San Sebastián, Spain

IMG_1734After leaving Barcelona a day earlier than expected, as the sun creeped lower and lower in the sky, we arrived in San Sebastián in the northern, cloudy Basque region of Spain. With my map in hand, I began to attempt to lead Sydney and Kyla toward the center of the old town. I thought I could find our pension pretty easily; it was a small town after all, and we had just come from three of the largest European cities all in a row. So this was a piece of cake. Or at least it should have been. It took twenty or thirty minutes but eventually we found Adore Plaza. But our room was booked for tomorrow night and the night after that, not this night! And it wasn’t a hotel or hostel — that would have simplified everything — it was an apartment and we didn’t have a phone number to call. So basically, we were screwed.

But, first things first, we were hungry and tired so we found a restaurant, went on in, and sat down. Actually, it was the first restaurant we came upon and we just went right in and ordered. I ordered a Coke (which was very out of character because I normally don’t drink soda) and this delicious greasy, rotisserie chicken with rice and chicken noodle soup. It was just what I needed. It wasn’t too, too late at this point — probably around eight or nine in the evening. We just sat around a enjoyed ourselves in this nice little refuge. There was a teenager’s birthday party going on downstairs and it sounded like fun. The little restaurant looked like a place that had been passed down from father to son for generations. It was simple and the food was yummy and hearty. There weren’t any other travelers in there, just a couple of tables with locals young and old, laughing, eat, and enjoying each others’ company.

Eventually, it got pretty late and we had to go figure out what we were going to do for the night with no place to stay. We had discussed it during our meal and had decided that perhaps just sleeping on the ground in the town square was our best option. So that’s what we did:

IMG_1669At the far end of the square, there was a stage set up for something (we didn’t know what) so we decided that would kind of block the cold wind and nighttime chill. It didn’t really, but it was better than nothing. When we needed to use the restroom, we went in an empty bar and asked the bartender if we could use the restroom and he didn’t care so that’s what we did. It was cold, long night. We didn’t have blankets (although Kyla had purchased a sarong warp at the beach in Barcelona) and I most certaintly did not have enough layers so I just lied there shivering and using my backpack as a pillow.

I couldn’t have been more relieved when the sun finally began to brighten the sky. We thought it best if we weren’t caught just loitering around so we went for a walk looking for a breakfast place and it was o incredibly difficult to find anything. We eventually found this coffee shop but it barely had anything besides coffee and it didn’t have any menus. We ate some tiny pastries there and drank coffee, and tried to sit there as long as we could. We waited until the pension we were staying at opened and then we made our way there and checked in early. We couldn’t get into our room at that point, but they let us keep our bags there for a couple of hours until we could. We went for a walk and grabbed lunch at a totally mediocre, over-priced restaurant. But at least it was food. I think I got a burger or something.

IMG_1672Once we got into our room, showered, and changed, we immediately felt so much better. The view was beautiful and we honestly just spent the rest of our first day in San Sebastián dozing through the afternoon, trying to get back the sleep we lost the previous night. I wrote in my journal for a little bit, but mostly I slept until it began to get dark. Outside our window, (see above how beautiful the views from our room!) there was a musical performance of some sort going on. It was an opera-musical-child’s choir conglomeration type of thing. It sounded nice, Sydney seemed to be enjoying it, but I was too tired to get up so unfortunately I just slept through it. Also, I found it so interesting to talk to the woman who owned the pension with her husband and sun. She knew English, but her husband did not, but I talked to her in Spanish for a bit. It was my first time talking politics with a European! (She doesn’t like the royal family in Spain as figureheads)

The next day, we walked around the beautiful, charming little town, chatting, taking pictures, and eventually deciding on taking a beach day in the afternoon. The walk by the sea was absolutely gorgeous as the waves crashed on the rocky shores below the pathway. There were multiple cute churches in the town, but we didn’t end up going inside any.

The walk by the sea was absolutely gorgeous as the waves crashed on the rocky shores below the pathway. Everyone was out walking their dogs and there were a couple of kayakers paddling through the waves below. It was just a perfect day for a walk.

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IMG_1729San Sebastián is the most charming seaside town I have ever visited and, while the weather can often hide the sun for days on end, if you go at the right time of the year and have just a little bit of luck, your time there will be wonderful. Even with foul weather I am sure it is a good time. There’s even a surf spot at a beach right outside of the city center, but we hung out at Playa de la Concha for our beach day and it was a quaint beach and more crowded than I expected — probably due to the unusually beautiful weather. Unfortunately, I even managed to get sunburnt.

The town is known for its history as a northern port of Spain. We saw a Spanish Coast Guard station and plenty of boats docked in the cute little harbor:

IMG_1740IMG_1736Now, on to the food. I didn’t get many pictures because I was too busy gulping down various types of pintxos, which is the Basque version of tapas (I did not really know what I was eating for those; I would just point to one and go with it), and stuffing my face with delicious paella. I did, however, manage to snap a photo of the fresh seafood paella before it was consumed. We also had bread with that meal which, of course, the three of us loved:

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The time spent in the Basque region of Spain was so special to me. There was something about the quiet, little village by the sea and the beautiful, yet simple architecture of the old town that I found so utterly captivating. As usual, we didn’t spend nearly enough time there, but that just makes me want to come back again! San Sebastián was the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate our bodies after long days of walking around big European cities, craning our necks to take in all the mesmerizing sights. It was calm, quiet, and serene. And the food was great!

Click here to view my full backpacking Europe itinerary.

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9 Comments

    1. It’s such a charming town! I think it’s a great place to go if you just want to relax and enjoy yourself in a calm kind of way. I’ve never been to Seville, but from what I do know, it’s note quite the same haha. I would love to go to Seville though.

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  1. I did a homestay in San Sebastian for three weeks during high school, and I fell in love with the little city. Playa de la Concha is the biggest and most famous beach there, hence the crowd. I spent most of my beach time at Playa de la Zurriola and also got sunburnt. The whole Basque element of it was interesting to me, too–I saw lots of separatist posters while I was there.

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    1. Yes!! I absolutely loved it there. So charming and sweet. San Sebastian just felt to me like it wasn’t trying too hard to be what it was — it just was! I really enjoyed the time I spent there. Jealous that you got to spend 3 weeks there. That’s really cool. What kind of program was that?

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      1. It was through a local homestay organization, but it partnered with my high school so my group was a handful of classmates and we were led by one of my teachers. We went to language school in the morning with other people from all over the world and in the afternoon went on excursions. Definitely a good trip!

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