San Sebastián I love you.
San Sebastián te quiero.
Donostia maite zaitit.
I think you get my point.
San Sebastián carried high expectations as I made my way into town last Wednesday, July 8. Having been built up in the words of Fodorites, many other World Wide Web writers, travel reporters and indeed my own friends and families, I expected big things from this gastronomic coastal wonderland. On day five of my first trip to Europe, from Australia, My two friends and I left the thriving metropolis of Barcelona early in the morning on the Renfe, arriving around lunchtime in San Sebastián. I think it's fair to say that train stations don't often paint the best impression of a town, and while this one certainly wasn't bad, the long snaking line for taxis that didn't seem to be appearing didn't look promising. I would have been happy to walk but with dozens of kgs in luggage between us, we decided I would to get the keys to our apartment from the company we had booked through, while the other two ladies waited for me to return. Whoever could get a taxi first would pick the others up. Sounded easy. Things were going ok til I was almost at my destination but couldn't quite see the street I was told to go to. I asked a local and was quickly helped despite their lack of English and my lack of Spanish, or Basque. This was repeated when I then couldn't find the taxi rank (turns out instructions to go left and left should have included a third left - so simple but no so when you're tired, in a strange place and don't speak the language), as an elderly lady understand the word taxi when I asked and placed her hand on my back to walk me to the rank. I had a wait here too, but managed to get one before the other girls. The driver spoke no English so I used my phrase book to give him our address, but to first ask him to go back to the train station for mis amigos. It worked! My first attempt in such a situation and it wasn't a disaster. I liked San Sebastián immediately!
While everyone - or almost everyone - seemed to speak English in Barcelona, this turned out not to be the case in San Sebastián, with French more commonly taught in schools, I was told, due to the proximity of the beach haven to France's border.
Where to start? Rather than give a blow by blow description of my 3.5 days and four nights in San Sebastián, I will give an overview of the things I did, and summarise what I loved.
1. Massage at La Perla (my tired and aching body, recovering from a foot injury had been put through the ringer in Barcelona, walking and walking for hours a day on top of a couple of runs). My masseuse was a lovely local lady and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation as she gave me a local perspective on the Spanish economic situation among other things.
2. Walking tour of the old town. Our guide, a young but very mature local who studied history at university, gave a terrific overview of the local history, politics, etc. We toured parts of the old town I hadn't even known were there (this was day three) including the monastery and museum.
3. Lay on La Concha and talked to a fellow traveller, from France. Neither of us spoke each other's language but we each tried and it was a nice experience - it's good to be outside your comfort zone and communicating with strangers beats staying locked in your shell sometimes.
4. Had my hair done at a local salon, Peluqueria Maitesv. The ladies spoke a couple of words of English but I had to use my phrase book to communicate what I wanted. They did a brilliant job of my colour and were absolutely delightful people to meet. That was consistent with most people in Spain, I found.
5. Found good coffee at
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San Sebastián how many ways can I say I love you?
San Sebastián I love you.