Pronounced Za-rOW-tz, this seaside town was a charming lunch break after our Txakolí visit in nearby Getaria, even on an overcast day.
Having spent the past few days exploring San Sebastián, Athena and I decided to take our first bus ride and venture out to Hondarribia, a small fishing village near the aeropuerto. A twenty minute bus ride (if you take the I-2 direct from Plaza Gipuzkoa in San Sebastián to Hondarribia) will land you in the charming little town on the coast of Spain and France (Hendaye is just a ferry away!). I’ve never been to Germany before but the architecture in Hondarribia, characterized by the small white houses with stark, contrasting trim, seemed very German. After googling ‘german house’, it seems my observations are not so absurd, eh?
Our mission? As always, pintxos. First stop: Enbata, the 2006 champion of the Gipuzkoa pintxo contest.
Conveniently located right off a major street, Calle San Pedro, Enbata was an easy find. The friendly staff made it even easier to order. I had the “tapa del día” to start:
Txipiron parilla con crema de arroz
Baby squid for brunch? Sí! The tentacles were nicely charred for that back-of-your mouth bitter delight. Athena had something more practical and brunch-like:
Txistorra con huevos y patatas
Basque sausage with eggs and potatoes–can’t go wrong with those. We both agreed that although tasty, these pintxos were still sub-par compared with what we’ve been having in San Sebastián. Friends and critics have been raving about Hondarribia’s food culture. Does it shut down on tuesdays? Apparently so.
I followed my squid with ‘crispy mushrooms,’ assuming I would get a dish of delicious, Basque hongos which have yet to disappoint. Womp womp…I should have known better. There is an obsession with deep frying in the Basque country, including tempura-battering and spring-roll wrapping. Is it an attempt to be more Asian? Or more American? Poor choice on my part. Overly oily on theirs.
We wandered down the street to Gran Sol, a pintxo bar recommended by the NY Times, Michelin Guide 2011 and a friend. Good things come in three, yes?
This ‘birdy’ pintxo sitting on the counter should have been the first clue of imminent disappointment but no, we ordered regardless.
I had the 2006 award-winning bacalao ahumado:
I enjoyed the combination of red bell pepper and foie. The sweetness paired nicely with the foie without overpowering it, without making it a ‘sweet’ dish. I believe the cod was smoked, which I tasted not even the tiniest hint of, and the marmelade was an unnecessary afterthought. Athena had a bite and claimed it was better than her cold foie pintxo:
At that point I realized tuesdays in January are certainly not optimal pintxo-hopping days in Hondarribia and my time would be better spent practicing my photography and searching for the castle, Parador, and having an afternoon café there.
We took a few escalators to see where they might lead us:
We found ourselves at the top of a hill, gazing at the panorama of terracotta-shingled houses:
The view across the water extended to Hendaye. Next time we will make it to France, perhaps for le weekend. Eventually we found the Parador atop another hill:
We popped in for some less-than-mediocre café but in all honesty our intentions were to use their clean restrooms, check out the stunning view and explore the castle:
If you’re in Hondarribia, definitely take a hike up to Parador and mosey around, especially if everything is closed for siesta or you happen to come during low-season like in January. There are great views of the sea and you can go meandering the old, wobbly-stoned streets lined with bars, restaurants, antique shops, and the like.