San Sebastian: Culture

After a week of bliss visiting with my friend and her sweet, honest, and beyond generous family in France, I set out via train to San Sebastian, Spain.

I arrived in the late evening, as a day-long regatta celebration was underway. The streets were covered with people and stained with booze…not exactly the vision of a seaside town with one of the best culinary reputations in the world I had. I arrived at my pension and climbed the steep stairs. I was greeted by the smiling face of the night guard. He showed me around, gave me a map, and guided me to my tiny, perfect interior room. I threw down my things and fell into bed.

San Sebastian eats late and sleeps even later. I was out by 9, late by my standards, and was the only one out with exception to the port workers and elderly folks walking their pedigree dogs.

This is the city I envisioned.

I turned the corner and viewed the bustling port and beyond it the mighty La Concha. I wandered about the port, loving the action of workers tossing huge fish into crates to be transported elsewhere, young children looking on with delight. I breathe in the invigorating sea air.

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Rising above the port is the iconic symbol of power that is Monte Urgull. Following well-marked paths, I ascended to the top. At the base of the Christ statue I settled in, viewing the remains of castle that once stood there. The views over the city were awe-inspiring. This was one of the first moments of many where I encouraged myself to pause and take it all in.

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From the early hours, the beaches are scattered with towels and chairs. There are bathing suit-clad visitors and those without, both soaking up the peak hours of sun and plunging into the bright blue waters of the Bay of Biscay.

First, I headed to Zurriola Beach in the Gros neighborhood, which turned out to be my favorite area of the city. It is known in guidebooks as a “surfer’s beach.” It’s a bit rougher than it’s neighbor, La Concha. I laid out my towel and immediately dove into the sea. I floated on my back and stared at the cloudless sky. This beach is perfect for those who prefer a bit more of a laid back vibe. But beware: men and women alike are not shy when it comes to their sunbathing attire (or lack thereof).

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Then there was La Concha, a beach that needs no introduction for it is the vision of San Sebastian. The beach is crowded. Again, I head straight to the water. This time the current is extremely calm and I dive right in and keep swimming until I hit the floating platforms further out. On the platforms people are sunbathing, diving off a board, and sliding off a slide. I do all three of course and lay out there for hours, feet dangling over the side and moving to the rhythm of the music coming from a boat nearby.

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The late afternoons are spent walking on the promenade, people watching and catching up with friends in bars all over town. I walked from La Concha all the way to Monte Igueldo and took a seat on one of the benches to watch the people in action.

My God, are they beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concentration of chicness in my days. Fashion doesn’t stop with you however, as babies are also decked out in their finest attire.

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As the sun goes down, citizens and visitors alike flock to their favorite pintxos bars and that is a story in and of itself.

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I love this city.

Part 2, the Food coming up next.

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