Day 19 San Sebastian Basque Country

Awoke to a chilly morning, but clear blue sky. As the sun began to rise in the sky, for the first time this winter we experienced a feeling of warmth on our faces. We sat and had breakfast in the sunshine, and planned our day.
Since Howard had done a lot of driving yesterday, we decided to give Oscar rest day, and try Spanish public transport. There was a bus stop directly outside the campsite entrance, which for the grand sum of 1.70 euros took right into the centre of San Sebastian. Not only that, but the bus arrived spot on time, and Howard was able to pay with contactless on his card – cheaper than Edinburgh buses, and not requiring handfuls of correct change.
The ride into town took us through several small typical Basque villages, with very attractive old stone farmhouses. As we descended down the steep hill into the city, the stunning horseshoe shaped bay came into view. I am ashamed to confess that before yesterday I had never heard of San Sebastian, such is the dearth of my knowledge of the geography of Northern Spain. Our guide book (Lonely Planet) states ‘It is impossible to lay eyes on stunning San Sebastian and not fall madly in love’, and I am inclined to agree with them. Granted, we were seeing the city of a clear sunny day in winter, without the heaving summer crowds it is famed for, but I must say that both Howard and I were both really taken with the city.
We alighted at the cathedral, and then took a lovely stroll to the large sandy beach called La Concha. As we walked through the old town, we were struck by the beautiful architecture of elegant buildings with ornate wrought iron balconies looking out over the narrow streets. As we came to the waterfront, the tide was coming in, and there were several brave souls out in the bay swimming or paddle-boarding, just in their trunks, no wetsuits – the water must have been freezing. We walked past the Marina towards the old harbour wall, then backtracked along the promenade to the area where many locals were taking their morning exercise – walking, running and beach volleyball. Stopping at a pleasant restaurant /bar, we sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a coffee and plate of pintxo, the local variant of tapas, which in this case turned out to be a special way of presenting potato chips in a spicy sauce (yes, the phrasebook was still left in the boot!).
We continued round to the far side of the bay, known as Millionaire’s Row, where the most expensive holiday homes snake up the hillside. Heading back, we walked through some of the old city and came across a number of attractive tree lined squares, one built in commemoration of a battle in 1813 when the English and Portuguese teamed up to destroy large parts of the old city. But despite the history, we found the locals charming, and helpfully re-directed back across a bridge spanning the River Urumea (whick looked remarkably like Prague) to find the square where our bus departed from.
On return to the campsite, we sat outside in the sun with a cup of tea, but as the sun went down the temperature dropped rapidly. Down on the beach earlier in the day, a large thermometer had read 17 degrees, and now it felt nearer 2. We put Oscar’s windscreen cover on, and are now sitting indoors, while Howard cooks tea, and I type the blog, listening to Oliver’s Army by Elvis Costello (thanks again to Sandy – good choice!). Howard even seems to have discovered how to make a rather splendid garlic bread using our Ridge Monkey grill, as well as developing a taste for Basque beer.
Tomorrow we plan to head towards the Picos de Europa, the mountainous region named by explorers returning to Spain after long voyages abroad. The snow peaked mountains were one of the first sights they spied as they approached their homeland.

One thought on “Day 19 San Sebastian Basque Country

  1. Loving the tales of your travels. Sounds like you are having an amazing adventure. The battle in 1813 was when the British, Portuguese and Some Spanish chased Napoleons French out of Spain at the end of the Peninsular War. Just so you know!

    When you cross the Picos you’re heading into Rioja country. Visit a place called La Guardia, as I recall it was like the set of an Errol Flynn movie, and I had amazing roast goat kid and a Rioja in a restaurant above the post office, looking at wonderful views. Maybe the Rioja made the memory better!


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