Eight Days in San Sebastián

June 18-20 (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)

After landing into San Sebastián late Sunday evening, the following few days were relatively peaceful and uneventful.  Monday and Tuesday were work days, so we were mostly cooped up in our Airbnb: Kitty busy with her remote positions, whilst I used the time getting caught up with writing and looking for potential freelance work.  In the evenings we wandered about the area to familiarise ourselves with the city, and started watching The Orville (fantastic SciFi show — imagine Star Trek meets Family Guy).  Starting with a leisurely morning on Wednesday, we spent the afternoon enjoying the sun on the beach, grabbed a beer, then washed up before hitting the old town for dinner.

Photo from the beach of San Sebastián
One of the three beautiful beaches in the San Sebastián bay.

It was in the old town that we discovered a now favourite style of food famous in this region: pintxos (or, in Spanish, Pinchos)!  And it was this word that introduced me to the Basque language, a strangely unique artifact — although there have been some words incorporated over the years, the language itself is unrelated to any of the surrounding Romance languages (i.e. Latin-based languages such as French and Spanish) and also to any known living language!  Linguists are still puzzled by its origins, but the general consensus is that it predates any language in the Indo-European branch, which includes not only the Romance languages, but also Germanic, Celtic, and even Greek.  Because of this, many people in the Basque country identify as Basque rather than Spanish or French, and despite repeated attempts to stamp out the language, the region has struggled to gain independence over the centuries.  It is now viewed as one of the most autonomous regions in Europe, having a great deal of control over it’s economy and laws, though there remains contentious issues.  Although I was largely ignorant of all this when first coming to San Sebastián, I’m very glad I dug into the history, even though I’m sure there’s much more for me to learn about it all!

Photo of a plate of foods known as Pinchos - small portions of various meats, cheeses, etc. pinned to bread using a toothpick
Pintxos for every time of day, including breakfast!

June 21st (Thursday)

In our wanderings the previous days, we found that this was held as International Yoga day, and that there were numerous offerings of free yoga sessions throughout San Sebastián.  Still not being in any hurry, we got up late after a nice lie-in, and took some time wandering through more of the old town and the city centre.  We made our way back to the beach front around 15:00 to join in one of the sessions taking place there.  Despite being in Spanish (which neither Kitty nor I speak a word of) and having never done yoga myself, it was relatively easy to follow along.  By the end, I was pretty clear on the Spanish for “inhale, exhale”!

Photo of a book cart, with palm-sized versions of classic novels
A little library – literally! All the classics were there, handmade from renewable materials, into tiny book form.

After partaking in the yoga, we stopped by a couple of the local shops for dinner supplies, and made our way back to the apartment.  Another chill evening with food and more TV, then planning out our next stops around Europe.  The only dates we really have set in stone are our plans to attend Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, and flights to Tokyo at the end of August, so we sketched out a rough idea of how long we wanted to stay in places along the way.

June 22 (Friday)

Kitty and I got an early start on this morning, our intention being to do some hiking and explore the scenic areas around the town.  We started with Mount Igueldo, a higher point in the western side of the city, which turned out to be pretty disappointing.  Though the views along the way were quite stunning, to get to the peak you had to pass through a gate and pay an access fee (yes, even walking up!).  Once at the top, it looked like there was an amusement park of sorts, though it seemed most of the attractions were closed — whether because it was off-season or because of the weather, it was tough to tell.  The attractions that were open of course charged for the experience, and although we had hoped to ascend the tower at the peak, it was another couple Euros to do so.  Even the toilets had a fee for use!  Tired of being nickle and dimed for everything, we headed back down toward the town.

Photo of the bathroom entrance, showing a sign indicating a 20 cent usage fee
Need to pee? That’s a fee!

We grabbed a bite to eat as we crossed the town to get to Mount Urgull, the larger hill just outside the old town.  It was a tougher climb, especially after a meal and a pint, but there were plenty of places to rest and observe the town sprawled down below.  There were multiple paths, each winding different ways around the mountain and allowing different avenues of exploration and discovery.  Some wound through old cannon batteries from years ago, whilst others passed garden nurseries or church ruins.  Reaching the peak, we were pleased to find that the museum was open (and free!), and we had a look through the history of San Sebastián.  The very top housed a small chapel and a large statue of Jesus overlooking the city, as well as a fantastic view.  We took the opportunity to enjoy the sight and chat with some friendly Canadians we bumped into before heading back down to the foot of the mountain.

Photo overlooking San Sebastián from atop Mount Urgull
View from the top, overlooking the city

We washed up for the evening at our Airbnb before heading out to try and find an English practice meetup that we had caught wind of.  It was in another part of town across the river, so we walked through some new sights and eventually made our way to the bar it was being held at.  An evening of drinks and chatting with locals completed our night!

June 23-25 (Saturday, Sunday, Monday)

By the time Saturday rolled around, we were in dire need of laundry, so we threw in a load, got it hung to dry, and then tossed another on the go before heading into town once more.  The day was a lot of pintxos, drink, and cheesecake, broken up by strolling beside the beach and a siesta back at our Airbnb.  Sunday and Monday were work days again, after which we took the opportunity to jump into the water at the beach before the sun set.

Lego figurine posed with a miniature book titled "El Principito"
Carlton brushed up on his Spanish by reading “El Principito”, the “Little Prince”!

All in all, San Sebastián was a nice respite — I think we had been constantly on the go for nearly all of the preceding three weeks, so it was nice to have somewhere to relax and enjoy for a time!  We’d be heading on to Haro next on Tuesday, but that’s where I’ll leave things for now.  Lots of pictures from around San Sebastián for you down below, but as always if you want to be notified of new posts, hit that subscribe button in the sidebar or follow me on Twitter!  See you again soon!

 

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