Visiting San Sebastian, Spain

Holing Up by the Beach in San Sebastian, Spain

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During my first stint writing a guidebook exactly four years ago, I got a bit of a crush. As SVV was already in the picture at that point, thank God the crush was not on a boy but a city. I fell in love with San Sebastian, Spain.

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A city that, unfortunately, I was too busy soaking in the beauty and culture to take any pictures that did it justice. But as SVV is always lecturing me: “Sometimes you just have to put down the camera and live in the now.”

Where is San Sebastian?

San Sebastian (also known as Donostia) is perched seaside in the oh-so-lovely Basque Country. It’s most famously a resort town with prime real estate on the Bay of Biscay.

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Stretches of the Atlantic were quite reminiscent of Big Sur, and there was so much to do from surfing, day trips to coastal cities just over the border in France, all-night (and morning) tapas crawls.

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What is there to do in San Sebastian?

Because I was there on assignment for MTV, I spent most mornings checking out the sites for the guidebook, churches like Buen Pastor Cathedral, the largest in town and a classic Neo-Gothic structure.

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And afternoons logging my notes into my laptop on the beach and working up a nice shade of red. Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta are San Sebastian’s most famed beaches, and I got to know them quite well during my time on the Spanish coast.

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Early evenings were reserved for watching the sunset as I dined on pintxos in one oceanfront restaurant or another.

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And late nights were spent burning the midnight oil with CouchSurfers or fellow Americans I met in my hostel. There’s one thing you can’t miss in San Sebastian (or Spain in general) and that’s the party scene. Spaniards go hard—and they go all night long—then they enjoy a nice siesta in the middle of every afternoon when businesses shut down.

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Because I had such a big territory to cover in roughly five weeks—Aragon, Navarra, all of Basque and the hundreds of tiny towns scattered among the Pyrenees—I normally only stayed in a city for three or four days top. But San Sebastian I couldn’t bear to leave, and so I found myself bumming around for well over a week. And had I not been meeting SVV in Bilbao soon after, I might have stuck around, permanently.

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San Sebastian, I will be back. After all, there’s room in my heart for two great loves.

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  • February 19, 2010

    A crappy point and shoot!? I mean, those are beautiful pictures, so I wonder how they’d have looked if you’d had a better one with you at the time. All that loveliness sure deserves a crush. Sigh……

    Btw, I stared long and hard at that first picture, and the words giant turtle and armadillo have been going back and forth in my head ever since. Fascinating indeed, and if you don’t see what I see, not to worry, as I’m sure it means you’re certified sane. 🙂

  • February 19, 2010

    Ahhh, me encanta Espana!!! Que fotos lindas amiga! 🙂

  • February 19, 2010

    I totally got armadillo from the first picture, benefits of having lived in Texas for 17 years now.

    It looks gorgeous! Yet another place added to my travel list, I need to see if Continental flies there.

    Also: you have insanely fabulous hair in that last pic.

  • February 19, 2010

    I’ll bet you have crushes on more than one, place. P&S sure beats the old Brownie. hehe
    I like the rugged coast and the colored light on the walls.
    Are you expected to provide your own photos on these types of assignments?

  • February 19, 2010

    Oh, Kritin you are too modest! Your pictures are GORGEOUS!!!! Now you have put San Sebastian on the map for me.

  • February 19, 2010
    Jen Laceda

    And oh yeah, by the way, I am drooling about that G11 as well!!!!!!!! Have you heard or know someone who’s used one of those micro 4/3 (or is it 3/4?) cameras with interchangeable lenses?

  • February 19, 2010

    I love San Seb too – do I see a love triangle developing?! It also has the best food I’ve found in Spain – and I’ve tried WAY too much….

  • February 19, 2010
    Heather on her travels

    Oh happy days as a guidebook writer – it must have been a great place if you made the time to linger

  • February 19, 2010

    Ok, what rubbish are you talking about – taken with a crappy point-and-shoot camera? If that’s crappy, I’ll take it any day! How do you make your photos so sharp, crisp, and vividly colourful? Are you doing some magical post-production processing? These shots are great, are you kidding me? I could have sworn you used a professional Canon or Nikon DLSR.

