San Sebástian ( Donostia) is a beautiful seaside town up in the Northern Basque district of Spain. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Once the resort play ground for the Royal family, it is now an international recognized place for amazing food. Foodies flock here like birds looking to nest, and beach goers enjoy the beautiful beaches and water that is surrounded by drop dead gorgeous hills. A true Northern Paradise.
Donosita ( San Sebástian) first recognized civilization back at 24,000 BC. In Ancient times, the Romans found that Donostia would be a great little port town for them. It wasn’t until the 11th Century, did Donostia become San Sebastian, after a Castilian King conquered it and entered it into a part of the Kingdom. But the people of Donostia , proud of their heritage and culture, fought back just like they are doing till this very day, to be recognized as an independent country/ or Region seperate from Spain. In the 80’s and 90’s there are bombings here with the locals trying their best to make it a point that they do not want to belong to Spain.
Being on the Bay of Biscay, and in Northern Spain, San Sebastian is very close to France and is probably why there are many French visitors and stores. The town is broken down to Old and New, where the Old Town still has its old world charm with gothic style buildings, a Beautiful Basilica of Saint Mary nestled next to a hill, a gorgeous Baroque Cathedral , and rustic Tintern style homes and squares. San Sebastian is a very quaint, and beautiful city to visit.
I arrived from Seville: Al Andalus and the Flamenco Capital of the World via Madrid: Royal Tapas and Royal Fun on my RENFE train around 9:15 pm . The train ride was LONG, almost 5 1/2 hours. I sat in preferente class like I did on my round trip to Seville and Madrid, but this time, the train was much older ( Avant) and there seemed to be no difference between Coach and First except for the fact that they have single seats. The ride was really long, but I met 2 Indian looking girls who were actually from New Zealand. Being from hawaii, I couldn’t stop talking about our similar cultures. We passed through many beautiful towns like Pamplona ( omg the running of the Bulls) but there was one town Vitoria, that looked so charming and so gorgeous like some Victorian Era town where I could just see women walling around in their Petty Coats. I was so entranced by our 5 minute stop. One day I will make it back. The train finally pulled in to San Sebastian’s train station, I off loaded, pulled out my map, and decided to walk to my Apartment.
I was told by my Airbnb host that it was an easy 5 – 10 minute walk. Oh ok, no problem. I walked along the river canal and was taken back by the very beautiful bridges, and lamp posts that dott the canals. It was now 9:30 pm, and the sun had still not set, so it was easy for me to see where I was going. I kept heading towards the water, and once I got close enough I turned left, into the Old City of San Sebastian. What I wasn’t prepared for was the cobbled stone streets of the city, and with carrying a suitcase with another large bag on it ( I ended up shopping way too much) it made it really difficult. I finally arrived at the apartment, which was on a very small street, next to marijuana supply store ( Marijuana is legal in Spain) and a small bar with a few drunkards singing outside. Oh oh, what type of area am I in? I buzzed the buzzer ( 6th floor) and a young man answered buzzed me in and met me at the bottom of the stairs. He looked at me and my bags, shook his head and said, we are on the 5th floor ( floor 6 in USA) .. He took one of my bags, and we WALKED all the way to up the narrow winding staircase until we came to the floor. The Apartment was very nice. Very modern, with a large living room and sectional couches, a mini bar fully stocked, a lovely kitchen with a fully stocked fridge, 1 bedroom with a nice sized queen bed, and a cute little bathroom. There was a balcony which over looked the shady street as well as a hill with a large open armed Jesus ( like in Rio) on the top. He gave me the keys, and his personal cell phone, and took off. I unpacked for my 5 day stay, played some music to get into the mood, and then eventually headed out to go get me some food. You can see the listing for my apartment on Airbnb here: Centrally Located in San Sebastian
San Sebastian is famous for her food. As previously mentioned, foodies come from all over the world just to dine here. Their specialty is Bacalao ( salted Cod) and you can see shops selling it everywhere
The evening was spent wandering from little pub restaurants to the next trying my hand at ordering tapas ( or as it is called here, Pintxos – peenchos) Stomach full, it was time for a lovely rest.
The following morning, I was up bright and early and fully rested. I stepped out onto the balcony of my apartment for a nice morning smoke, and noticed that it was raining. Oh bummer. I was hoping for beautifully sunny days while here. But Unfortunately the City had different plans, and it remained that way with the exception of a few beautifully sunny spots during the day.
I decided to walk around and enjoy the Old City and follow Rick Steve’s Advice ( since he’s been Uber helpful) . First up I walked to Plaza De La Constitucion to visit the TI and grab a better map of the city, as well as gather some information like how do I get to Bilbao ( a neighboring city) to see the Guggenheim.
With Map in one hand, Rick Steve’s under my arm, and umbrella above me, I walked to the Basilica De Santa Maria Del Coro. A beautiful small Baroque Church, nestled up against the lovely hill and on the end of a very Gothic looking pedestrian street, this Church is quaint, quiet, and very beautiful.
After my visit, the rain came down even harder, so I guess it was time to pop into one of the pubs for an early brunch , wine, and Pintxos.
I decided to try and walk to the long and beautiful La Concha Bay and its promenade. The rain was now gently hitting the earth, and although it wasn’t bright and sunny, La Concha Beach was beautiful.
