Situated in the northern coast of Spain, San Sebastián (or Donostia, if you’re Basque) sits just 20 km from the French border. It is the capital city of Spanish province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque region, has a wonderful blend of food, culture, and people, and sits on a gorgeous beach on the Bay of Biscay.
Tarragona & Zaragoza
Our visit to this beautiful city commenced on Sunday, October 8 following an overnight flight into Barcelona and journey via car across Spain (with pit stops in Tarragona for breakfast and Zaragoza for lunch) that took most of the morning & afternoon to complete.
Once we arrived, checked into our hotel (Astoria7, which I highly recommend), and shook off our travel weariness, we set out upon the town and enjoyed our first pintxo bar experiences, but not without first making our way to beach.
After a later than expected evening (a glass of wine or two might have been consumed along with all of the delicious food), we called it a night, returned to the hotel, and rested up for a couple of very busy days.
Zurriola Beach, Old Town, Bodegón Alejandro, Monte Urgull & La Concha Beach
Monday morning began with a needed coffee and delicious poached egg over avocado toast at Sakona Coffee Roasters. From there, we headed down to the beach, on what was a gorgeous morning, and took in the sights at the surfing beach, Zurriola.
Old Town & Bodegon Alejandro
San Sebastián is a city known for its wonderful culinary tradition. It boasts, per capita, the 2nd most Michelin Stars of any city in the world (trailing only Kyoto, Japan), so we felt like we needed to experience at least one of these recognized eateries. So, after a stroll back through town, we decided on one of San Sebastián’s many Michelin recognized restaurants, Bodegón Alejandro, where we stuffed ourselves silly with a six-course tasting menu. I won’t soon forget the Anchovy Lasagna, the standout dish in a meal full of excellent flavors.
With bellies full, Lauren and I crossed town once again, and began our ascent up Monte Urgull, where we stopped often to both catch our breath and to take in the magnificent views.
After sitting for a beverage at the bar near Monte Urgull’s summit, we descended the mountain, and ambitiously set out for the funicular at Monte Igueldo on the other side of the bay. Rather than take a taxi or bus, we decided to hoof it along San Sebastián’s picturesque La Concha beach.
La Concha Beach
As the sun began to set, we had high hopes for the views atop Monte Igueldo, but alas, it was not meant to be, as we arrived at the funicular entrance only a few minutes before its scheduled 19:00 closing time to find the ticket counter closed up, and the day’s funicular rides all completed. While we were disappointed, we were also exhausted from the ~10 miles we covered on foot, and decided, after a stop at a local bar for some pintxos, to call it an evening.
Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz & Amelia
Our third day in San Sebastián began with an audible. We knew we were very close to the France-Spain border, had access to our rental car, and were interested in exploring what the French side of Basque Country had to offer. With that in mind, we grabbed our morning coffee and hopped in the car.
First stop on our French day trip was the city of Biarritz. After a wrong turn or two, we found ourselves a parking spot by its famed surfing beach, and began exploring.
While in town, we found a bistro to our liking, Le Tandem, where we had shared some mussels & frites for lunch. Following lunch, we explored the city's beach areas a bit more, noting the interesting juxtaposition between surfing culture on Plage de la Côte des Basques, and the luxury feel found along Grande Plage.
The second stop on our brief tour of France's Basque coast, led us to Saint-Jean-de-Luz. A much needed afternoon soda helped us recharge our batteries, and we wandered off of the boardwalk into town's shops.
After an enjoyable hour and a half of exploring we returned to the car, thinking we'd hop in and make our way back to Spain without incident. All was going according to plan until I realized that I had lost our garage ticket. In a panic, I searched, re-search, and triple-searched the car, my pockets, and the floor of the garage. Lauren then waited behind with the car while I headed off to attempt to procure a new ticket somehow. When that failed, I meekly pressed the 'Help' button on the garage's payment kiosk. A broken conversation between myself and the non-English speaking attendant, eventually ended in me mustering enough Spanish words (I say words, because they were in no way grammatically or structurally correct) to coax the gentleman to come to the garage to help. Thankfully, he arrived promptly, and was able to help us escape the parking garage. 45 minutes later, we were safely back in San Sebastián, kicking our feet back for a few, and resting up before our final in meal in town at Amelia.
We decided for our final meal in San Sebastián, we wanted one more great culinary experience. Unfortunately, we had not been able to secure a table at Arzak, or one of other famous restaurants of its ilk. However, after a bit of research, we realized that Amelia, was new on the scene and its chef, Paulo Airaudo, had in fact, spent time in the kitchens of restaurants like Arzak and The Fat Duck, and already had Michelin star under his belt at La Bottega. We opted for the six course tasting menu with the sommelier's wine pairings. The meal was a great experience, culminating with a chance to visit the kitchen and say 'hi' to Chef Airaudo.
We thoroughly enjoyed each course, but the star of the show for me, was our dessert course: a frozen lemon custard paired with a dill-infused oil.
With our grand finale of the part one of our Spanish trip in the books, we retreated to the our hotel to get some rest in preparation for our journey back to Barcelona.
For more photos from the San Sebastián leg of our trip, take a peak at the full album on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4z91hh