After farewelling pretty Portugal, we boarded our next overnight train with bated breath, the memory of the last overnight train persisting..
However, this time we had fortunately remembered to book a cabin with actual beds. In fact, things went so smoothly on the 12 hour trip to San Sebastián that we slept right the way through, waking up only 15 minutes before our destination station!
We found ourselves on the banks of the river winding through the city to the coastline, and experiencing a distinctly chillier climate than we had so far been enjoying. We managed to duck into a cafe seconds before the heavens opened and drenched the sidewalks. Luckily our next air BnB host took pity on us and collected us in his car to save us lugging our stuff up the very steep streets in the rain.
Eventually the rain stopped, and we set out to explore to beautiful city which, as we discovered, was not the rustic surfer town I had expected (we had clearly over estimated our abilities to learn how to surf) but a sophisticated, chic city, encompassing beautiful beaches, excellent food, (shopping), and Parisian architecture – I quickly decided that if I was moving overseas, this would be the spot!
So to my favourite topic: the food! San Sebastián is famous for pintxos – or tapas. Eaten as an aperitif from 830pm to tide over famished Spainards from their very late (3-4pm) lunch to their extremely late (10-12pm) dinners, bars and restaurants of the Old City set out plates filled with tiny, beautifully constructed morsels. It’s typical to take one or two from one place before moving on and trying some thing new at a different place, pairing everything with some delicious Spanish wine. By the time we were done though, there was no way we were going to be able to stay for a dinner, so tempting did everything look!
In a city with everything, the beaches are obviously beautiful. There are two, a surf beach to the right of the city, and a sandy swimming beach to the left. A promenade flanks the entire beach, and we strolled to the end and caught the funicular to the top to check out the view, discovering on arrival that it was a prime location to watch the boat race that was going on.
By then, the day had heated up and we lay out our towels for our last beach day of the trip.
From San Sebastián we crossed the border into France. Our first stop was an impossibly short stay in Bordeaux, where the highlight was a half day wine tour to the Entre-Deux-Mers wine region. We visited two Chateaus that had been in their families for generations. One in particular was built in the 17th century and included an incredible limestone cave that served as a cellar – the limestone interior naturally maintaining a consistent temperature perfect for ageing the wine.
Next on the agenda was Lyon, the so called culinary capital of France, and therefore a must do for this hungry couple!
We booked a market tour and cooking class with @chef_lyon who taught us how deceivingly difficult those light, crispy (buttery!) croissants and brioche are to make. But we persevered and the next day we enjoyed our very own homemade pain au chocolates and croissants for breakfast!
Also fabulous was the recommendations for where to go for traditional Lyonnaise and French food in Lyon, which did not disappoint! Kelly and I entered an unassuming restaurant with a multitude of mural painted rooms, and an extensive French menu. The star was the Lyon croquette – described as a soufflé crossed with gnocchi – served in a lobster sauce. This came piping hot and exquisite – quickly becoming the highlight of trip!
After three nights exploring Lyon, we trained on to Chambery to visit my cousin who is currently ensconced in the adorable French village with a rugby contract. Despite arriving on the first rainy weekend he had seen (something of a theme me for this leg of the trip – we also got drenched in Bordeaux!) we had a fabulous time watching his team play (and win!), experiencing a taste of the local nightlife, and exploring the winding streets and history of the village. I almost came home alone, such was Kelly’s height, the fact he was from NZ and acquainted with David, that a rugby contract was seemingly imminent! Nevertheless, it was such a treat to catch up with family abroad.