After a lovely walk, I decided to go and visit their maritime Aquarian/ Museum, to get out of the rain. The museum was interesting, as it told the tails of the fishermen of this once tiny village. All types of Aquatic creatures evidently live in the surrounding area. But the most important creature was the Bacalao.
The Rain in Spain doesn’t fall mainly in the plain. They fall in San Sebastian in May. My next couple of days was a true reflection of how I felt. Dark, sad, and lonely. I did enjoy walking around San Sebastian but the rain was just making me feel so depressed.
On Day 3, I walked around checking out all the french and spanish inspired store fronts with beautifully designed wears. I came across a really awesome bookstore that sold books in English. I asked the store owner if he had any recommendations. He pointed me towards a book called Cathedral DeL Mar ( Cathedral by the Sea) by Ildefonso Francones A medieval historical novel, the book was about a young man during the Spanish Inquisition in Barcelona. Now I had something to occupy my time during the rainy days.
Even though it rained a lot, the bouts of sunlight revealed a city in full bloom. The streets were lined with beautiful flowers and I enjoyed walking through and around it. Unfortunately, the town is also very small, and I had conquered the city twice so quickly.
I tried my best later on in the day to try and get to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim, but all the instructions in the world didn’t help. The different train stations I went to to try and get to Bilbao were wrong. And so I gave up and decided instead to just go and try and see Mount Igualdo. I walked the promenade for about a good half hour until I came across the funicular that would take me to the top of the Mountain. There is a theme park and haunted house attraction at the top of the Mountain. The restaurant looked so 1980’s that I decided to skip lunch at this point. The views though, the views of the beautiful Bay and City was spectacular. I just stood there taking it all in, and filled with emotions.
I spent a lot of time back at the apartment during the siesta hours, resting after a gigantic lunch filled with Pintxos and wine, just lounging and listening to music and / or reading my new book. The evenings were spent once again, restaurant and pub hopping to enjoy the absolutely decadent food in this lovely city. That evening though, I stayed up really late ( like 3 am) consuming my new book it was lovely.
The next day, waking up around noon, I walked to a local cafe for some coffee and a donut. After I was going to walk around and shop again. Out of the clear blue sky, some guy spoke something to men which sounded like ” Cafe”? I said yes mui bueno. It was good. I guess he took it as I’m interested , and followed me. I stopped and told him sternly NO GRACIAS. Well that didn’t work, and for the next 15 minutes of me ducking into stores and out of his eye sight, he was still following me. I yell at him WHAT THE F? NO! He didn’t get it. Finally, I saw a small casino on a narrow street and ran into it. I sat down and played some slots for a good hour. Well luck was on my side, because I cashed out 1000 euros up. Excited, I decided to head for the perfumeries I saw during one of my walks. Well when I left, guess who was waiting for me.? You guessed it, my ugly ass stalker. My blood was boiling, and although I wanted to get violent, I didn’t know who he was related to, how big his family was, if they would find where I was staying, and I didn’t want trouble . I did tell him in English ” What the f do you want mother fer? Leave me alone or I’ll bash your F’n face in. ” He didn’t seem to be bothered, and kept following me. I ran into the perfumery, with gigantic large doors, and talked to one of the workers. I explained to them what is going on, and that to please call the police, I promise I’ll spend good money in here. They shut the gigantic doors shut, told me not to worry, and in 3 minutes a drop dead gorgeous Police officer showed up at the doors. Like a full romantic drama, I flung myself on his bustling muscles and told him my story. He went outside to talk to him, and came back and told me that he is in love with me. In love with me? How in the world would or could that happen when he stalked me all day , and is the first time I ever laid eyes on that ugly mess. He said he has mental problems, wrote him a ticket and made sure he left. OMG my savior ….
$400 euros EUROS later, I bought 1 perfume from them, my favorite from Amouage called DIA, and left. I stopped in another french perfumery to try something new. $300 euros later I walked out with another drop dead gorgeous scent.
I spent the rest of the day in the apartment resting , lounging, and reading. It was so nice. And I think my body really needed the Rest. I’ve been traveling for over 2 weeks now, and my non stop schedule was taxing on my body.
That evening would be my last supper and I splurged …..
My train was to leave at 7:30 in the morning, and I needed to get some rest, as I will be up at 5 am getting ready, tiding up to leave the apartment by 6 am. It was still dark at 6 am, I left my keys on the table and proceeded to take my 2 very heavy bags down to the bottom of the apartment. I said goodbye to the apartment and my street, and proceeded with major caution, to the train station a half hour away When I got to the train station, the two New Zealand girls where there as well. They too were off to Barcelona. Once the train came, we boarded, and had the same crappy seat in the same crappy coach ( supposedly first class) and talked for a bit about our time in San Sebastian, and about Barcelona a city we will soon be in. 6 hour train rides can be very boring, thank God I have my book , which just so happens to be all about Barcelona in the Medieval Times…
San Sebastian is exactly what I needed. Dark rainy days lazy days. Lots of rest, the most amazing food and a tiny dramatic situation. It was wonderful, and I really hope to return one day to experience it in full sun.
Thank you San Sebastian
To read more of my Travel through Spain, Please click here: Spain: A tapas of beautiful people and landscapes