MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2017
Next stop San Sebastian which is also called Donostia, its Basque name. We were convinced that we needed to visit this land of golden beaches, lush hills and exquisite cuisine by our son Quinn and fiance Emily. They raved about the food and with good reason. San Sebastian is the second city with the most Michelin stars per capita in the world. We didn’t bother with the expensive options but had a pretty good time enjoying the pintxos (similar to tapas) in the bars of the Old Quarter.
An awesome view of San Sebastian — the bay of La Concha features Santa Clara island in the middle with a view of playa La Concha on the right. Mount Urgull is on the left.
Beautiful gardens and landscaping surround City Hall which was built in 1882 as a casino hall. It once hosted parties of the Belle Epoque era, (the “beautiful era” dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914) when Europe’s bourgeoisie and aristocracy spent their summers in San Sebastian.
Scooters and cycles line the streets. Why would anyone want to drive or park a car in this charmingly compact city.
The Basilica of Santa Maria and the Buen Pastor Cathedral are bookends connected by a popular pedestrian street in the Old Quarter where many tapa bars can be found.
The tapa bars offer a taste of the local specialties. It seemed that no two bars had the same tapas. They each have a specialty that they are known for.
Kid in a candy shop … David inspected all of the delicacies. You pick out what you like and then show the bartender your plate and he adds it to your tab.
We tried many amazing combinations of deliciousness.
Baby eels? Hahah — on the Camino in Santo Domingo, Terry and I saw a jar of these. We looked up the words on the label and we figured the translation was baby eels. I was later corrected by a chef at the market in Madrid. He said that they take expensive white fish and shred it to make it go further. It is nicknamed, “spaghetti fish” and yes, it does taste like spaghetti pasta.
Spain is a pickle and olive haven or would that be heaven?
Peppers and olives artistically arranged on sticks. Photo on right has a little sign that says Barritas Energeticas which my translator app revealed as “Energy Bars”. Hahah, I don’t think so. Looks like some form of bacon with a crispy crust of fat.
Every tapa bar is unique.
Most bars have a supply of cured hams hanging from the ceiling.
We escaped from the Tapa bars and headed to the playa on the bay of La Concha. Outside of the Bay of La Concha is the Bay of Biscay.
Across from the board walk is some mighty fine housing.
We walked along the board walk to Mount Igueldo. Steep hills caused by erosion. Not sure if I would want to stay in the cliff side dwelling on the right.
The Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) is a group of steel sculptures located at the end of Ondarreta Beach. It is probably the most iconic image of San Sebastian. The metal structures have been fused into the rocks over the Cantabrian Sea. Waves smash violently against the rocks, while the wind “combs” through the structures.
Toward the end of the boardwalk is a funicular that goes to the top of Mount Igueldo. Photo on the right shows the track. Two funiculars run up and down the hill. The track splits in the middle so the two cars can pass each other.
At the top of the Mount Igueldo is a quaint little amusement park. It opened in 1911 and is one of the oldest in the Basque Country. The park is small and the rides are a little run down but it has lots of charm.
Beautiful views from the top of Mount Igueldo.
The view from the top is amazing and one of my favorites in Spain.
On the way back to the hotel we found the Whisky Museum. Had to stop. In addition to a very large selection of whisky, it had a variety of whiskey-related knick-knacks, old bottles, tacky mugs and glasses.
Kid in a candy shop again. Felt homesick when I saw the Four Roses bourbon from Kentucky. My Kentucky sister Mary and I have travelled the Bourbon trail a few times and have toured Four Roses. Being in Spain, I missed this year’s Kentucky Derby too.
Nothing but sunshine the next day. Being early June, we were fortunate to have a warm, sunny beach day with no crowds.
Taking a break from the sun at a beach bar.
At the far end of the harbor is Zurriola, the surfing beach.
Zurriola beach is bordered by the city. It’s really fun to have the combination of city and beach so close together.
The Kursaal is a postmodern convention center opened in 1999. It is located on the shore next to the surfing beach and was designed to represent “two beached rocks.” During the day, the building is quite boring – some might even say its ugly. However, at night it completely changes as the whole façade lights up and functions as a kind of giant billboard advertising whatever function is going on at the time in the city.
Sadly, we had to leave San Sabastian. We loaded up our backpacks and crossed over River Urumea that divides San Sebastian and walked to the bus station. Next stop … Barcelona.