Connected at the Core

As our adventure here in San Sebastián nears to an end, it is impossible not to think about our time spent here so far. Personally for me, the idea of leaving my home, family, and of course my dog to go to a foreign country seemed like a daunting task. I had never been outside the United States before, and even living at college, UMass Lowell was about a 20 minute drive from my house. However, shortly after being here, the apprehension faded away as I realized I had found a new sort of family and a temporary home here.

Today started as most other weekdays since we’ve been here. While some days we ate breakfast with our host family, today we went to our favorite cafe in the neighborhood, Ogi Berri. This little bakery and cafe is one of the only chains I have seen in my time here. Then we went to class and on our break, we sat in the same cafe, around the same table, we have sat at every day since we’ve been here. It’s funny to think that we almost feel as though we have a claim to a few little things in this city despite having only lived here for less than three weeks now. However, after class, instead of going out and walking through Parte Veija, eating pinxtos at pintxo pote in Gros, or hitting the beach, we went back to our house to get ready for what was sure to be the highlight of the day: our farewell dinner and tour of a Basque Cider House.

After getting all dressed up for the night, we took a bus to Petritegi Cider House. The sidrería has been around for generations, since the 16th century, and currently the 6th generation is operating and running the business. Behind the building we were going to be eating at later, lied rows of apples of various varieties. The orchard itself grows 16 different kinds of apples consisting of multiple acidic, bitter, and sweet types. However, only a small amount of sweet apples are used in the making of the cider. One of the first things we did was taste regular apples and the apples used for the cider to experience the difference between the two. The cider apples had a much more potent taste than the apples we are used to back home.

After this, our guide explained to us the process behind making the cider itself. They harvest all of the apples manually by using a stick with a nail attached. Given this day and age, it is fascinating that they still use this method. In order to cultivate the best apples, every three days from September-November they gather the apples that have fallen from the trees. The reason they do not take them from the trees is because they are at there best when they naturally fall. From there the apples are cleaned and fermented in a process that seemed similar to the process explained to us at the winery. Petritegi cider is made 100% natural. This means that if not for the fermentation process, it would actually be just apple juice with no preservatives or additives. Once they are placed in the barrels, the cider can only remain for 4 months without turning into vinegar. Because of this, it is moved gradually to colder cellars to slow down the reaction process.

After this informative and interesting tour, we were brought into a room to try 2 different ciders and chorizo. One cider was made with 100% basque apples, while the other had apples that were imported as well. However, the real star of the tour was the chorizo. All of us were in agreement that the chorizo at Petritegi was the best we have had since being here.

However, while the actual tour and details we learned were interesting and an amazing way to spend the night, it was the dinner that truly made me realize how much I am going to miss this experience. While trying different batches of cider, we were given a feast of tortilla with bacalao, hake, steak, cheese, cookies, and, as always, as much bread as we could eat. Sitting around the table with everyone was a perfect farewell. We talked, laughed, and overall just genuinely enjoyed each others company. Many of us made promises to one another to hang out during the school year and it was overwhelmingly bittersweet to realize this trip was coming to a close. Even so, at least I can say I may have only come here having one friend with me, but I am leaving with many more. We became a sort of family in San Sebastián, and I will always be grateful to have shared this experience with each and every person here.