We had booked a driver from Biarritz to San Sebastián at Spanish driver rates which is only a 40min drive away as it was convoluted to get trains with two changeovers and 3 hrs worth so with checkout being 12 noon we took advantage of the sleep in and John went into town for some bakery breakfast items.
The drive was smooth as silk in the Mercedes and we arrived in San Sebastián to stunning sunshine and the most amazing view from our room at The Hotel Londres.
Apart from the location, the view and the charming 1900 grand Hotel Donostia, San Sebastián is a delightfully charming city. A beach resort with surf culture and for 2016 the culture capital for Europe. The bay of Playa de la Concha is a wide crescent shaped and very protected bay with two big headlands at each end and a big island in the middle that breaks up the swell so that it dissipates into deep water and then rolls onto the beach as an easy breaking wave ideal for body surfing.
This Basque autonomous region is so firmly basque with language and writings everywhere and very proud of it they are, hence the city of two names
The annual film festival was about to start so the place was a buzz with activity.
We went down to the beach out the front of the hotel and John had a body surf and spent a good amount of time in the water as the 22deg water temp was ideal as was the 28 deg air temp. We took a walk up the beach and checked out the pavilion La Perla with its restaurants, gym and terraces for maximum beach enjoyment since the 1920’s.
John then headed off for his usual journey of discovery and strolled through the shopping district to cross the river to check out Zurriola beach which is the main surfing beach and found a fat but consistent surf break that broke outside and then reformed inside. There were even waves breaking inside along the river.
There were surfers crossing through town in wetsuits and boards under their arms which was such an unusual sight for a European city.
John walked back through the old town where the streets were brimming with people and Bars, mostly Pintoxs food bars, like tapas but out on display to choose as a pay as you go style.
The streets of the old town were like Dubrovnik meets Sevilla, the grand new town like Budapest meets Madrid and the beach front promenade like Split meets Manly so it was a fascinating blend of some amazing places.
We headed back into the old town armed with our Tripso and Trip Advisor recommendations and settled on the Feugo Negro Bar which we discovered from our New Yorker table neighbours had a recommendation in the michellan book for its nouvelle cuisine take on the traditional Pintxos.
Well it did not disappoint with a set menu that involved eight courses of such interesting variety that there was anticipation every time as to what creations they would come up with next .
We also discovered to local drop Txakoli, a wine that is fermented more like a cider and is poured like a Turkish tea from on high but tastes awesome and I imagine could become addictive !
We meandered around the streets for a while then headed back as the clock was ticking in the inimitable Spanish way that it does over here getting later and later each night. We certainly have been racking up the walking km’s this trip with a slight day around 6km but most between 8 and 12 so at least we are countering the gastronomical adventures a little bit.
Our first full day ahead of us we took the hop on hop off bus up to the funicular to the old Fortress Igueldo on the western headland of the bay, the day was perfectos nd the view simply beyond spectacular but the wind was howling up on top at about 186 m above sea level so we didn’t spend too much time apart from a nice Jamon and cheese roll for a late breakfast before heading back down to the bay.
We checked out the beach at what is called the Royal end of the Playa because of the Royal Palace Miramar that sits on the prime position in San Sebastián in the centre of Te beach up on a little hill.
Now a summer university music school and Public park it is not often open but great to see such a fabulous building Ewing used for education. The sculptures in the grounds were also fascinating in their theme of what was useful material now junk being repurposed as art.
We jumped back on the bus for a tour of the city centre which gave us good scope and jumped off over at Zurriola Beach to check out some more surfing as the swell had increased.
There were double overhead sets with howling off shores meaning you needed a big board just to paddle into then and to get through the fat sections, it looked like a lot of hard work but these local guys are used to surfing really big waves along the Basque coast .
We found a restaurant for lunch and despite a false starts with some terrible starters in the lunch special the sea bass main was an absolute delight. We are really noticing the big difference in what your money buys in Spain compared to France, almost half the price in Spain. We walked back through the streets of Zurriola over the bridge to Parte Vieja ( old town ) and took it all in during daytime before heading back for a siesta. There was a fabulous variety of Art Neouveau buildings here and some very stylish designs
John went for his usual afternoon wander and visited the docks and Basillica
Tonight it was Pintxos night so with our research done and noted we stepped forth into Parte Vieja with our eight options, well some were already packed at 8pm, others were just counter foods and we found two really good ones and enjoyed the buzzing atmosphere and about 6 different dishes and a few Txakoli before we were filled to the brim and only just had room for some of the lovely Caramel and vanilla ice cream combo we have been having on this holiday. The rain the dumped big time and thank goodness we remembered the umbrellas.
Our last day in San Sebastián was a mostly wet one as we went to the Cathedral and checked out the late 19th century buildings that are all the same height but all different in design just like in Paris as it was redeveloped around the same time then due to the rain did some shopping with the stylish locals
Well surprise surprise John also went shopping and the fancy pants Massimo Dutti delivered for both of us with John scoring some Spanish priced bargains and Ann two fantastic leather bags at such low rates we were both very delighted.
Further wanderings led us deeper into shopping land but the wet weather got the better of us and we went back to the hotel for lunch and siesta.
John took another stroll before getting caught in an heavy shower and despite the umbrella had a bit of drying out to do.
An easy night in and a light dinner in the hotel then packing ready for the six hour train trip to Barcelona tomorrow