Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 725
Five Days in San Sebastian
27 to 31 January 2014

Monday, January 27th: Barbara, my wonderful nurse, passes at 7 to give me an insulin injection and to check on my blood sugar level. As soon as she is out the door, I get up, have a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal. Shave, shower and shampoo. Quickly finish packing. And am ready to go at 9.30. Call a taxi and soon I am on my way. Another voyage, another trip, another adventure. Purchase a pastry from Paul and soon the platform for my train is announced. It is platform 1. And I am in the 1st carriage. I settle into my comfortable seat and in minutes the TGV is pulling out of the station at 10.28, heading South to Bordeaux and the Spanish border. I read today's Trib. (I just cannot call it the International New York Times. Isn't anything sacred anymore?) There is an article entitled "Seeing Paris through James Baldwin's eyes" by Ellery Washington. I had the good luck to have known James Baldwin. Another writer is mentioned: Jake Lamar, who is also a friend.

  Jim with a Basque hat on
Jim with his Basque hat on

Also read in The Guardian an article by Ian Jack about one of my favorite cities, Calcutta. It seems Ian stayed in one of my favorite places in Calcutta, The Bengal Club. Every time I attended the Calcutta Film Festival I stayed in the Bengal Club. Opposite me a fellow is reading Hubert Selby, Jr. I never met Selby, but he was published by one of my oldest friends, John Calder. About Noon, get up and walk to the restaurant car. Purchase risotto aux champignons and am surprised to find it extremely tasty. My Selby-reading neighbor treats me to a bottle of water. We chat. I discover he has a job with a hospital near the Bastille. I give him information about my Sunday dinners and he says he would like to attend. He gives me his email address and I think his name is Titus. He leaves the train at a small town south of Bordeaux. I continue to the end of the line, the last town in France, Hendaye. We arrive at 16.11. Get out and walk the short distance in the rain to a kind of metro to ride the 30 minutes to San Sebastian. I keep getting text messages that Jone Karres will be meeting my train about 17.15.

Jone and I know each other thanks to Bob Flynn. Bob has been talking to me about attending the San Sebastian Film Festival for the past few years. Now thanks to him, I am about to spend five days in this city. And I will have, at least, one friend there. Jone is a film-maker, a guide, a journalist, an interpreter, and a wonder woman. When I exit the train and walk into the station, a tall attractive woman comes up to me and gives me a warm embrace of welcome. It is Jone and she is as lovely as Bob declared. She suggests we taxi to the Hotel de Londres. We are soon there. Jone introduces me to the hotel manager, another attractive woman. Her name is Elena Estomba. I check into my room, No. 308. It has a fantastic view of the Bay of Concha. Because I am a bit tired from the trip, Jone suggests we dine nearby in a rustic non-touristic tapas Bar San Marcial. Out the door, cross two streets, and we are there. The place is funky, but delicious. Jone and I exchange life stories. Her father was born in German-speaking Transylvania, and is a German citizen. He met Jone's mother here in San Sebastian. Jone grew up here in San Sebastian and in Germany. She speaks Basque, German, Spanish, English and a bit of French. She can see that I am tired, so suggests an early night. She will come to the hotel tomorrow and we can explore the Old Town.

Tuesday, 28th: Awake early in my superb hotel room. After checking my blood sugar level is not too high. After the insulin injection, shower, shave and dress. Downstairs for a hearty breakfast. Then back up to my room. Read Jason Berry's script, Spooky Action at a Distance. Jone calls late morning. I go downstairs and report a great night's sleep. She suggests we take a taxi to the Old Town. We are dropped at the City Museum (San Telmo). We go inside, wander about and end up in the museum café. Jone bumps into a number of friends and I am introduced to them all. I meet her yoga teacher, Grazia, from Italy. We talk, talk and talk. Jone gives me two DVDs of her movie, Alardearen Seme-Alabak. It has been screened at last September's San Sebastian Film Festival. Of course she wants it to be screened in other festivals. I learn it is a documentary about a ceremony that has been set in a small city honoring the defeat of a French invasion. The ceremony in the form of a military parade has always refused to allow women to participate. But some years ago, a few women decided they wished to join in the parades and to dress as soldiers. The film depicts this revolution.
We leave the museum and walk the short distance to Jone's apartment. We ride in the elevator up one floor. I meet her two flat mates. One is a fellow from England; his name is Rupert Lindsay. Jone's other flat mate is Paoletta from Switzerland.
We go out to lunch in the Gandarias restaurant which is only a short walk away. I have sweet red peppers stuffed with crab, a fish dish and flan.

