Beach time and experimental tapas in San Sebastian

To be honest…planning wise – it would have been easier to leave San Sebastian off the list.

Logistically, spending a bit more time in Portugal and then just heading to Pamplona straight from Madrid would have made much more sense right? Right?

One of the churches in the old central part of San Sebastian

It seems common sense was fighting a losing battle…but how could I expect common sense to prevail when pretty much every person I’d ever met who’d visited Northern Spain had raved…and RAVED about the place. I’m a killer for caving simply due to the fear of missing out on anything – and that truly showed here!

Due to practically all hostels and hotels being booked out I was forced to explore other accommodation options, which lead me into my first foray with ‘AirBnB’. AirBnB is an online service that allows people to put up their room or whole apartment/house up for temporary rent and in the end I’m very glad that I ended up using it!

Street art in the city centre…

I’d been a little dubious about the whole system but managed to find a place that had great reviews and a large double room. It only ended up costing a fraction more then it looked like we might have had to pay to stay in an average looking dorm, score! Any doubts I had floated out the window when we arrived and were greeted by the hilarious ‘Czariku’ – a local veterinarian and surfer who had managed to turn basically his whole apartment into a well-kitted out little guesthouse!

Our room was massive, in a great location and there was the added bonus that it was really easy to meet all of the other guests staying there whilst hanging out in the kitchen, so it even had a social vibe to it! We happened to arrive at the same time as a bunch of other guests so Czariku sat us all let us all know about the key places to visit as well as the best places to eat and drink.

Admiring a view over the whole city…

I’ve got to say, he didn’t get it wrong! We definitely ate like kings for the following two days…

Armed with Czariku’s hot local tips we set off for a wander around the town before dinner and it didn’t take me very long to see what all the fuss had been about!

To give you an idea of it all, San Sebastian is a cozy but elegant medium-sized city nestled on a calm little bay just off the River Urumea. The Parte Vieja (old part) itself is centred just below a large hill that when climbed offers a stunning view over both sides of the town. The place offers the rare combination of having some incredible picturesque and easily accessible beaches and a beautiful and quaint old town whilst still maintaining the comforts and solid infrastructure that would usually only be expected in a much bigger place.

The ‘Parte Vieja’ of San Sebastian

Wandering around the town I spied a variety of features of the town that resulted in near love at first sight for me;

–          Shops laden with amazing leather shoes for under 50 Euro

–          A ridiculous abundance of tapas eateries

–          A calm and wide sandy beach

–          A huge ZARA

–          Did I mention the tapas?

Luckily it wasn’t long before I was given the chance to sample some of the tasty looking tapas I’d been eyeing off as we wandered between the restaurants! Jess and Clint were also staying in San Sebastian and this was their last night in town before heading down to Pamplona for Running with the Bulls, so we organised to meet them at a place famous for its 1 Euro tapas and drinks!

Clint chows down on a mini hamburger…

It was great to see both of them again and besides one slight hiccup (forgetting to check that the huge drink I ordered was on the 1 Euro menu, woops!) everything was completely delicious and I couldn’t believe what great value it was! 1 Euro freshly marinated chicken skewers anyone??? Or perhaps a mini-hamburger?

Squid and Sangria – what a combination…

The night continued with a bit of an impromptu tapas bar crawl and ended with me downing far too many Mojitos, resulting in a very zig-zaggy and erratic walk home.

With those one-too-many mojitos still flowing steadily through my veins, I woke up the next morning feeling more than a little dusty and all previous declarations that I was going ‘get up and be out by 9am so I could have a full day exploring the town’ were soon forgotten.

Luckily, San Sebastian didn’t seem to be a place were taking your time and lazing about were a bad thing. After a leisurely wake up I cooked us up the obligatory post-night-out egg and chorizo fry up and with my tummy full and the headache waning I felt a little more equipped for tackling the outside world!

The big man himself at the top of the Castillo de Santa Cruz de la Mota…

A wander in over the river and towards the Parte Vieja led us to some steps cut into the side of the hill. The steps were heading up towards the top of ‘Monte Urgell’ – hardly a mountain by any stretch of the imagination but none the less fairly steep! We wandered uphill for a solid 20 minutes or so before arriving at the Castillo de Santa Cruz de la Mota (Castle of the Holy Cross).

The view from the top…

There was a pretty decent free museum right beside the castle that explained the history of both San Sebastian and the Basque area – but ultimately, the real reason we were up there was because of the view.

Worth the climb? I think so…

Not too shabby hey?

The beautiful street of beach that you can see in the above photo is ‘La Concha’ beach, and after our sweaty little session of climbing and view admiring that was the next port of call.

La Concha beach

The sandy beach was extremely wide and not terribly crowded when we finally arrived – leaving me a little perplexed as I was sure I’d seen it looking absolutely packed when I’d caught a quick glimpse of it the day before.

The reason for this soon became very clear when we were witness to the quickest change in tide I have ever seen in my life! Within all of 15 minutes the 100m wide stretch of beach was quickly shifted to only 50m as the water lapped increasingly closer with each wave. All of the people who had previously been sitting right in front of the waves we forced back to join those sitting at the back – and the beach once again resembled the crowded and slightly chaotic scene I’d glimpsed the day before!

Life is tough in San Sebastian…

After settling in to catch a few rays we were greeted by the lovely surprise of spotting Bruce and Emma from Lagos walking towards us! They were in the midst of a few weeks of Euro van touring and had stopped off for a few hours of a beach time when they spotted Will coming out of the water. The people you run into! It was great to see them and touch base before we  caught up with them again in Pamplona – it had turned out that we were all going to be staying at the same campsite!

After a solid afternoon of sun we were left a little exhausted but, as always – eager for some food! San Sebastian is world renowned for its fabulous cuisine, in particular the famous “Pintxos”. Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas and usually consist of a selection of ingredients placed on top of a slice of bread which is occasionally fastened with a toothpick.

One of San Sebastian’s beautiful parks…

Now throughout the day I’d dabbled in tasting a pintxos or two which had been absolutely scrumptious – but come evening time – and for our final night in San Sebastian -I wanted something a little different!

One of Czariku’s recommendations turned out to be the perfect place to go – ‘A Fuego Negro’. This restaurant is legendary for its experimental and flavoursome tapas, so  I just had to give it a try! Once again, we placed our faith in the waiter’s expertise and we went ahead with ordering 5 mixed tapas as well as a few solid glasses of local red wine.

Quinoa salad, a mini kebab and mini hamburger. What a mini feast!

We nibbled away on the following:

– a mini wagyu burger on a ketchup-infused bun with fried banana

– ‘egg and rice’ (doesn’t sound very fancy but the combination of delicately flavoured rice and a perfectly poached egg was incredible!)

– Frozen cheese with anchovies

– A tiny miniature sized doner ‘kebab’ complete with a mini bread wrap

– Quinoa and mixed sprout salad

– The most ridiculously delicious pintxos of camembert, sweet semi dried tomato and prosciutto piled onto a thin slice of crusty baguette. Heaven.

Heaven on a stick!

Overall the evening was truly lovely and the perfect way to top off our time in San Sebastian. I ended up really enjoying everything our waiter chose for us with the massive exclusion of the ‘frozen cheese’. This was bizarrely the same texture and temperature as a sorbet and as much as I would like to consider myself an adventurous eater – cheese and fish flavoured ice cream is probably the place where I draw the line.

At the end of the day though, I guess at least you can be sure you truly are at an ‘experimental’ restaurant where there’s a slightly seafood flavoured ice cream on the menu!

San Sebastian AirBnB –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: