San Sebastian, Spain -- please advise

Old Jan 13th, 2009, 08:26 PM
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San Sebastian, Spain -- please advise

We were thinking of visiting Barcelona and then moving on to San Sebastian.

Our hope is to relax, enjoy the beach, eat good food, and experience the culture of the area. We have 2 older teenagers.

Maybe some of you could answer my questions?

1. Is a week a good amount of time to stay here? Any recommended day trips? (We have never been to Spain or southwestern France before)

2. We would be traveling in mid-June. Will the water be too cold to swim in?

3. What would you say are the not-to-miss things to do in San Sebastian and the surrounding area?

thanks so much!
dina

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Old Jan 13th, 2009, 09:28 PM
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A week would be near perfect, but two weeks would be a little better. A week will give you a few days to explore some of the are, one day in the Pays Basque, along the coast and two or three days in the País Vasco, again, along the coast, but you will have to plan your day carefully, but allow some time to relax and enjoy the ambiance.

For day trips, and other information, I highly recommend you download a copy of Maribel's excellent guide to the Pays Basque and País Vasco. The "not to miss list" is large, too large to get into here.

It should be nice enough in mid-June to go for a swim at La Concha beach, but it will still be chilly in some of the areas where the water is a little deeper.
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Old Jan 13th, 2009, 09:33 PM
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The water will be colder than say in Cadiz or Rota. Just a matter of "northness". Have a great time.
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Old Jan 13th, 2009, 11:12 PM
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From San Sebastian I would go up to Biaritz for a few days. I swam and body surfed there in May a number of years back. The Atlantic has waves. Barcelona has a flat sea.

San Sebastian's old town features many cafes serving tapas. You can spend a couple of hours crawling from one to another.
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Old Jan 13th, 2009, 11:27 PM
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Just sneaking in on this thread..After time in Barcelona would it be better to hire a car in Barcelona and drive to San Sebastian? Or train/other.
Any o/n stops on the way or drive straight there.
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Old Jan 13th, 2009, 11:52 PM
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Dina,

I think it really depends on how happy your family is to hang out where the beach (including surfing) and the food are really the stars of the show for miles around -- and that's about it. You can fill out your dance card with a bit of cultural sightseeing, but I think if you are looking for "not-miss" attractions, it's hard to think what those would be. Of course if you dig into the history and the local art scene you will learn things of value and have fun. But it's not an area with a density of high-impact cultural treasures like other parts of Spain, even its boosters tell you otherwise. I think the Guggenheim in Bilbao is a very fancy and even clever tourist trap, but depending on how much Frank Gehry and Guggenheim architecture you've seen, you might want to give it a go.

The Basque coast is incredibly beautiful, so drives and hikes along it, both on the Spanish side and immediately over the border in France can be rewarding. I also think forays up into the Pyrenees, on both the Spanish and French, can be incredibly exciting, but that's all about natural beauty and agriculture, not about amusements or destination sights.

But apart from San Sebastian, which is a dream of a beach holiday town, I think it's best to avoid the other touristy beach towns. If you'd rather do more than enjoy relaxing in San Sebastian, I would give more time to use touring in Catalonia and France before heading up to San Sebastian and the Basque coast to just relax and eat the amazing food.
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Old Jan 13th, 2009, 11:54 PM
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huddoshols,

If you plan to travel in the fine weather months, I think it is terrific to spend a few days making your way up to San Sebastian by car, through France via Pau, even crisscrossing over the Pyrenees if you enjoy spectacular mountain scenery.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:20 AM
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Thanks Zeppole we have spent a bit of time in France,but not that area.And we enjoying driving,so this sounds good.
If we did your route where could we fly into and out of. We plan to be in London beforehand.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:24 AM
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There are great flight connections with London and Bilbao, which an hour's drive from San Sebastian, with regular coach service if you don't have a car. (Don't take the train). I assume you know how you're getting to Barcelona.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:35 AM
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Thanks Zeppole, I have the map open as I am reading you reply.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 01:28 AM
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Just remember: Unless you are going May-early Sept, you can't risk going OVER the Pyrenees. The passes are only open or safe in fine, fine weather.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 06:37 AM
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Make sure you visit HOndarribia on the French border, colorful fishermen's homes, pretty setting a nd great dining. The villages of the Pays Basque are charming.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 02:27 PM
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Hi everyone -- thanks so much for all the helpful ideas!

robert --
where do i download maribel's guide?

zeppole --
actually, we are VERY happy just eating good food and relaxing on the beach. this is supposed to be the relaxing part of the vacation.
i was thinking i didn't want to miss anything special if it was closeby.
we love nature and beauty, so a drive up the coast or into the pyrenees sounds wonderful!
any chance you can give me suggestions/details for that??

some others have suggested Biarritz and Hondarribia.

i thought maybe a couple of day trips would be nice to see some of these charming towns/villages for a lunch or a dinner. i think we'll have a car.