  Jone Karres
Jone Karres

In the evening, Jone has arranged to meet a few friends in a special place called The Nestor Bar. She and I arrive early, so we go into Zeruko, a new tapas bar across from the Nestor Bar. We have one drink and then cross over to the other side. There is only one table (No. 19) and we have it reserved. Her friends begin to arrive and we gather round our table. We are: Emma Pedgrift from England, Wendy Baldwin from Seattle, Washington, Didier Noblia (who is half-French,half Basque), and Bernd Kibbel (who is from Germany). There is also a lovely woman from San Sebastian. Her name is Aurkene Andueza. I suggest we play my circle game and it works its magic. The food is absolutely delicious. A very fun place. One of the best steaks I have ever eaten! Very late, back to the hotel.

  Emma, Didier, Wendy, Jim and Jone at the Nestor
Emma, Didier, Wendy, Jim and Jone at the Nestor

Wednesday, 29th: I have a date for lunch today with a friend of friends. Madeleine Cannon knows Phyllis Roome and Bill Young. She is an English actress who has been living in San Sebastian for some years. I suggest to Jone that she join us as well. We decide to dine in the hotel restaurant as soon as they arrive.

Madeleine and I talk of London in the 60s. She was at the Aldwych Theatre and she speaks highly of Charles Marowitz. I agree with her. Charles is a super fellow and a major talent. He is a dear friend. I give Madeleine a copy of my book, Everything Is!. Lunch is delicious and fun. But she has to dash right away for a meeting. Jone and I decide to take a city bus to the extreme south side of the Bay of Concha. She wants to take me up a funicular for an excellent view of the city. I say OK.
And around the city we go. To our surprise, we discover it is closed for renovation and now it begins to rain. We walk a short distance to a hotel café where we have hot chocolate and more talk. After a while, Jone orders a taxi and we head back to the hotel.Jone suggests we dine with an actor friend. His name is Ramon Agirre. He has played in a number of films, the latest being Michael Haneke's Amour.

  Jim Haynes in the Bay of Concha
Jim in the Bay of Concha

She collects me at the hotel and we walk the short distance to restaurant Lanziego. Ramon has just arrived. We have another wonderful meal. Fish again. They both walk me back to the hotel where I fall into deep sleep.

Thursday, 30th: Dress and go down for breakfast. Jone texts me and will come over to the hotel about Noon. She sends a friend to have morning coffee with me. Johanna Kovrig was born in Transylvania, but spent some time in Budapest. She also discovered Edinburgh last year and really liked the city. She wants to go there again soon. We have a delightful morning together. There has been a big improvement in the weather. Jone arrives with a Basque hat for me. I think I look super silly in it, but she keeps assuring me that it looks good. I am not so sure, but I wear it all the same. She suggests we walk in the late morning sun to the Old Town and meet a friend of hers named Gabriella Ranelli. Gabriella is from New York, is married to a local named Aitor Aguirre and she runs a cooking school. She has lived a long time in San Sebastian.

As soon as we enter the Old Town, it starts to rain. Opposite Jone's apartment, there is a Sports Bar called Paco Bueno, and she steers us inside. We stand at the Bar and have a tapa (or pintxo in Basque). I am introduced to the proprietor, an ex-boxer named Paco Bueno. He tells me that he knew Edith Piaf and her boxer boyfriend, Marcel Cerdan. Time to move on.
We walk the short distance to where we are to meet Gabriella. It is another tapas restaurant called Casa Urola. Gabriella is there and we are introduced. Jone orders several tapas and, of course, as I have come to expect, they are delicious. Gabriella excuses herself in order to shop before they close for the afternoon siesta. We sit a bit longer. Then Jone walks me to a taxi and I return to the hotel. I am to meet the Director of the San Sebastian Film Festival this afternoon. His name is José Luis Rebordinos.
I have a rest in my room. Then get a text from Jone.

