To get to San Sebastian we took an early morning train from Paris. For our first time navigating the European train system and not speaking the language, I’d say it was a pretty smooth process.
Six hours later, we were in San Sebastian, Spain! (Or as the locals call it, Donostia).
From the train station it was about a 15 minute walk to meet up with our Airbnb hosts to grab the keys to their apartment (review for our Airbnb coming soon!).
Now that we were settled in, it was time to grab some food, a beer and explore this beautiful city.
Our first surprise came quick. Turns out they don’t speak Spanish in San Sebastian; they speak Basque. Call me uncultured, but I’ve never even heard of Basque. So much for the hour that I spent on the train brushing up on my Spanish phrases. When our first experience ordering food resulted in Casey eating a sausage link on a loaf of bread, accompanied by a few snickers from the waitress, I knew we were kind of screwed.
If we’re being honest, the city and it’s culture are great, but we were really in San Sebastian for one thing and one thing only: the beach. We couldn’t wait to be on the beach! We are beach people, both completely content doing nothing as long as we have sand to sit on and an ocean to look at. Which is why 90% of our itinerary for this trip (the main exception being Eastern Europe), involves us sitting next to a body of water, working on our tans.
So, you can imagine our disappointment when we woke up the next morning to overcast skies. Big buzzkill.
But, we were determined to make the best of it so off to the beach we went. There are three different beaches in San Sebastian, all three with very different personalities. That day we decided to head to Zurriola Beach, which is on the Northern side of the city and known for its big waves.
Before getting there we stopped by a small market to pick up some lunch (and booze) and holy hell it was cheap. For ten euro (about $11 USD) we bought yogurt, pasta salad, fruit, a bottle of rosé and a six-pack of beer. Eleven dollars. Grocery shopping is definitely going to be our daily budget’s saving grace on this trip.
Zurriola beach was great. Even with cloudy skies we managed to get a lot of sun and we were feeling pretty content with finally getting some time on the beach. That evening we headed home for a little siesta and had a great dinner at a cute spot downtown called FooDoo, which had an untraditional Basque menu (see: less bread, more salads) and then headed to the Old Town for some cheap beers and local nightlife.
Side note: I’m a BIG nap person. I used to take a three-hour nap every day in college. You heard me. Every single day I would come back from an hour or two of class, pop in a DVD (because Netflix didn’t exist in 2006) and sleep for THREE HOURS. Man, was life hard. (cue the eye roll). But anyway, you can imagine my excitement about visiting Spain, a place KNOWN for their afternoon siestas! Clearly, I was born in the wrong country.
Second side note: They don’t do tapas in San Sebastian, they have what are called Pinxtos (pinchos). Same look and feel, except they cost money (traditionally tapas come free with a drink order). The really unique thing about Pinxtos is the way they are served. Every bar that you go into has plates and plates and plates of food on the counter and you just walk up and take whatever you want. In some bars, each Pinxto has a toothpick in it and when you’re finished, the bartender counts how many toothpicks are on your plate and that’s how much you pay. Quite the honor system.
Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled programming…
On day three it rained. So much for another beach day. Since we were both feeling a little fat from the amount of carbs we had consumed, we spent the morning hiking to the top of Monte Urgull, which looks out over the entire city of San Sebastian. As you know, I’m not really a person who works out (ever), but I love a good hike. It must be because when you hike, 99% of the time there is an end goal (aka: the top of whatever you’re hiking) and it usually involves some type of Instagram worthy, photo-op. And let’s be honest, we’ll do anything for a “like”.
That evening we went back to FooDoo for dinner (because it really was that good) and spent the night with hundreds of our closest friends drinking wine in the streets of the Old Town. My second favorite thing about Europe, other than the naps, is that it’s legal(ish) to drink in public places like the streets, parks, etc. It’s so much better than drinking in a dark bar.
On our last day in Donostia, we woke once again to cloudy skies but since the forecast predicted that they would be gone by noon, we headed to a coffee shop to get some work done and cross our fingers. Sure enough, as we were walking home from lunch the clouds burned off and we ran (literally, ran) home to change and head to the beach.
This time we checked out Playa de Ondarreta, which was the furthest beach from our apartment, but the water was much calmer and it seemed like the most remote beach out of the three. Wrong. The rest of the city must’ve been just as excited as we were for the sunshine because within an hour it went from desolate to packed. Despite the crowds, spending the entire afternoon on the beach was the perfect way to end four days in Donostia/San Sebastian. We headed home that evening to pack, watch Stranger Things on Netflix (so good!) and prepare for our five hour bus ride to Madrid the following morning.
Thanks for reading and I hope you like the blog so far! Feel free to leave a comment below. I love reading them!