A city that to be quite honest, I hadn’t heard anything about prior to coming to Europe. Even since I’ve been here, I’ve only heard in passing that there are excellent pintxos to be had in San Sebastian. However, especially after having been to Bilbao, I wasn’t particularly DYING to go to San Sebastian, as I thought I had gotten the *literal* taste of the Basque Country.
So how did I end up there? Well it basically stemmed from being unable to join some friends on a trip to Porto because there were no BlablaCars that fit my time schedule. And then not being able to go to Granada because there were no tickets available for La Alhambra…I’ve heard going to Granada and not seeing La Alhambra would be like going to San Sebastian and not seeing the beach. Which I now understand to be quite the idiotic thing to do. Finally, I decided on San Sebastian as a recommendation from my sister, who claimed it her favorite city in Spain. Having been to several cities in Spain that I absolutely love, I decided that it was a bold enough assertion on her behalf to convince me to check it out for myself.
The trip started out magnificently. My friend Karen (my forever Basque country travel companion) and I got a Blablacar after work, and ended up having a fantastic 5 hour drive up. Our driver, Amaia, was the epitome of cool. Seriously, just #goals of what I want in my future. She was a super conversationalist, great driver (naturally upon entering Basque country we were greeted with some heavy rain), and as a San Sebastian native, she ended up giving us some excellent suggestions for things to do during our 1.5 days in town.
When she dropped us off just a few minutes walk from our accommodation of choice, a little Pension Hostel right in the center of the action-packed old part of town, everything appeared to be going quite swimmingly. Until it came time to give the owner of the pension our forms of ID. Naturally, neither one of us had brought our passports…we weren’t leaving the country, after all. We also thought that with our NIE (Identification Number for Foreigner) cards, we would be covered with a valid form of ID. Boy, could we have been more wrong? The woman running the place couldn’t have looked more distraught by the decision of whether or not to let us stay in her pension. Without a physical copy of our passports, she said she was obligated to kick us out of the place. Bear in mind, we arrived at 11:30pm, optimistically wearing sandals, shorts, and tank tops in the rainy and cold weather. After about 20 minutes of discussing options, I looked at her and asked if she was really going to throw us onto the street in those conditions with nowhere to go. To which she finally broke and allowed us to stay. Moral of this story: ALWAYS BRING YOUR PASSPORT WHEN TRAVELING. Even if it’s within the same country.
Besides those brief 20 minutes of stress, the rest of the weekend turned out to be one of pure bliss, glutton, and vanity. Saturday morning greeted us with a perfect 25 degrees Celsius, sun out, with sparse clouds occasionally blowing through.
Karen and I started the day out by crossing over the river to check out the surfers’ beach “Playa de Zurriola.” God, I forgot how hot surfers are. That’s all I’ll say on that front. We found a cute café near this beach, where I enjoyed the best quiche I’ve ever tasted: 3 cheese (one of which was bleu), caramelized onions, and poppy seed. Unreal. Fab way to start the day.
From there, we marched on, exploring, walking for a while along the river in the opposite direction of the ocean. In this area we appreciated San Sebastian’s architecture a bit more. Such an ornate city! It’s hard to find even one part of the town that you don’t find aesthetically pleasing. We passed by one of the beautiful cathedrals, where families were congregated outside taking photos with their little ones whom had just finished their First Communions. I am unused to spending time around kiddies, but seeing all of them dressed up in their little suits and white dresses filled my heart with such joy!
So far, we had been following Amaia’s suggestion to the T. Start out at the far beach and work your way down the city until you get to the end of the last beach, “Plage d’Ondarreta.” This walk couldn’t have been more pleasant. The pedestrian path along the coast was lined with various street performers; from hippie musicians playing instruments you’d never seen before, to a full marionette-rendition of a Beatles concert, to three extremely talented trumpeters playing the same four classic songs on repeat.