  Asier, Paco Bueno and Jim at the Paco Bueno
Asier, Paco Bueno and Jim at the Paco Bueno

She will come to the hotel about 4 pm. And then we will meet Rebordinos. I go downstairs and meet Jone. She reports that José Luis has changed our meeting place and he will now come to the hotel. No sooner said and he appears with an exceedingly attractive young woman. Her name is Maialen Beloki. She is a member of the selection committee. After the introductions, I am handed a book of photographs of various film celebrities that have appeared (and ofen honored) in the San Sebastian Film Festival over the years. I am also given a Film Festival bag and an invitation to next September's Festival. I explain my tenous connection to the film world. I attended the Cannes Film Festival for 25 years and wrote about cinema for the Los Angeles Free Press, that I am a festival-junkie and have attended the Berlin, Budapest, Edinburgh, Teluride, Moscow, St Petersburg and Calcutta Film Festivals for many years. I was also the Director of one of the first erotic film festivals in Amsterdam in 1970, '71 and '72. The infamous Wet Dream Film Festival was sponsored by our newspaper, Suck. I have been an extra in a half dozen films, etc. José Luis tells me he likes erotic films. As do I. It's a quick meeting because he has appointments and they dash off. We promise to stay in touch.
Another friend of Jone's, another attractive woman, arrives to briefly visit. Her name is Tamara Montes. She has lived in Paris and knows my neighborhood. She is a Basque-Galician dark-haired beauty.
In the evening we will go out of town for a rather special party. Jone and I ride with Gabriella Ranelli and her husband, Aitor Aguirre.

We arrive in what looks like a barn with extremely large barrels of cider. It is a great evening. Not sure how many people are with our party, but we must be about 18. Other guests include David Bumstead (who I met earlier in the hotel), Phil Cooper and his lovely companion, "Nini" Olaizola, the beautiful twins Itziar & Ainhoa Iraola, Rupert Lindsay, and a local radio DJ, an attractive young woman named Ainhoa Aguirre. The food is over the top delicious. Great cod with fried onions. And another fantastic steak. The two best steaks I think I have ever eaten. Both in one week here in San Sebastian. I talk a long time with Phil & Nini about my and their travels in Eastern Europe. I tell them I still wish to visit Odessa. They have been there and greatly enjoyed the city. Very late it is time to pay and head back into San Sebastian. But my financial contribution is refused. What gracious hosts. Jone and I pile into Gabriella and Aitor's car and we are swiftly taken back into the city. A great last night!

  dinner party at the cider-house
dinner party at the cider-house, left to right: Ainhoa, Kontxi, David, Gabriella, Aitor, Phil, Itziar, Nini,
Rupert and Jim

Friday, 31st:My last morning. Get out of bed early. Shave, shower and shampoo. Go down for another delicious breakfast. Back up to my room. Jone is busy recording a text in German for the museum and will be busy until early afternoon. I pack, say goodbye to my lovely room and go downstairs to reception to pay for my four nights. It is all very modest for the great joy that I have received from the hotel. I will highly recommend it to anyone going to San Sebastian. I look forward to staying there next September. My only regret is my inability to speak Basque. But all the people I met were so kind and welcoming. After another delicious lunch in the hotel's restaurant, I pass most of my remaining time in the lounge of the bar where I read and drink tonic water until Jone appears. She has arranged for a friend, Luisa Etxenike, to drive me to Hendaye. Luisa is a novelist and, as I later learn, a super nice person. She arrives in the hotel about 4.30. We pile my few bits and pieces into her car. I embrace the lovely Jone and thank her for showing me such a wonderful time. I make her promise that she will come to Paris so that I can spoil her a bit as well. She promises to come. (As did lots of others as well.) And then we are off. The short ride is very pleasant because Luisa and I chat non-stop. The TGV train to Paris is there waiting for me. Luisa walks me to my seat. This time in carriage 3. We embrace and then she is off on the road to San Sebastian. And my train departs for Paris.
At each stop, more and more people come on aboard. The carriage is almost full when we leave Bordeaux. It is supposed to be non-stop all the way to Paris Gare Montparnasse. But an announcement is made: The TGV in front of us has had some problems and we are stopping for a few minutes in Poitiers to pick up more passengers. And we do. The carriage is packed. Some are standing and some are sitting on the floor. We arrive in the Gare Montparnasse about 11.30. I am one of the first out of the train. Decide to go down to the Avenue du Maine to see if I can find a taxi. Of course it is raining. Two taxis pass me without stopping. I am lucky with the third. A nice driver takes me to my front door. I give him a super tip and a great thank-you. On my front door, there is a sweet note from Kristi, my flat mate. She is staying with her friend, Sylvain. I will see her on Sunday night.
Home once again. Another Sunday dinner looms. San Sebastian was a long overdue visit. I look forward to the Film Festival there in September.

 

 

At the moment Jone Karres is busy setting up her company Baskultour (www.baskultour.com), a different way to show the Basque Country to visitors.

 

photographs by Jone Karres

 

Jim Haynes
February 2014

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la Tombe-Issoire,
75014 Paris France

 

 

 

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