The 11:14 to Vittoria
The 14:11 to Pamplona
I had purposed my walkabout through San Sebastian to include finding my way to the station for the Pamplona train ( a different station than the one I'd arrived at from Bilbao).
I arrived early and in plenty of time for the Vittoria leg of the trip, but the ticket agent insisted the next train to Pamplona left at 16:10. I used my Rail Planner to show him otherwise, and I was soon off.
Feeling a bit peckish upon arrival in Vittoria (my cheese and cracker packets I'd brought with me as emergency backups were crumbly but not filling). I needed to find a cafe close enough to the station, since my connection to Pamplona had only an hour of wait time. There was one right across the street, but I needn’t have worried about the time; the Pamplona train was an hour late. I arrived in Pamplona a little leg weary from the delay, so I cabbed it to the hotel, and went looking for dinner.
I am now completely epicureanly adjusted to tapas. First the variety of choices is dazzling. Imagine a hoity-toity New York art or charity gathering with upscale heavy hor d'oeuvres and snotty people you don't want to talk to. That's your typical tapas bar: make your selection from a yellow brick road of delectibles, ranging from big fat mussels, to juicy meatballs, seafood salads and beyond. Then find an empty table and feast in beautiful solitude.
(The origin of tapas revolves around a Spanish nobleman of common sensibilities, who’d been roped into one of those New York artsy-fartsy parties. Forced to tilt at windmills to fit in with the insufferable guests just to get a good bite to eat, the nobleman returned to Spain with what he believed was a better idea. Don't look this up, just trust me, okay? I do do my research!)
Then came steak night. Burned by my previous experiences with steak in France (see: My beef with the French) I was wary ordering a steak in Spain. But the picture on the menu was so mouth-watering, I couldn't resist. This time a picture was worth a thousand words, or chews, and a beautifully charbroiled T-bone was set before me, pre sliced just as mom used to do.
To say it was rare, though, would be a severe understatement. I've heard of cold centers, but the center of this steak had its own air conditioning. It was so rare, I needed three veronica passes over it with my napkin to set it's head and horns properly before applying the moment of truth with my steak knife. I think, though, Hemingway would have approved of my handling of the beast. It is possible to eat a steak in a way that is good and true, if one has the courage.
Speaking of Hemingway, he still owns this town, as I was to learn the following day with my plan to walk the route of the running of the bulls, and only have to imagine the thundering herd bearing down on me.