Life in the Basque Country – Donostia / San Sebastian

Arriving by plane, Bilbao airport was the chaotic beginning place to our week in San Sebastian. The bus trip was fraught with misunderstandings over payment and tickets, thank goodness for a helpful fellow traveller from England who sorted us out with the exact change needed to get on the last bus for the night to our destination. Again, in crowds and through language misunderstandings at the bus stop in San Sebastian, we battled with our cases through boutique lined streets filled with Saturday night strollers and revellers, around a few unnecessary blocks before we at last found our welcoming apartment.

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Once at our Pension we enjoyed a warm welcome, lots of directions and useful sight seeing tips and from our room there was a beautiful view along the main shopping street towards the Cathedral.  San Sebastian is a tourism hot spot for the Spanish, French and other Europeans as well as for the British who enjoy the warmer temperatures, sunshine and delicious foods of this Basque city.

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During our stay we noticed a huge gathering of locals, who had made a human chain holding hands for 100 km along the Basque coast stretching from France into Spain making a point of the unique culture and heritage of this part of the world. In the evening a concert saw a huge gathering of all ages coming together with pride in their Basque language and background. We learn that Donostia is the Basque name for this city and the Basque language is being revived and spoken by locals, one of the oldest Western languages to survive and now thrive.

 

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As well as the expansive Atlantic Ocean beaches, promenades and quaint shop lined streets San Sebastian is known and loved for it delicious Pintxos. The old town street are dotted with bars selling these tasty morsels, many just a mouthful, of seasonal produce often served on tiny slices of banquette or in little pastry cases. The helpful host at our Pension had told us to be aware of the protocol of eating one pintxos and having one drink at each bar, suggesting we were careful with the one drink per bar, our problem though was not the drinks.

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We were so taken with the yummy treats that we just could not pull ourselves away from the very first bar we visited. Every pintxos was delicious and there were so many more that we wanted to try. Eventually though we moved on and found similar treats on offer in each bar, the better bars filled with locals, the floors covered in discarded serviettes and toothpicks. After two days of filling ourselves with all the beautiful flavours on Donostia we were well and truly ready for a break from pintxos and sought out different tastes.

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Not is keeping with the old school yard saying “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain”, we found that in Basque country the rain does fall at the beach resort. For the next couple of days we persevered through torrential tropical like rain and extreme wind gust,  putting an end to our plans of spending days on the beach and in the ocean. Long lunch was a good alternative, as was a visit to the Aquarium and a walk up the hill to the medieval castle and fortress that protects the city.

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By the end of our stay in San Sebastian we had seen the sights, eaten the local food and wines, learnt about Basque culture, both old and new and once again saw some sunshine, enjoying a beautiful evening watching the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

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