Based in Houston, Texas, GEV is a blog by The GreenEyed Venuist. Her posts explore travel and photography through her green eyes.

San Sebastian, Spain - #18 on The NYTimes Places to Go in 2016 List

Alright, it's been about a month since I left for Spain, I am sufficiently over the jet lag, regrettably settled back into the normality of my daily routine, my laptop has been restored to greatness....to sum it all up, my life has been gathered and I'm ready to tell you about my trip. 

This first post will be about my day trip to San Sebastian. 

Also known as the European Capital of Culture 2016, San Sebastian was literally one of the cutest cities I've been to. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the adventure....whatever it was, I'll not soon forget my short, one-day excursion to #18.

We woke up at the earliest hour that is humanly possible, and after what I'm sure was a quite a production of us trying to get to a major street to find a taxi, before the sun came up and in unfamiliar surroundings without a data plan between us, we managed to pick up Brandon who was standing at the curb with a handful of fleece pullovers and an umbrella, items that we had refused the night before but which later saved our lives. Our journey began....

We arrived around 8am to the tiny airport and flew the short hour (with our knees placed firmly against the seats in front of us) over to Donostia San Sebastián. From there, our fearless leader, Brandon, determined the best way for us to get into the city. The route included a short walk to a bus stop and a 30 min bus ride to El Centro. Sidnote: Public transportation, in most cities, is amazing. The bus was like 6 euros RT (much cheaper then a taxi and I never even really saw any taxis around) and it took us right into the middle of the city. On the way we got to see a little scenery, added bonus.

The bus let us off at Plaza Gipuzkoa, I think. I'm currently looking at a tourist map and this looks like the area we were in lol. 

Since we knew that San Sebastian is highly regarded as a restaurant and food capital of Spain, we researched and found a list of places that we should try while we were in town. I'd be lying to you if I said I could remember the names of all the places we went, but I'm about to give it a good ole college try. 

We stopped for breakfast at Bideluze, one of the places on the list and right on the streets bordering the plaza. The store front is Paris but then you walk into this place and it gives you a very Ron Burgundy, I'm kind of a big deal in a old pub, antique shop sort of way. And that's actually how the website describes it. There is deep, dark wood everywhere and worn leather love seats surrounding coffee tables with chess sets. We find a corner near the back to settle into, take a minute and take it all in. We go up to the counter to order, but we have to speak to the waitress over dozens of plates of sandwiches and pastries crowded onto the bar area. The way they leave the food out in the open, exposed to the elements and other people breathing on it and potentially slinging boogers and the stray spittle, freaks me out a little but I had to get over that b/c all the restaurants showcase their menu in this way (Think tapas and pinxtos, bocadillos. etc.). We order sandwiches and hamburgesas at 9am and cafe con leche...a perfect meal to fortify us for adventures ahead. That's actually sliced pechuga de pavo and not a burger patty under that egg. 

After breakfast, we needed caffeine so we found a coffee shop across the plaza called Panchito's. We actually came back to this place a little later too but we walked inside the shop to find images of people in black face and a little black boy on a chair......as like their logo............ I want to believe that the proprietors of this establishment had no idea that this might have an offensive connotation black face..... but I don't really know. We were just very stunned to see this image in Spain and I'll leave it at that.

We wandered around a little bit and found a bakery, Pasteleria Oiartzun. We were looking for a custard tart type dessert that Brandon heard we could find here. I'm not sure if we what got was that dessert specifically but it was delicious. No pictures tho. We ate it within seconds lol.

It seems like, in Spain, everything that you want to see is at the top of a mountain. And not just any mountain. Think Mount Kilimanjaro. Not really, but it does mean you have to climb a combination of 12,538 steps and 32 uphill paths to get there. We stood at the base of Monte Urgull and saw that there was something up there that was just waiting to be seen. So against my internal protest (kinda like when Jojo convinced me to climb the stairs to the Eiffel Tower bc the line for the elevator was too long), I agreed to climb this steep eroded staircase which took us to Paseo de los Curas (this is where the priests used to stroll around under the shade of the trees). 

I immediately regretted the decision after the first flight of stairs. Ya girl hasn't seen the inside of a gym in quite some time. But, I told myself that the torture, combined with the inability to breathe would be temporary, I'd catch my breath, the burning in my thighs would stop and I'd get some great aerial view shots from the top. I was right.

So, as Brandon and Chidi leapt over the steps in a single bound (superman style)....I stopped ever so often to pretend like I was taking pics from different angles when really I was trying to gather up the pieces of my broken life. Oh but when we got to the top................... 

We could see everything from up there.....and despite the overcast and threat of rain....it was beautiful. So at this point we're at the top of Mount Urgull and behind us was La Mota Castle and the Sagrado Corazon monument. I think my favorites were Concha and Ondarreta beaches and Santa Clara Island....right there in the middle of the bay. It's funny though, in the moment, I had no idea what I was looking at. I'm getting these names from the map and every time I see something I'm like, yeah that's the name of it...we were right there....cool. 

Before and after that we wandered through Parte Vieja or Old Town (literally "Old Part"). 

It rained....and thanks to Brandon knowing what we needed better than we did, we had an umbrella to shield us. But it was a light rain and it definitely didn't ruin the day. What can ruin your day is the siesta type break all the restaurants take in the middle of the afternoon right during the time when we were searching for other food options to try from our list. 

Some places were opening just as we starting getting really hungry. The place in the pictures above with the colored wine corks over the door? That's La Cepa....and inside there we had some of the greatest pinxtos including grilled octopus and monkfish soup. On the inside of this place, they have what I like to call ham drumsticks hanging from the ceiling. These drumsticks are actually called jamon iberico and are like a delicacy in Spain. I was told that they give these out to employees for Thanksgiving lol. Its common to see them on display in all the restaurants and mercados. This jamon can be pricey tho....just one sliver was super expensive. Also, as another sidenote, the 2€ glasses of wine all over Spain were a real nice addition to life. 

We spent the majority of the day eating and walking...we ducked into a few of the recommended places for views, desserts, etc. In general though, it was just a super chill and extremely awesome day. I'm grateful for days like these. The last slideshow are just a few other random shots from around the city.

Spain in general was a total sensory overload. Everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to admire....some architecturally appealing building, perhaps designed by the famous artist, Gaudi. I particularly liked the architecture in San Sebastian, though. You can really see all the Parisian influences and actually, that lead me to do some research on the city when I got back home and I learned some really interesting things. For example, the city was besieged by France twice, once in 1719 and again in 1794. At the start of the 20th century, San Sebastian experienced its “Belle Époque”, becoming the preferred tourist destination of the European upper classes. During the 1st World War, moneyed Europeans took refuge from the conflict here. Much of the French influence that is visible on the streets of the city is due to these visitors. Interesting, right? I told you. 

Also, if you look at the street signs, you'll notice that the language doesn't look anything like traditional Spanish. That's because this is likely Basque and in San Sebastian there's a really strong sense of Basque pride. 

After more cafe con leche and cake, it was time for us to head back to the tiny airport. We waited for the bus in the rain and I reflected over the day's activities and I thought to myself, in the immortal words of Ice Cube, "today was a good day".

Here's my favorite pic from the whole day, taken by Brandon....when we weren't even looking. Those are usually the best ones though. 

Stay tuned for more from Spain. 

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