Thursday, July 14, 2011

What to See and Do in San Sebastian

I had very low expectations of San Sebastian. I said something along the lines of dirty shell ridden sand and too many people. Yes, there are a lot of people but San Sebastian is awesome. The beach is beautiful as are the views from the mountains either side. The smaller is apparently an easy trek to the top, although we didn’t do it. The larger of the two mountains is where we stayed, and there’s a loop bus that goes between camp and town.

Smack bang in between the two are the city and the beach. The shops are mostly boutique-y expensive shops, but we found a few bargains. Where we spent most of our time was the old town, resting under the shade of the smaller mountain. The old town is tiny compared to the new side but there are no cars along the narrow cobbled streets and the area retains the charm of a small Spanish town.

Our week in San Sebastian seems to melt into a couple of days in my memory. We spent a full day and a second morning in Pamplona, an hour and a half away by bus, for the San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) festival. Aside from that there are 4 or 5 other days where I don’t really know what we did. I know the Sangria at Café de la Concha is the best I’ve had, we went there twice. We explored the wharf, the old town, the new town – one hung over day we walked to three different cinemas trying to find one that was open and playing English movies but all were closed.

We almost never made it to the beach – a week in a beach town and no surf or sand. We intended to a couple of times but we would get distracted, usually during a hunt for board shorts for Courts. On our last day in town, I insisted on at least dipping my toes in the ocean, so we walked the full length of both bays and fell asleep on the sand at the end.

So in terms of what to do – keep your expectations low so you will be pleasantly surprised, try Sangria from Café de la Concha, eat gelato in the shade of the church in the old town, try authentic Spanish tapas in the alleys there too. If you want to camp, Camping Igueldo is awesome, but spend the extra to get your own pitch instead of being lumped on the budget field. The showers there are the best in Europe so far.

What not to do – try and find a cinema operating before evening, expect a restaurant to serve dinner before 8pm, forget to download a phrasebook so you can at least interpret the menu.

What I’d do differently – I’d go to the beach on the very first day. They have floating islands anchored in the water with small waterslides. You can hire kayaks and then you can hire beach chairs and shade umbrellas afterwards. I’d also go on the little ferry tour around the bays for an hour on a hot day, and we never did make it back to the wharf for Courts to have a fresh seafood dinner so I’d do that too.

Penelope_nz's San Sebastian, Spain photoset Penelope_nz's San Sebastian, Spain photoset