Islamic terror ... Lanta style

Islamic terror ... Lanta style
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Farewell to San Sebastian

And so, on the morning after the World Cup triumph, it was time to bid farewell to the beautiful city of San Sebastian which had been my home for the past four and a half weeks.
In some ways I was sad to say goodbye, and the first bit of drizzle in three weeks reflected my mood as I boarded the train to Barcelona for the next stage of my 12 month adventure.
Last night, Sunday, was the first time I saw anybody celebrate Spain's remarkable progress through the World Cup, and to judge by quite a few locals in the Auld Dubliner, not everyone was pleased when Iniesta fired home the game's only goal against Holland.
In an instant, the Barcelona man became a national legend. But many of the Basques, blinded by tribal hatred, could only see disaster in the victory of the despised national team.
In the Old Town, earlier in the day, huge posters had gone up to remind tourists that this was not Spain. Yes, for many people, supporting La Roja is an act of treason and there were few red shirts to be seen down around La Concha beach throughout the day.
It must be really weird for the local hero, Xabi Alonso, to play for a 'national' side which is despised by many of his neighbours . . .
But, suddenly, in the minutes after the game, the mood changed. People took to their cars, horns beeping, to celebrate ... even if the celebrations lacked the intensity you'd find elsewhere in the country.
Anyway, I had a brilliant last night in one of my favourite European cities. I had met my cousin Ian, his wife Isobel, and their 18 month old son Arthur for lunch, vino, and a swim in the sea in the afternoon and hooked up with half a dozen new friends in the pub for the game.
Ian could not believe how few Spanish flags there were around the city. In fact, there were far more blue and white banners of Real Sociedad, who won promotion to La Liga a month earlier.
The atmosphere was good in the Aul Dubliner, owned by Margaret and her Basque partner, even if some Basques wore Dutch colours and some of those in red were from Ireland or England.
Soon it was time to bid farewell to lovely Norwegian couple Cigi and Christian, Scottish teacher Mellisa, fellow Galwegian Eoin, and veteran English teacher Jon, whose insights into Basque life were intriguing over the four weeks since I first met him, watching a game.
I was not a bit sad to say goodbye to my psychotic house-mate who had criticised me endlessly over the four weeks and even decided to clear out my room, putting all my personal belongings into bags, on the Sunday afternoon.
I complained to the school, twice, and I'm sure I will enjoy telling tales in the future about her obsessions and compulsions.
Let's just say that she didn't like buying things for the house (such as toilet paper), didn't like the way I closed the window in my room, or showered, or dried after a shower, or left powder in the washing machine, or bottles in the fridge, and never made me feel at home.
She would lie in her room with the door open on the nights when I dared to 'corner' the TV and, no, I don't think it was a little late invitation!
I've complained to the school about this person's attitude to foreign students, twice in fact, and at least the whole experience has made me appreciate just how laid back most of us Irish are when it comes to sharing places.
In fairness, the staff at the school were very understanding. They offered to rehouse me as soon as I raised my concerns and were appalled by the litany of petty incidents I reported to them.
As for the school itself, I think my Spanish came on immensely over the month and two of my teachers, Rosa and Naroa, were simply superb. My classes were sociable but hard-working, challenging, and extremely practical, and it's a pity my whole experience with Lacunza was soured by having to share a flat with an impossible woman over the four and a half weeks.
But, what the hell, I had three weeks of glorious weather and got to snorkel in La Concha Bay. I met some fantastic people and I'm sure I will see the funny side of my horrible experience in the Egia flat in a week or two, once I get over the pettiness of it all.
All I can say to my friends and family, and anybody else who happens across this blog, is to get yourself to San Sebastian for a week or so some time in May, June, or September. It really is a gem of a place.
The city is blessed with the best bay in any European city, brilliant night life, delicious pintxos, scenic walks, narrow streets you can get lost in, and just a fantastic vibe, and jest for life. That's probably why I've been back there about five times in the space of four years!

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