San Sebastian

By Team Kalamwali in Travelogues
Updated 12:41 IST Aug 11, 2019

San Sebastian

- By Eesha Patwardhan

 

After a late night sipping on some sangria goodness in Barcelona it was time to head north to San Sebastian in the Basque country. We left by rail at the crack of dawn and started our journey to probably one of the best beaches in Europe and definitely the best beach I’ve ever been to .  Sitting cozy in the train leafing through the pages of the Lonely Planet Traveller , I felt all so “travelleresque” .Yes this word is my contribution to the Oxford Dictionary.  Every good rail journey involves food as anyone who has travelled by rail will know. So it was time to visit the pantry which was more like a cafe with the view of the constantly changing landscape. Even the train food is nice here. Something as simple as grilled cheese and ham sandwiches tastes good when you use the best produce . Feeling satiated with the gooey cheesy goodness of the sandwich washed down with the freshly squeezed Naranja (orange juice )  I made my way back to our seats . The train moved on and so did my thoughts. I envisioned myself running on the beach in my swimsuit and soaking in the sun ( this is what happens when the only other beach you have seen is in Goa) .

As we got off the train , all my dreams of being a beach babe came crashing as the temperature in San Sebastian was a cold , chilly 16 degrees. Super cold for someone who has come in from sweltering 43degrees in India.  First impressions of  San Sebastian were not too great. Looked like a teeny tiny town that probably most people have not even heard of . The Lonely planet book had dedicated only 2 pages to it and by the looks of it we were probably going to be s**t bored here. So off we go to check into our hotel which was this old time hotel with probably the best location in town. Strategically located in the heart of the city and within walking distance from all places of our interest ( mainly bars ) .

San Sebastian as it turns out is the gastronomical capital of the country and has a different take on tapas. In San Sebastian you eat Pintxos ( pronounced as pincho ) . Pintxos are literally bite sized snacks that are popularly eaten with drinks . Walk in to any bar and pick up a plate, point out to whatever pintxo  you like and sit tight and order your drink .  You are bound to feel right at home in this town .  Pintxos are most likely served on a slice of bread and toppings can include eggs, salmon , fish roe , olives, anchovies .

In the afternoon we decided to explore our surroundings a bit and walked across to the main attraction – Playa la Concha ( Concha beach ) . Concha beach sits cozy in a bay. On  one side is a hill by the name of Urugull and the city of San Sebastian on the other side. This tiny Bay rests in the much larger Bay of Biscay . This allows for mostly calm seas and great conditions for fishing . San Sebastian or Donostia was mainly a fishing community. Infact even at present most residents are sailors . It was also enlightening to know that Donostia was one of the first few Whaling communities and actively hunted whales for meat up till the late 1700’s .They even have a Museum dedicated to the Maritime community with moving exhibits.  We were lucky enough to see the exhibit dedicated specifically to women and the seas. More on that exhibit later.

The Miramar Place  , another place of tourist interest has a eagles eye view of the bay and in the past served as a strategic location. It is located on a hill and you can see the endless horizon . In the past it  may have been used as lookout for approaching enemy ships. It used to be the Summer Palace of the Royal Seat of Spain. But it was later handed over to the city . Today its open to public. As we walked along Concha Beach and climbed our way up to Miramar place , a feeling of surrealness set in. I felt as if the what was around me was unreal and I was imagining it all .  It was like a painting, almost too perfect to be true. San Sebastian ,you beauty !!!!

Thanks to Daylight savings the sun sets late around 9 pm so that way you can make the most of the day. Thats when you step out bar hopping trying out local Basque country food and wine. As usual , our trusty guide for the evening was google maps and it was eager to suggest the best bars in town located mostly in Parte Vieja. Starting our night with generous servings of wine which carried on till the very last bar that we walked into. Each bar here has their own signature pintxo menu that you can choose from. We sampled delicacies such as risotto in squid ink , slow cooked pigs ear , orzo cooked in seafood stock . We even tried a local cider called Txakoli which is like drinking a very mild and fruity sparkling white wine. Ideal for nights when you just want a happy high. All in all this place is an orgy fest for hardcore foodies.

On our last day in San Sebastian we had breakfast at the a quaint bakery called Pasteleria Oiartazun.  The bakery was bursting at the seams with all the cakes , croissants and pastries on display.  I settled on my ultimate favourite dessert, Lemon Tart while Mr P chose the most decadent, flaky , almond crusted croissant . Both paired well with the ubiquitous cafe con leche. Made for a very satisfying breakfast ( wish my daily breakfast was just like this unlike the boring rolled oats I usually grab out of a box).

 

San Sebastian is not for everyone. But if you are even remotely interested in art , culture , food and basically just having a good time ( aka drinking loads of wine and eating yummy finger food) then make sure you stop by this tiny town of merely 400,000 residents.

 

San Sebastian – Donostia.

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