As we pressed on into Spain from France, we felt our love of the culture, weather and surroundings grow as we entered into San Sebastian (or known locally as “Donostia”). From the moment we drove into this beloved city, we were both hooked. Culturally it has everything, as well as multiple beaches that span for miles on one side of the fortress rock and another mile on the other side. Yet as soon as you leave the beach and step into the city, you’re blessed with meandering narrow streets full of shops and tapas bars. The people are warm & friendly and respond quickly to Mr. T’s Argentine Spanish. We spent two nights here to ensure that we fully enjoyed the small city of just 180,000 people. Although our hotel was over a mile from downtown, there is a wonderful beachfront walkway in between.
On the morning of our full day, we ventured first to the Southern part of the beach to the “Wind Comb” sculptures that have been in place since the 1950’s. A fusion between the strength of the sea and the force of iron, this has become a common place for locals to meet up. Then it was on to downtown via the main beach, and it was an experience altogether. As it was almost noon and the only people out & about were older, we were joined by hundreds of the elderly in swimsuits walking both directions on the flat “Playa”. Some were even swimming, as others just enjoyed their time near the ocean.
We made our way to the far side of the beach and began our walk up to the large statue of Jesus on top of the rock that separates the two beaches and Old Town vs. the new part of town. This was also a fortress on the top to protect the city, as once the tide is in, there is no way of accessing the city. Beautiful views from the top and hardly any tourists around on this late October day, yet still a lovely 75 degrees. We then continued down and around the fortress, back along the smaller “surfer” beach and then finally ducking into a restaurant for lunch. After as much wine as we could drink and soup plus a nice grilled chicken, we skated out of there for less than $20 Euros.
You can’t really get lost walking through the quaint streets of San Sebastian, as each corner brings multiple exciting options for shopping or sights. Down the one of the main streets, Mayor Kalea, you’ll find the Church of Santa Maria waiting at the end. A Roman Catholic church and the entrance doors rest between two large towers with a figure of San Sebastian the Saint in the middle.
After wandering the narrow streets of the Old town, we continued our stroll back on the beach towards our hotel and stopped in the sand to admire the weather, surf and people-watch. Spanish beaches are clothing optional, and usually applies to the women deciding on wearing a bikini top or not, however we also experienced our a bit of male nudity as well. Overall the city is breathtaking and manageable, which is a lot to say for two people from the country. I would spend 3 months here each year easily, allowing myself to get lost in tapas bars and daily surfing.