As I mentioned in my earlier post, one of the goals of our trip to Spain was to visit the lands from which some of my Mom’s ancestors came to Cuba. San Sebastian (or “Donostia” in the local language), in Spain’s Basque country, was perfectly situated to serve as our base to explore before heading out to Lourdes, France. But San Sebastian itself was a destination!
San Sebastian: charm by the sea
I had always heard about the great cuisine coming out of San Sebastian so it became a key stop at the onset of our trip. We would stay there two nights, with the day in between being our day to explore the towns and hamlets from which the ancestors came. That gave us one full afternoon to explore the heart of San Sebastian – and two nights!
It seems it was peak vacation time in early September, which was a bit unexpected, so there were no good hotels close to the famous La Concha Beach or near the Old Town. However, I was not disappointed with the hotel I found, not even a mile from the old town: Hotel Astoria. The hotel’s theme revolved around famous movie actors and directors and had a very modern design. It was located on a quiet street and had both a full restaurant and a cafe in the lobby. We did not try the restaurant but did enjoy the cafe for our breakfasts.
Luckily not only were we close to Old Town but it was not hard to find (underground) parking right by the Hotel Maria Cristina or across the river by the Kursaal Center. Old Town (or Casco Viejo) is the second oldest neighborhood in the city and it is full of bars and eateries – clearly the teeming social center of this great city!
When we first visited Old Town, we headed first to the waterfront to check out the beautiful waters of the Mar Cantábrico, or Bay of Biscay after a quick snack and trying a “carajillo,” coffee with liquor (rum, brandy or anything of the sort!).
We saw some neat churches (San Vicente, which was closed, and the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, which charged for entrance so we skipped it). Lots of neat structures and charming narrow streets all around.
On to the food in San Sebastian: pintxos
Back in Old Town, we meandered through narrow streets. Kalea (Calle) 31 de Agosto had many eateries offering the famous “pintxos” (like tapas). We tried pintxos here and there as we kept exploring this part of town which is full of character. We made it to the other side from which we had a glimpse of La Concha Beach and the rest of the same-named bay.
A phenomenal meal in San Sebastian can be heavenly
And, as we meandered through the old town, we ran into the restaurant we had made reservations for for the following evening. As I researched San Sebastian, one of my areas of focus was food. I wanted to find one of the restaurants that make San Sebastian’s cuisine so well regarded. After looking at a few places, I settled on Bodegón Alejandro. Coincidentally, my uncle had done research and had read an article on the newspaper that also mentioned Bodegón Alejandro. So, that was the place and, luckily, making reservations was super easy: their website allowed for making them online!
The charm of San Sebastian did not only reside in its waters or in the old town – it was a beautiful and livable town all around. I would love to spend a few months residing there and enjoying this northern Basque city – and maybe with my wonderful travel companions!
If you are planning a trip to Spain, pin this to your travel board!