san sebastian

When planning our trip with Gabriela, she brought up San Sebastian, somewhere I had never heard of before. It took just a 3-second Google search to figure out that I definitely wanted to go there.

This coastal haven is located is Spain’s Basque Country and known for its resorts, promenades, and bite-size pintxos (their take on tapas). San Sebastian had the laid-back vibe of a beach town, but with a refined chic. I could imagine myself being an elderly, well-dressed woman with a lap dog here.

When all four us arrived, it was drizzly and grey, but it couldn’t mask the city’s beauty as we walked into lively old town, Parte Vieja, towards our airbnb.

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We were extremely hungry and decided to avoid the rain by darting in and out of pintxo restaurants along Calle 31 de Agosto, one of the city’s most famous streets. The environment inside the restaurants was exactly as we had been told: all the pintxos are lined up along the bar and you must jockey your way to the front and ask for a plate. It’s ok to be a little assertive, because everyone else is and it’s the only way you’ll get served. Dan and Gabriela were the Spanish speakers in our group and that helped too!

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You really can’t go wrong! We just walked up and down narrow, cobblestone streets going in to any restaurant that had room for us to stand and eat. And as for choosing which pintxos, that was also kind of spontaneous. If it looked meaty, fried, cheesy, gooey, or otherwise we pointed at it. It was a very fun, inexpensive way to eat.

Anytime we told French friends back in Toulouse that we were headed to San Sebastian, the look of ecstasy on their faces when they talked about the food here was very reassuring. You know a place has good food when even the proudest Frenchman gets excited about it.

Some of our favorites became: La Vina, Gandaria’s, Bar Sport, and Jose Mari.

The rain had let up, but the sky was still overcast. We walked along the promenade and took in the views as the last of the sunlight disappeared.

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We were staying a street over from the port and luckily found a teeny, dive-y bar between us and the water – Akerbeltz. It felt like being in a cave, served beers to-go, and had great decor.

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The next day was our only full day in the city, so we tried to maximize. First, was breakfast: a pastry, any coffee, and pressed orange juice for €4 at Cafe Kantoi.

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Then we walked to the edge of old town, past the San Vicente church, and up Monte Urgull for views over the harbor.

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The beach in the above photo was our goal – after getting sweaty climbing to the top, we planned on hiking back down and posting on the beach for the remainder of the day.

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I don’t usually buy souvenirs on our trips besides postcards, but that striped beach blanket was speaking to me and I couldn’t resist.

Drained from the sun, we were craving more pintxos and found a really nice place near our home – Meson Portaletas. We weren’t the only tourists with this idea and had to be really diligent to move through the big crowd up to where the rows of immaculately displayed pintxos were.

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As good as the meals were, I’m always down for something sweet afterwards and found solace at Pastelería Oiartzun, a bakery and ice cream shop.

We had an extremely early flight to Barcelona the next morning and Dan and I were seriously considering missing it and never leaving. San Sebastian had lulled us into a sweet, Continental fantasy and I think part of me is still back there.

 

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