Saturday, 17 September, 2011 17:20

San Sebastian – A Beautiful Northern Spain City

Departing Salamanca …
A short bus ride to Salamanca Station and we were on our way to San Sebastian, a 6 hour journey by train. Travelling by train in Spain is economical, efficient and very comfortable. A much better choice than driving because of the long distances. We arrived in San Sebastian late afternoon and were able to walk to our hotel about 600 meters from the station.

The landscape shortly after leaving Salamanca

A Change In Landscape, A Change In Language …
What was noticeable travelling north is how we left behind the dry farming landscape and came into green mountain ranges with small villages scattered along the way. Also a change in the housing style from the white villas to a more french style of housing. The other change that was noticeable was the change in language. Down south the language is Castillian (Spanish) in the north west it is mainly Euskera (Basque), quite a different language. So just as you are getting the hang of one language, there is a change that completely throws you. You find all menus, street signs and many shop signs are in both languages.

A change in lanscape from South to North

A City With Everything …
San Sebastian really is a city with everything to offer. A “Centro Historica”, old town, a modern retail commercial district, fantastic beaches with good surf and plenty of open space. Having now visited, we now understand why it is such a popular tourist destination.

Fabulous surfing beach, lots of white pointers

Centro Historica or old town of San Sebastian

Our First Full Day …
We spent the day exploring the old town and then decided to take the 2km hike to the top of Mount Urguli where there is a castle and a 20 meter high statue of Jesus which is visible across the entire city. Having caught our breath we visited the free Musuem located in the castle, giving the history of San Sebastian, then took the compulsory photos of the town and Jesus to prove we had reached the top of the mount.

Bay of La Concha with Island of Santa Clara

Jesus from the castle

Old town (foreground) and retail/commercial district

Traditional Spanish Lunch …
After our pilgrimage to see Jesus we went back down to the old town for a traditional lunch of tapas and beer. It really is a great way to eat. You grab a plate, help yourself to the tapas you desire, order a beer and sit down to feast, all without paying. Want more, just go back and help yourself to more. When you have finished just tell the barman what you had and he charges. An honesty system and nobody seems to do the wrong thing.

Tapas on the bar where we had lunch

Siesta – Almost Compulsory In Spain …
We have found that siestas are an essential part of the day in Spain. Not only do most of the shops close for about 3 hours, but it is necessary to catch your breath for the night out, as most locals do not eat till 10:00pm. Even at 9:00pm most resaurants are nearly empty except for a few tourists that have not adjusted. Tapas bars on the other hand are full as most locals have a drink and a couple of tapas to get them through to the evening meal.

San Sebastian at night-a different atmosphere

Viva la France …
We met a young couple from the Canary Islands in town the night before, who recommended to us a short trip to France and so we took on the challenge. A bit of research on bus routes and before we knew it we were on our way to France. Hondarribia is the closest northwestern town to the border and just across the river you are in Hendaye, France. So a €1.60 ferry ride and we were in France. Not many people can claim to have had breakfast in Spain, morning tea in France and lunch back in Spain.

The historic town of Hondarribia

Funiculee, Funicular …
We caught the bus back to San Sebastian then took another bus around the Bay of La Concha to the funicular railway. This funicular takes you to the top of Mount Igueldo where there is a hotel and a small amusement park, but for us, fantastic views of San Sebastian. We then walked from the funicular all the way back to the old town via the boardwalk. This walk earnt us a glass of wine and tapas in the old town.

View from the top of Mount Igueldo

Boardwalk and beach

Farewell to San Sebastian …
So after three great days it was farewell to beautiful San Sebastian and a 6 hour train journey to Barcelona for the next part of our holiday.

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Location:San Sebastian, Spain

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