, as God had intended.

  A good town to walk in (meaning one in which,
even with GPS, you can’t get lost) I set about the environs of San Sebastian to
see the scenery bur avoid any activity resembling sightseeing.

  From all the surfers walking through town,
boards and wetsuits in hand, you might think you were in a beach town in
southern California. San Sebastian’s center city beach cut a wide swath off
it’s main square, and while it was almost to cold and damp for a walk, it was
evidently perfect weather for surfing. I, however, had bigger fish to fry than
hanging ten or having a thirty-footer hitting me upside the head. I had
declared today Paella Day, mostly because it had occurred to me that my days in
Spain were rapidly becoming numbered.

The beach at San Sebastian

The beach at San Sebastian

"If everybody had an ocean..."

“If everybody had an ocean…”

El Condor Pasa

El Condor Pasa

  The buskers were setting up in the main square
(It has a name, but…well, you know). One in particular was worth watching set
up. He was a one man mariachi band of Andean appearance and dress. His act
consisted of a legging of small seashells that served the role of a tambourine,
a guitar, ukulele, drums and a horn pipe, along with two marionettes that
somehow he managed to have keep perfect time with him on their play guitars. He
tuned up using a cell phone app.The little kids in the crowd were captivated by
the puppets, and the adults became so with the actual person, when he struck up
a heart thrumming version of El Condor Pasa.

  A waitress along the square (should anyone
look up the name, could you PM me with it?) pointed me in the direction of the
Paella restaurant, as she had clearly done for hundreds of other clueless
Americans. I had to nurse a beer for about twenty minutes before the 1 o’clock
serving time, but the wait was worth it.

The very beautiful square,  Whatsitsname

The very beautiful square, Whatsitsname

  The yellow rice (saffron?) was gummy and
there was no chicken, but everything else was a wonderful blend of flavors and
scents. There were mussels, clams, squid, scallops and shrimp, all concealed
around and within the mound of delicately flavored rice to be uncovered and
happily discovered, much like opening the paper windows in an Advent calendar.
Sorry, Minch, but even with the rice more like the crafts paste we ate in
kindergarten, this paella was better than any jambalaya I ever had.
  I can leave Spain now with one of my major
goals having been achieved. The other will die aborning. Jan Morris’s Spain was never translated into
Spanish, so it wasn’t going to be available in any of the Spanish bookstores
I’d entered. I know I can get a hard copy through Amazon (my new favorite
corporate leviathan in light of recent events), but it feels like cheating somehow.
Plus, I would have liked to have had Jan along for my Spanish travels, again to
be reminded for all that I had missed.

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