"La Perla de la Concha" Top 5 Page for this destination San Sebastián by mikey_e
San Sebastián Travel Guide: 305 reviews and 803 photos
I’ve been to Donostia (that’s Basque for San Sebastián) several times, and every time I visit I’m amazed at how enjoyable and interesting the city is. I first went to Donostia in 1996, when my father and I arrived on a rainy August morning and were amazed by the Belle Époque splendor of the buildings in the Alde Zaharra. We visited again in 2000, and, even though the boom was well underway and the other cities in Spain had already begun to show some of the monumental changes that were sweeping through the country. For the next eight years, my interest in the Basque Country and Spain waxed and waned, I even liven in Spain for a year, and always the picture of the Concha and the boardwalk remained on my desk, a reminder of one of the most beautiful places in the world. I think that that is why, in the summer of 2008, I decided that it was worth the trouble and the pain (I had ripped something in my shin or ankle) to make to pilgrimage to Donostia.
I didn’t chose a prime date for visiting the city, at least not if my goal was to renew my memories of the town and slowly rediscover the hidden gems of the old town and La Concha. I arrived less than a week before Aste Nagusia, the Main Week, when the entire city would go crazy with its annual festival and parades. It was nearly impossible to find accommodation. After I arrived from Bayonne via Hendaye, I spent almost an hour looking for where to stay. First I went to the tourist information centre, a good 25 minute walk with my luggage from the train station, and then I spent another 20 minutes calling various pensions to know if they had anything available. I lucked in on the last single room available in a pension… 5 minutes from the train station. Accommodation problems solved, I was finally free to explore the city and enjoy myself in childhood memories relived.
Well, maybe not relived, but certainly enhanced. This time, I spent three days getting to know the city and its delights. I think I spent most of my money in bars, feasting on the various pintxoak and drinking cider. Basque food is world famous, and just because you wander into one of the many dingy bars in the Alde Zaharra doesn’t mean you’ll be eating something stale or unappetizing. My favourites were the ones with olive oil, jamón del país and a fried quails egg, or the ones with cider sausage – yum! Of course, I also got to enjoy so much else the city has to offer, including an envigorating hike up Igeldo to the Statue of Jesus (where there are spectacular views onto La Concha and the sea) and a bit part in an impromptu Basque choir on the streets of the Old Quarter. I only knew Mikel Laboa’s Txoria, but it was enough to make the entire evening memorable. That’s what is most appealing about the city: it’s so easy to enjoy yourself here that sometimes you even forget you’re on vacation..
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