A bit of background on both Karen and I…we come from a family where our sisters are our best friends. And when your sister is your best friend, there is absolutely no shame in asking them to take that social-media worthy picture of just you. Therefore, there was absolutely no shame in Karen and I striking not 1 but 50 poses for each other, to later be filtered and shared with all of our extended circles. Many of these photos were taken along the coast…
Anyway, back to our day. We finally made it past the “Kontxa” beach, and to our final destination, where we vegged and tanned for a couple of hours. Occasionally dipping into the not-freezing* Atlantic Ocean. Life couldn’t have treated us any better during those two hours. In those moments, not much else existed in the world but the sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun being absorbed into our skin, and the salty smell of the air filling our lungs.
Alas, we could not stay there all day, as our stomach’s began to demand food. We decided to head back to our hostel to shower before having dinner, but naturally, were stopped in our tracks when we passed Nagusia Lau Bar. An absolute Pintxo Paradise.
Somehow, we managed some self control, and only split a few pintxos– as we had a specific spot that Amaia had recommended on our agenda for dinner. So, we enjoyed the unique, culinary delight that this bar provided, and then went on our way with the glasses provided from the bar to finish our beers with a view of the ocean. We sat for several long minutes, taking in the breathtaking sight.
No words needed as we both knew the other was in equal awe of our surrounding’s beauty.
Finally, after a long while, we made our way back to the hostel to freshen up before Dinner #2. We bought some cans of Keler, the local beer, to enjoy whilst getting ready for the night…HIGHLY recommend. It was rather strong, at 6%, but tasted very light and refreshing. The perfect drink to sip on while dolling up with the balcony door open to let in the neighborhood’s lively ambience.
The night proceeded to be every bit as perfect as the day. We went to said recommended resto/bar, called La Mejillonera, where we dined like the locals. The place itself was a hole in the wall…in fact we had passed it about three times before we plugged into GoogleMaps to realize it was right in front of us. Inside, it was packed with locals, all pretty much eating the same thing. Amaia suggested we order the Patatas Bravas and Calamares with no sauce. Two dishes that I rarely order, as they are as basic as Spanish food get. Upon looking around though, these seemed to be the dishes of choice, so we went for it…the result? Best. Bravas. Ever. The sauce they use is magical. The perfect mix of garlic with a slight spicy kick. The calamares? Not too fried, the perfect chewiness. We also got a plate of fresh muscles with only vinegar and raw onion, which did not disappoint. Yes, La Mejillonera, if/when I return to San Sebastian, you know I will come crawling back to you.
Post-mouthgasms came proper nightlife. As San Sebastian is still part of Spain, we had to wait until at least 1:30am before showing up at Bataplan aka The Discoteca to attend when in San Sebastian. Located directly on Kontxa beach, this club was fucking cool. Granted, entirelyyy full of Frenchies that had driven 30 minutes across the border to enjoy Spain’s party scene. Karen and I danced until the sun came up, making friends with random Frenchies and Spaniards, until about 6am. As our hostel was about a 20 minute walk from the club, we took a 15 minute break to sit in the sand and take in the beauty of Kontxa beach when it’s not entirely packed with people. Indeed, it was a major struggle to not simply give in to our sleepiness and pass out on the beach right then and there. The only thing stopping me was my dad’s story of being robbed in his 20’s when sleeping on a beach. The last thing I needed was to have my phone stolen for the 3rd time in 2 months.
Well, as you may imagine, the first few hours of post-slumber on Sunday were a bit hangover-ridden. But could I ask for a better place to be hungover than spread out on a beach in San Sebastian? No, probably not. We picked up some bocadillos at the famous Juantxo Bar, picnicked at the beach, tanned, people-watched, and actually napped a bit…which all together ended up providing us with a truly magnificent Sunday.
We met up with our BlablaCar driver that afternoon, chatted for a while with him as he was an extremely friendly young man, but eventually the weekend’s festivities got the best of us, and we fell into a deep sleep that lasted for the next four hours of the drive home.
Overarching thoughts on the weekend…Definitely a place to go back to with a significant other (not that Karen isn’t significant. Love you, Karen!). Definitely a place to return to with more than a couple of nights to spare. And definitely a place to come to after a week of dieting with absolutely nothing holding you back.