**Any ideas, also, for a good guidebook on the area?

thanks again, everyone!
i really appreciate the input.





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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 02:33 PM
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The best guides for this area are Maribel's at www.maribelsguides.com.
DK Eyewitness and Cadogan also have guides to Northern Spain.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 02:55 PM
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dina4,

It's funny, but the only reason I ever went to the Pyrenees is that I was looking to book a last-minute trip to Europe at the beginning of high season, so I said to my husband: "We better go someplace people don't go, or else we'lll never find anyplace to sleep."

So we booked passage to Pyrenees -- and then I discovered people really don't go there, and it's almost impossible to find out anything in advance -- although we know better now.

We ended up just driving up mountains and driving back down again, using a combination of the Michelin and blue guides to zero in on lunch spots and hotels. We thought it was fantastic but -- half the time we didn't know where we were.

Anyway, one of the few places we heard about was St Jean Pied de Port in the French foothills going roughly toward Pau, so we headed out there as a lunch destination and got hit in the face by a wall of tour buses. So we just took a road and escaped. Might be a great town, but be forewarned.

This might help:

http://www.pyreneesguide.com/454/pyr...lantiques.html

Heading along the Basque coast away from France just outside of San Sebastian is beautiful. I saw school excursions on nature hikes on the local roads, so I would recommend hiking up there, and there appeared to be some amazing rural restaurants up there too.

I'm sorry I missed Hondarribia. I liked driving along the Basque coast up past Hendaye toward St Jean de Luz, but wasn't so keen on St Jean de Luz itself (although I liked its adjacent port of Ciboure).

http://www.francethisway.com/st-jean-de-luz/ciboure.php

Final tip: Guidebooks make a lot of going to this or that tapas bar, but I had the best time when I just tossed away the guidebook and ate what I thought looked good. I didn't find a single "sit-down" restaurant that compared with the tapas bars, even the no-name dives with pictures of boxing champs on the walls. The only "sit down" place I liked was the bar in the bottom of the Hotel Nizza, which has view and is nice if for some reason you can't sit outdoors but just want to sit with a cup of coffee or a beer and some nibbles. Probably every now and then you'll want to opt for a relaxing lunch at a seaside spot -- my tastiest treats were out of the bars.

Oh -- and don't miss the sunsets.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 03:24 PM
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wow -- maribel has a quite a site!
thank you!

zeppole-
thanks for the good info. i'm curious why didn't you care for st. jean de luz?

i need to now get my hands on a good map...

thanks again!

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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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dina,
Purchase the Michelin regional map for the Basque Country, #573. I never travel in the Basque lands without it. For the French side,
I use the Michelin local #342 for the Htes-
Pyrénées and Pyrénées Atlantiques.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 04:02 PM
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St Jean de Luz is crammed no end of stores selling t-shirts and on up to the high-end craft souvenirs. The seafront just isn't as charming as San Sebastian, and the restaurants recommended were not marvelous, although we did enjoy our lunch in sleepy Ciboure.

I had the feeling that if you had summered all your childhood in St Jean de Luz it would hold magical misty memories, but it was filled with tourists when I was there, on the typical tourist march, many of them having gotten off tour buses.

http://www.ferienwohnung-hendaye.com...an_de_luz.html

http://www.moliets-beach-appartement...2004%20084.jpg

http://www.le-kaiku-st-jean-de-luz.a...ean_de_luz.jpg

http://www.globalpacificvacationhome...&page=view

http://www.location-de-vacances.com/...ean-de-luz.jpg




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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 06:49 PM
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zeppole - i can see the place is quite charming!

maribel - thanks for the map tips. i will order them!


another thing i forgot to ask for my husband -- might be a stupid question -- are their golf courses in the area?

thanks!
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 07:17 PM
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Yes, several. The Chantaco club is right outside St-Jean-de-Luz, while there are several courses in the Biarritz area. It's a major golfing capital for southwestern France.

www.golfdechantaco.com

In Biarritz

www.golf-biarritz.com
www.makilagolfclub.com

www.touradour.com/golf/golfpass.htm
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