>> From Barcelona, we moved on to San Sebastian, a gorgeous little resort town in the Spanish Basque country (right). It was amazing how everywhere we went -- Sevilla, Barcelona, San Sebastian -- had such a different feel to it. But I guess its the same for the States -- NYC, Atlanta, and LA are all strikingly different, so I'm not sure why it surprised me so much about Spain. San Sebastian had a much cozier small-town feel to it than the other two, not to mention the promenade and its view of the Bay of La Concha were breathtaking.
It was our last stop in Spain before entering into other countries, so I absolutely had to pick up a good pair of espadrilles. I have been in love with them since I was a zygote, so really, I couldn't pass up the chance. My boyfriend/translator (he speaks the Spanish and I speak the French) asked the hostess at our hostel where she recommended finding a quality pair of said type of shoes, and surprisingly, she didn't understand "espadrille." Now that's funny. Here I was always thinking that espadrille was a Spanish word (so maybe I'm ignorant), when in fact, it was French, all along. Tricksy, that word "espadrille" is. So after describing the shoe to her, we come to find out that espadrilles are actually called "alpargatas." Off we went.
Our hostess recommended this little tiny store called Estrada, located right around the corner from where we were staying. We stopped by, but of course it was closed. One of the most endearing things about Spain is the fact that stores are totally unreliable. The stores sporadically open and close whenever they feel like it -- mostly during siesta hours, which are between 1-4 (and sometimes 5 or 6) pm. I'll admit, they are somewhat predictable in the sense that you are almost guaranteed they will be closed most of the afternoon, but you can never really be sure if/when they will open.
Finally, around 5:15 pm, we circled back for the fourth time, and little Estrada was open! The whole thing must have 25 square feet, the tiniest shop ever. There was already a line out the door, filled with locals (this made me happy -- whenever you find a place filled with locals, you know you're spot on). The entirety of the store's stock was all in that little store, piles and piles all the way up to the ceiling. What amazed me most of all is that the owner knew exactly where to look for everything -- it wasn't exactly the most organized store I've ever been in. When she asked what size I needed, and we told her "United States 9," she just laughed at us and replied, in Spanish, of course, "That means nothing to me." It took a few trials for me to finally figure out that I'm a size 39 in Spain, and I was able to walk out, proud owner of some authentic alpargatas (and for only €20). I just love the way the jute roping that forms the wedge gets kind of hairy when you've worn them in a bit...I think thats my favorite. Oh, and the fact that I can walk in them all over the place and they're still comfortable.
If you can't quite make it over to Spain, but are still interested in some quality espadrilles, check out espadrillesetc.com -- they have a wide selection going for about what I paid for mine.