""The Rain in Spain . . ." San Sebastián by sirgaw
San Sebastián Travel Guide: 304 reviews and 800 photos
Getting from Bordeaux in France to San Sebastian Spain by train seemed easy enough - on paper, or in reality, the computer screen. Arrived Bordeaux Gare St Jean by 2 trams from our hotel and wait for the train to come in then the mad scramble to get aboard with our suitcases before the train doors closed with a bang. It was a couple of hours of the comfort of the French TGV train, and the French leg of the train trip was supposed to finish at Irun - just over the Spanish border. We never did find out the truth of why we had to terminate at some town that I'd never heard of, transfer to a coach and then go to Irun.
I've normally associated leaving one country and entering another with lots of nationalistic pride fluttering from flag poles - none of that and not even some kind of border check point. With "one Europe" they've done away with the need for passport control as well, so we really didn't notice the change of countries - the coach just continued rolling along black topped roads and we only guessed that we had entered Spain and another language, or is that 2 in that part of Basque Spain?
Our coach arrived at the Irun rail station and then a shortish walk to the platform and our iron steed was waiting for the 15 minute run to San Sebastian. While waiting we could see the ramparts of the Pyrenees Mountains that form the border between France and Spain and noticed just how hilly the terrain around us really was. Finally onto the train and the scene out the windows was even more mountains that cascaded to the Atlantic Ocean. The run into the outskirts of San Sebastian showed we were in an industrial city and the main industry - judging by the stacked up freight wagons - was vehicle manufacture. Finally arrived at the main station and only a hint on where our hotel was - on the side of a nearby mountain. A taxi seemed the best way rather than trying to figure out the bus system, which we were sure would have involved a change of local buses - as rain was starting to fall the waiting cab rank was the obvious choice. 7 Euros later we got to the Hotel Avendida (see tip) and glad we chose that hotel over quite a number shown in internet searches - in fact it was the best hotel of our trip.
After checking out the hotel, time to wander down to the local supermarket and the makings for lunch in a nearby park. Later we returned to that area for dinner in a not-too-expensive local noisy bar/cafe where soccer on TV seemed to take centre stage.
The hotel put on a buffet breakfast included in the daily tariff - and it was a full buffet brekky, lorded over by one of the worlds friendliest women. Every guest got the special treatment and we wondered if the woman was a muti-level marketeer looking for new recruits for selling washing powder or whatever. Being Australian and speaking almost no Spanish helped get us out of whatever was in store for other guests.
We took the local bus to the centre of the old town and marvelled at the labyrinth of narrow streets - cheek by jowl restaurants, tapas bars and souvenir shops. Then we took on the steep climb up Mount Urgull to the old fortress at the top, with the giant statue of the Virgin Mary looking over the city. We somehow gate crashed a wedding and tried not to get involved too much, but as the trails that led to the summit all seemed to be walking tracks we wondered how the bride had arrived in her dress - there must be a hidden elevator in there some where!!!
The old fort must have been some strong-hold from maundering French or whoever was the enemy, but we did hear that the French did manage to set fire to the old town and destroy it, leaving the Cathedral and a few other major buildings.
Back into the town we tramped and lunch was in the market - I was getting good at hunting out places that sold bread, cold meat and cheese by then. My wife wanted to go back to the hotel and get some washing done, while I strode towards the Naval Museum of San Sebastian - sadly closed for renovations. I needed a toilet stop, but discovered that too was closed - must have been toilet siesta time - then it stated to rain yet again, so I found the correct bus to get back to the hotel and a near by cafe for the nights meal and too much wine.
The next morning off to breakfast again and we got to know the worlds friendliest breakfast woman a little better - seems she had decided to do change of life from her native Germany and ended up in San Sebastian. After a long breakfast we decided to walk back to the main part of the city via the beach. The city of San Sebastian is on a curved beach and almost totally protected by 2 small mountains and an island - a very spectacular setting for a city and we could see why the city is so popular with holiday makers. Unfortunately the temperature started to drop and we scurried for cover as we could see a rain squall approach - we just made it under cover when the heavens opened up - ah well these things happen. When the rain cleared enough we decided to catch a local bus to the end of its run to where ever and return, then the rain started pelting down and the bus windows just fogged over - some view. We got back to the bus station and decided to pre-purchase our coach tickets for the next days leg of our trip to Bilbao, then the rain came in again, so shelter in the form of a local cafe/restaurant where I know we were ripped off by the staff.
We got to see the Spanish custom of tossing serviettes and almost anything else onto the floor of the establishment as the photo shows.
Back to the hotel to dry out a bit - now who was it who wrote that song from the musical "My Fair Lady," where they sang 'The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain'?
Our last morning in San Sebastian we were in for a surprise. The breakfast room was a lot quieter as the weekend guests had gone and we had the place almost to ourselves - and our new friend the worlds friendliest breakfast woman. Just wondering if there is a Guinness Book of World Records for that category. The lady handed us a package marked "Not to be opened in the breakfast room." We enjoyed our breakfast and returned to our room to finish packing - and examine the mysterious package. Were we to become unwitting smugglers of something sinister, was it the Spanish crown jewels to be secreted deeper into the Basque country and perhaps we could be partly responsible for a new wave of who-know-what? The package contained a selection of yummy jams and spreads and a photo of the woman - Helgar - and her 2 dogs with a note to please send a post card.
We called for a taxi to take us to the bus station and as a parting gift from San Sebastian - it started to rain again. Now if I can get my hands on the writer of that song . . .
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