  • February 19, 2010

    I picked up a G11 in November for my trip to Australia.
    I dithered a lot before buying + played around with some DSLRs but went with the G11 because I travel with two very active boys + I really don’t have time to be futzing about with lenses.
    I’m tremendously happy with the quality of the photos. (Since this is the first time I’ve tried to take decent shots, it may not be obvious in some of the photos you can find on my blog, but trust me, they’re much better than before!).

  • February 19, 2010

    Gorgeous! My husband was an exchange student in San Sebastian. Now I see why he speaks so fondly of it. Hoping we can make it there in the coming year.

  • February 19, 2010

    I get it. I see why you fell madly, deeply for this place. I can’t imagine what I would think if the pictures were of of a “higher” quality. I don’t see what’s wrong with them. In fact, they’ve given me a crush on the place too.

  • February 19, 2010

    As I recall, San Sebastian also had lots of really amazing chocolate shops. So many good qualities in such a little town.

  • February 19, 2010

    Oh, how I love San Sebastian. I never wanted to leave either – and it rained the entire time I was there. I look forward to going back when the weather is sunny.

  • February 19, 2010

    Okay you have convinced me I must visit this place. It looks perfect.

  • February 19, 2010
    The Incredible Woody

    Things are always good when you can work beachside:)

  • February 19, 2010

    Oh, so good to see San Sebastian! I wanted to recommend visiting during the San Sebastian Film Festival in September. The town is not necessarily overrun, more enlivened by the event. We saw a few great movies and by chance watched Roberto Benigni dance (a la the 1999 Oscars) out of a cab in front of his hotel.

  • February 20, 2010

    I may go to Spain on my honeymoon, thanks for the nudge 🙂

  • February 21, 2010
    Fly Girl

    I totally understand your crush. The pix are gorgeous.

  • February 21, 2010

    Jealous! San Sebastian looks absolutely gorgeous! I can understand how it would be hard to leave!

  • February 21, 2010

    After reading this blog post I feel the need to jet off to Spain! These photographs aren’t crappy at all… they really show off the beautiful town of San Sebastian.

  • February 21, 2010

    That photograph of the light through the stained glass window is absolutely exquisite! Seriously, that’s desktop material.
    (And that last picture of you is pretty damn adorable, too!)

  • February 21, 2010

    Looking at the sunset and stretch of beach, I can see how you’d have a crush on such a place! 🙂

  • February 22, 2010
    Katie Hammel

    Lovely pics, as always.
    I am also in love with San Sebastian. My husband and I stayed at the most adorable little pension and had some of the best meals of our trip on 31 de Augusto (I can still remember the taste of the foie gras at La Cuchara de San Telmo). We were there in December so a lot was closed and we didn’t even get to enjoy the beach that much, but we fell hard for the city and will definitely be back!

  • February 23, 2010

    What a beautiful place! I love that the island looks like a giant turtle.

  • February 23, 2010

    wow, san sebastian looks so gorgeous! lots of relaxation & pretty beaches. i MUST go there one day.

    love your blog! keep up the good work 🙂

  • February 24, 2010
    Erica Connolly

    San Sebastian looks wonderful! One of my best friends is from there and I cannot wait to go visit him there later on in life. Have you been to the Cook Islands? Did some research on the islands, and you were the first person that came to mind.

  • July 5, 2011

    hello – nice pictures..i am planning to go to SS in 3 weeks after graduation with my wife and 4 yrs boy. Where did you stay ? and do you have any recommendations for country/or cities along french border ?

    i would appreciate the help.

    • July 6, 2011

      Hi! This was five years ago that I went, so sadly I don’t remember much. And I stayed in a party hostel, so I doubt you’d want to take your son there! Though I took the local bus up and down the coast between France and Spain, and there are a lot of cute little towns like Hendaye and Hondaribbia. Have a great trip!

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