Following an amazing night’s sleep at Hotel Torre Zumeltzegi (the Count’s home now converted to a hotel), I woke up to this rather mystical looking sight below, which by the way, works better than any cup of caffeine when it comes to making you awake and ready to face the day but first things first – pigging out on the huge breakfast laid out by the hotel!
Watered and fed, we jumped into the car and head out to a seaside town called Pasaia… To be entirely honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the town but it was pretty clear from the get go that people make the most of being by the sea side here. Everyone seemed to have boats here and the first thing I remember seeing was a rowing team heading our for practise (or a competition) cheered on by their families…
QUICK TIPS ON VISITING GIPUZKOA
1.) Bring your appetite with you! People eat a lot here but still manage to stay so slim and it appears the trick here is to eat slowly (meals last for hours) and get out more. Exercise here is a way of life – not a preplanned act like heading out to the gym and this makes staying fit more fun! (I’ve decided to incorporate a few lessons here by doing things like walking to nearby-ish places instead of hopping on a bus and taking the stairs more. Let’s see if I can shake off this extra summer weight – right before putting it back on for winter 🙂 ). Boy do I digress – as I was saying, bring your appetite with you when visiting the Basque Country as you will leave every single meal stuffed!
2.) Pack n umbrella! The weather is pretty amazing all year round here but in winter, the weather is a lot more erratic BUT there’s good news here – the crazy weather lasts like all of five minutes so you can carry on your day like nothing happened!
3.) Be prepared to dump your car/bus and explore places at a slower and more leisurely pace. Not because you have to but because you’ll want to! It’s so pretty here and the best way to truly make the most of everything is to explore even the tiniest nooks and cranny!
So where was I? Right? We went off exploring the side streets and alley ways of Pasaia…
Check out those little crabs!
After taking our sweet time exploring Pasaia’s quaint streets, we finally arrived at our venue for lunch – Restaurante Ziaboga. The plan was get lessons in cooking and eating seafood! Awww, who am I kidding – while I may need lessons in cooking seafood, I like to consider myself quite the expert in eating seafood!
How cool is this wall made of wooden wine boxes?!
We headed out to the kitchen where we met this American lad who left to travel across Europe when he was 18 preparing the most gigantic swordfish I’ve ever seen. I had no clue swordfish were even that big!
Then we piled ourselves out of the kitchen to the restaurant (which wasn’t open yet) to get notes from the experts in seafood preparation!
Look how intently Lloyd is listening!
So much so that he didn’t realise he’s gotten fish gunk all over his white shoes! You should have seen the look of shock on his face when he found out! 🙂 Lesson number 1 in preparing fish – Dress appropriately! 🙂
Then there was this scary creature – the monkfish. Monkfish is so expensive in the UK (and pretty much everywhere else in the world) and although I’d heard about it (and even did a project on then in Uni), I’d never seen one before.
Then there was this other fish – I’ve actually forgotten the name now! That monkfish was so distracting.
And there was this hake. (I remembered the name of this one!) By any standards, also quite terrifying looking but this fish does not hold up a torch to the monkfish in the scariness stakes!
All the while we were listening to the chef, the kitchen was buzzing with activity in preparation for the restaurant’s opening…
And tada – the doors were open!
We opted to sit outside, it was quite warm and the sun had popped out in full force. We started with anchovies, crusty bread, lots of butter and white wine! There were two versions of anchovies here – 1.) the ones marinated in saltwater and oil and 2.) The freshly battered ones – each one equally quite tasty!
Then the calamari arrived! It was piping hot and soooooooo delicious!
Then the squid prepared in squid ink. Sounds strange (after all we were all told not to eat ink in school) but tastes absolutely delicious! (Side note – I love how rustic the dish looks as well, it’s like one of those dishes you’d have at home, chipped in the corner but still works a storm and serves up a tasty treat (after being popped in the oven). You sometimes think to yourself “I should replace it” but you know you never will because it’s become one of your favourite dishes.)
Wine-a-flowing… we then received an unexpected and delightful surprise!
The monkfish, smelling utterly delicious, covered in garlic, herbs and some of the most delicious seasoning you’ll ever taste, arrived! On account of how expensive the fish is (especially the cheeks of the fish -which is a deicacy) I can say I wasn’t expecting this at all!
Portions were quickly doled out (which was quite fortunate as I’m sure I’d have lunged for the fish if the lady wasn’t quick enough) 🙂
Monkfish totally savoured and relished – next up came the hake! Served with roasted peppers, garlic and even more delicious herbs, we all quickly tucked in!
The restaurant was buzzing with guests now – tourists and locals alike…
That 5 minute rain we spoke about earlier popped up so we headed back in doors! (Just noticed Milou and Lloyd with their phones almost surgically attached to their hands – though with the food we’d had so far, not taking photos for instagram would be a crime.. 🙂 )
Then dessert arrived! Dessert was Pantxineta which is a popular Basque Country dessert with cream covered in delicate puff pastry topped with freshly chopped nuts and finished off with sugar glacé. It was sooooooooo good! I need to find a way to recreate this dessert at home.
We finished off with some coffees (much needed after eating all that food) and said our farewells to our fantastics hosts at Restaurante Ziaboga for a delightful afternoon and some really amazing food!!!
If you do visit (or indeed have visited), please do let me know what meal(s) you decide to have! 🙂