Pintxos pintxos and more pintxos

I was really excited about going to San Sebastián.

If you were a previous blog reader of mine you know I travelled to San Sebastian where I first met my Spanish friends Javier and Ainara by way of a mutual friend Lauren in 2010.  I was curious about some of the things that I did while I was there so I pulled up my old blog and it was fun to read about Javier and Ainara and their great relationship. I even said that someday they would have “beautiful babies.”  Well fast forward four years later and Javier and Ainara are married and expecting a baby girl in November.  If you are interested in reading about my trip with them four years ago in San Sebastian you can take a look at my old blog post.  I have remained great friends with them and they even stayed with Peter and I last summer in Hermosa Beach.  Javier was picking us up in a couple days in San Sebastián and taking us to Getxo where he and Ainara live, 30 minutes outside of Bilbao.

But first San Sebastian.

I was also really excited because we decided to stay at the same place I had stayed four years prior, Hotel Silken Amara. It was a bit surreal walking into the hotel lobby and trying to imagine myself four years younger with a huge backpack.  I was so grateful to be there now with Peter after all these years later.

One of the most fun things to do in San Sebastián is go to Pintxos bars.













Pintxos is the Basque term for tapas.  Traditionally it’s called pintxos because the food is spiked with a toothpick.  The toothpick is a way for the bartender to know how many pintxos you have eaten.  There is a whole etiquette on eating pintxos, but it can vary a bit depending on the bar.  Some will allow you to pick the food off the bar and go by the honor system.  When it comes time to pay the bill you tell the bartender what you had.  Though the toothpicks tell the story.  Or you ask for a plate and tell the bartender what you want.  He gets it for you, heats it up if need be, then charges you.  However, one thing that was universal – throwing your napkins on the floor.  The more napkins on the floor the more popular the pintxos bar is. Going out for pintxos  is done for socializing.  It’s common for a group of friends or family to go out and eat 1 or 2 pintxos, have a drink, and move on to the next.  Hitting up to 3 places or more.

Before we went out to enjoy this culinary experience I found this article from The Huffington Post that gave us a good amount of guidance on where to go and what to order in San Sebastian.  The woman in the article had done a bunch of leg work on discovering the best pintoxs spots and what to order at each.

When you only speak English and the bartenders do not, add a crowded bar with locals these places can be intimidating.  One of the best moves we made was to watch what everyone else was doing and follow suite.  If I wasn’t going off the suggestion from the article I read I would opt to smile really big at the bartender and say “Que es bueno?” and go with his suggestion.  That game has become really fun.  I never say no to the suggestion.  I’m still playing it one month later in Italy.  Peter and I fumbled our way from Pintoxs bar to Pintoxs bar for two days and had a really fun and interesting time.  We found some favorites for sure.

I also got excited at one place where I saw an old friend from four years prior.  I use the term “old friend” loosely because we aren’t friend as all.  I just recognized him from before and got a kick out of it.  I actually think the last four years has agreed with him.   The first picture is four years ago and the second present day.

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Our favorite spot was a place by the name, Le Mejillonera.  Oh by the way if the denim on denim throws you off in this picture don’t let it.  Denim was the rage in Paris.  Everyone, and I mean everyone there owns a jean jacket.













This was our favorite mainly because two of the dishes there: the mussels and the house special, Bravas.













Not sure if you can tell by the picture (no justice in that picture) but basically the dish is hot chunks of potatoes with a white cream sauce combined with a red spicy sauce.  It is Billy Ocean “get out of my car get into my dreams”, shut the front door, knock your socks off kind of good.  I couldn’t even talk while I ate it.  It was just me and my potatoes.

A very popular drink to have while eating pintxos is Txakoli pronounced chock-oh-lee.  It is a young, dry white Basque wine.  I had this drink previously with Javier and Ainara and remembered really liking it, not just for the taste, but the way the bartenders pour it make it a fun production.  It is poured from height to aerate the wine, decrease carbon dioxide, and increase bubbles.  If the wine isn’t poured this way it won’t taste as good and it really is fun to watch.













The place in the picture above is called La Vina (photo credit Peter) and I read to try the cheesecake here which is a bit of a different suggestion for Spain, but we figured why not.  We weren’t sorry.  It was excellent.













Peter and I didn’t get too daring with our pintxos selections but you certainly can with veel cheeks, pigs nose, and anchovy themed bars.  Also some of the bars served beer with Fanta (which I tried) or Sangria with Coke.  The following are pictures from some of our eating adventures.







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San Sebastian also offers beautiful beaches and hikes.  We took advantage of one these hikes to walk off the damage done at the various spots we dined.  One day we took a nice walk up to Mount Urgull.  It’s a pretty lengthy hike up a winding trail.  Along the way and at the top there are spectacular views of the city and bay.  At the top is Sagrado Corazon which is a massive sculpture of Christ.  Also at the top is a cathedral and museum.  It was fun hike and we really enjoyed the breathtaking views from above.

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After a couple nights in San Sebastian we were off to explore a different area of Spain, Getxo and Bilboa.  Javier was picking us up the next day at noon from our hotel.  I was excited to spend time with my Spanish friends in their hometown.


Much love and two bellies full of pintxos,


  • Becky Lessley

    So I am heading to Europe FAT, and I will be coming back even FATTER. So sad. I am bringing all clothes with an elastic waist band. Comfort while eating is of the utmost importance. So tapas is basically a Spanish appetizer????

  • peter

    Yes tapas is a Spanish appetizer. Pintox is just the Basque term for it. San Sebastián has the Basque influence. Becky Italy is actually way worse with the pizza, pasta, and gelato. Get ready

  • Guest


  • Yes tapas are Spanish appetizers. Becky just you wait for Italy though. It’s all about pizza, pasta, and gelato. Get ready.

  • Courtney Goodin

    Love how much you are eating and drinking and still staying thin and in shape as usual!! Love and miss you, Court

  • Love you too! Trying to incorporate walking and yoga to balance it all out. xo