There is an old souvenir shop in the parte vieja of San Sebastian that opened in the 1920's, it is still owned and operated by the original family. I stumbled across this old shop on one of our first visits to San Sebastian and return every summer to pick up treasures for French General. For years, I bought out the hand-painted santos, recuerdos and holy water fonts - but the stock has dried up - no more to be found.
This summer I spent almost a whole week negotiating a sale - seven days trying to convince Anna, the owner's granddaughter (who is older than me) to show me the goods. I'm not sure what part was confusing - the fact that I don't speak Basque, the fact that I want to buy more than one of each item, or the fact that I was willing to get dirty in the pursuit of old stuff - whatever it was - it was a long week of haggling and convincing Anna that I actually prefer to dig in old basements - I like the thrill of the hunt. The first day turned up some beautiful old glass pearls - made in Mallorca in the 1920's - in perfect condition. Anna asked if I would like a dozen - yes please - maybe 100 dozen? The next day, I found boxes of mantilla pins - pins used to keep the mantilla lace in place atop one's head. Boxes and boxes of pins attached to original cards - old stock that hadn't seen the light of day for years. Would I like a couple of cards - or maybe a couple of boxes??
All of this was enough to wear me out - but I continued to go back every day - knowing that eventually something would turn up that would totally surprise me. This morning, as Sofia and I went to pay our bill and call it a day, Anna pulled out a box full of 1930's French celluloid bangles - beautiful, simple and exactly what I was looking for! I asked her how many she had, and in her Basque-Spanish-English indicated that she had hundreds - great - I'll take them all! Hundreds turned out to be 50 - which was still fine by me - I've learned I have to take what I can get at this little souvenir shop - beggars can't be choosers! So, off we went - my boxes full of old trinkets that were made for the tourist to take home - a small piece of Basque history.