Gernika Loop Day – 16K
You snooze, you lose . . . literally. We woke a little less early (not late!) and went to breakfast in the hotel restaurant (which was the hotel bar last night), only to find that the ration of breakfast goodies had pretty much been picked through. There were a couple of Danishes on a tray on the bar; next to those goodies were some plain old slices of French bread (ala Olive Garden). I knew from reading the sheet on this hotel that there was something funky about the breakfast. The deal was, the sliced bread was free and the good stuff wasn’t, though we would be reimbursed for whatever we had to pay for.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought any money down. Taking one last look at the chocolate croissant that had my name all over it, I grabbed the key off the table and jogged up the stairs to the room to get some cash. In the few minutes it took, I came down to the same tray—minus my chocolate croissant. “Perdone . . . tiene mas?” I asked the server, pointing to the non-bread part of the tray. The furrowed brow and shake of the head needed no translation. Grabbing the remaining two mediocre pastries, I paid the breakfast-tender and went back to share with Damon. As I passed the other tables, I nonchalantly took an inventory of newly acquired goodies on all plates. And there it was . . . my chocolate croissant sitting on a plate in front of Bay! Damn her (in the nicest possible way).
We rode out on our loop day as a big group—at least I think we did. I’m not 100% sure since I was still thinking about my stolen chocolate croissant, but I remember getting to our first stop the “sort of” beach. The beach was more of a little cove, surrounded by huge boulders. At this point we all sort of did our own thing(s) . . . walking the beach, swimming, watching the pair of sailors . . . .wait, what? Going over my notes from that day, but I don’t remember . . . ah, ooops, can’t read my own writing. We were watching the parasailers (that sounds better). The weather again was perfect . . . 80’s, sunny, beautiful—pretty much the norm for this trip.
We hung there for an hour or so before gathering up our stuff and attempting to get a bite to eat at the local beach shack café. While our group mentality in restaurants—making ourselves at home, moving tables, locking our bikes to anything that didn’t move— was often tolerated because we were going to be a big chunk of business, it was not always the case. Sometimes even the promise of a large food and drink sale wouldn’t endear us to the local restaurateurs. This day for example, as we were moving tables and trying to open windows in the otherwise empty (but for one table) eatery, we were, well . . . yelled at. And even after we stopped moving tables, and assured to the cranky old Spanish man we were willing to play by his house rules, he kept yelling. Having suddenly lost my appetite, I turned to the back room where the man was standing and yelled the only thing I could think of in Spanish—“Gracias, pero no gracias . . . vamanos!” Thanks but no thanks . . . let’s go. How do you say “drama” Spanish?
On to the next beach and actual food. We stopped at a small roadside restaurant siding a beautiful beach. Here once again I was able to use my limited Spanish—for good this time—to get us a table and order some food (big giant chocolate covered croissants—and plenty of them—to make up for this morning). Being the lazy day this was we spent some timing just hanging out.
Wait . . . I’m sensing we are drifting a bit (“we” being you). OK, so every day can’t be an adventure-a-second. To save you from having to relive our easy-peasy day, I’ll just say we had a nice little snack/lunch at the café by the beach, some went swimming, some sat in the sand, and one of us pulled out his MacBook Air and caught-up on email on the shaded patio.
That evening we were promised a spectacular dinner. All we knew was the restaurant was a bit of a trek beyond the city center. We could (should) have hopped in taxis but the weather being as beautiful as it was, we were just going to walk it. We got a couple blocks beyond the main town area and Lyn, our guide, seemed to be getting a bit nervous, “hmm, I was here last year, but don’t remember EXACTLY where or how far it is.” Just then a bus pulled up next to us and we just happened to be standing at a bus stop. “Everybody, on the bus!” Apparently he was starting to remember the true distance to this “amazing” restaurant.
For the next few minutes (seriously) we were attempting to get the 12 of us piad for and on the bus. The looks we were getting were the same looks I give tourists in NYC when they stop suddenly on the sidewalk and look up—at whatever it is tourists see in the sky above Times Square that the locals don’t—causing a chain reaction collision of everyone behind them. Two stops later we were back off the bus.
For the next 15-20 minutes, we wandered the streets of a seemingly upscale residential neighborhood, heading generally in forward direction—and up. Just as it was becoming pitch dark out, we came to the end of a long driveway (we had no idea how long because there were no lights . . . anywhere). A couple more minutes to the top of the drive, we turned a corner and found ourselves in the parking lot of Baserri Maitea, an 18th century Basque country house turned restaurant. I immediately felt out of place. It was such an elegant setting—even from the outside.
As we were all standing in the middle of the gravel parking lot, we were gently nudged aside by a stylish young couple in a shiny black Mercedes. The woman and I locked eyes briefly as they crept by . . . her look was one of pensive curiosity with a dash of fear; I half expected to see her hand come over her shoulder and lock her door. I turned to follow the rest of the group past the subtly backlight garden and into the restaurant. If the parking lot made me feel a bit under-cultured, the restaurant itself had me channeling Julia Roberts’ character in “Pretty Woman” when the saleswoman told her there wasn’t anything there she could afford.
But once we were seated, the restaurant staff couldn’t have been friendlier and the food couldn’t have been any better. Sadly, I didn’t steal a menu like I had in other favorite restaurants, so I won’t be able to give words to the food pics below. Just know that it was the culinary equivalent of a great Christmas morning . . . present after present showing up at the table until we just couldn’t consume another bite.
By the end of the night I think we all had forgiven Lyn for the trek there from the hotel. It’s a good thing we thought to call for taxis to bring us back as I wouldn’t want to . . . huh? No one thought to call to arrange for taxis for the ride home? Seriously?