When we planned our trip we purposely made the plan to drive the Basque Coast. The drive between San Sebastian and Bilbao was only an hour, but we thought it would be a lot of fun to make a day of it. This way we could see a part of the country that we would have otherwise missed. I couldn’t be more glad that we decided to do this. We chatted about going through the mountains and experiencing a town that Anthony Bourdain went to on his No Reservations: Spain episode. We tried to get a reservation for lunch at Extebarri, but it was already booked for that day. I was honestly a little sad because I wanted to have that experience, but things always work out how they are meant to. This time that statement couldn’t have been more real.
We accidentally took the wrong turn on a round-about just outside of San Sebastian and ended up on the road that led straight up the coast. We had not completely anticipated this part of the trip, and looking back I wouldn’t change one thing. To this day I still have no idea the names of towns where we stopped. Each one was so small, and they were all dispersed amongst bays along the coast that I could not figure it out looking back at the map.
The moment we realized that we were headed up the coast and taking the long way, we embraced the moment and decided to just enjoy the journey. We became really hungry and decided that our pastry breakfast was not enough to hold us through the road trip so we stopped in a town that seemed to be pretty bustling. We drove through the heart of it and saw so much life happening in the main square. We figured there had to be food somewhere.
Once again we were not disappointed by northern Spain, and we found streets full of people pouring glasses of txakoli from high above their heads. The smell of burning wood under grills covered in freshly caught fish and the hoards of locals simply enjoying the day gave us energy to enjoy. We decided to stop at Iribar Jtatxea and grabbed glasses of txakoli and ordered some grilled prawns to share.
Truthfully we would have paid anything to have something grilled up right in front of us that had just come from the coast. So, there we stood in the alley with hundreds of locals watching the chef prep and cook our prawns in less than 15 minutes. The smell was amazing, but what was even more amazing was how simple and pure every bit of the process was. Yes, they were amazing, but there was no secret ingredient other than the purest, highest quality, and the freshest ingredients involved. We had fallen for the olive oil in this country, but experiencing it here in this small town some how felt special in a whole new way.
There we sat in this quaint alley, the sound of guitar picking echoing through a tunnel to the sea only steps away. The scent of the salted chilled air was all around us. I am not sure there was anything more pure and beautiful than that moment enjoying that food. It felt extremely wonderful, and for the simple price of a few euros it was our’s to enjoy.
We jumped back in the car after we finished our lunch and wandered a little. We watched surfers catching the waves in each bay as we passed. In some small way we felt apart of this gorgeous country even if it was just for a few moments.
After 30 minutes or so, we decided to make another small pit stop at the next town we felt looked pretty fun. Again I am not sure which town we stopped in (our map was not loading) but we nabbed some americanos and cappucinos and sat and enjoyed our little spontaneous journey.
If anything this trip has taught me a lot about enjoying the simplest of moments. More than anything we have been trying to find peace and contentment with the present. There is nothing like traveling to help teach you that. Americans are pretty terrible at enjoying the process I have learned because we constantly are looking for the final product. I am truly trying to let go and realize it doesn’t all have to happen right now. In fact there is true beauty in accepting the present and breathing it in and letting go of anything else that stands in the way of accepting now.
There are moments where looking toward the end goal are important, but there must be a balance of it all. At this point in our travels, I felt our experiences were finally starting to sink in to me in a deep way. It may have taken over a week, but this ride along the coast was where I began to feel a change. I was beginning to feel released enough to let myself think and ask the tough things I had wanted to ask myself. Maybe it was all the fresh air away from the cities, or maybe it was simply I had finally begun to feel comfortable in our trip. I am not sure, but this drive began to get me stewing on my thoughts.
I don’t know if you necessarily have to travel far from home to clear your head, but I think it works for us. I find that many times I cannot remove myself from the everyday when I am home in order to allow myself the time I need to entertain tough questions.
I was becoming worried that those “ah ha” moments were not going to come. There in the car driving along one of the most beautiful coasts in the world, I began to feel myself letting go enough to begin the process of discovering what I had come to discover. Whether what I would find within myself while I was here was what I expected or not, the process was beginning, and that felt really good. It just amazes me what travel can do to your soul. The challenges and the discomforts bring about such deep honesty in yourself. Removing all that stands in the way brings you to a pretty real place with yourself.
As drove into the outskirts of Bilbao, I felt that I was truly beginning the second half of this trip. I felt I had waded through the thick muck to finally get to where I wanted to be on this trip.