Thursday, May 17, 2012

San Sebastian . . . a Brief View . . .

We're off on a road/day trip today -- the poor fellow who's been hanging around with me for almost 40 years is in sole charge of making mon anniversaire as special as I always expect it to me, such pressure! -- and while I'm gone I thought I'd let you look at some of our San Sebastian photos. There are many more, I warn you, and I may keep throwing them at you . . .

The photo above is important because our car is one of those parked in that long row -- we were so grateful to finally find a place to Stop. The. Car!! This is a problem with renting a car in Europe -- one has to manage the parking as well. We had contemplated making a base in a small town on the French side, near enough to visit San Sebastian from but easier, we thought, to breathe in than the bigger city.  Instead, after finding the hotel, with some difficulty for this navigator (map on lap, recognising signs just as one passes the turn . . . ), we had to turn sharply left, up a steep hill, on a narrow (but two-way, scarily) street, at the top of which was a hairpin turn (narrower) into two tiny spaces -- which didn't even clearly belong to the hotel. Paul bravely reversed his way out of that little hell, and we continued on our 130 kmh way through numerous toll stations into San Sebastian. Through which we had to find our way through a maze of streets, many one-way as in any dense city, meanwhile trying to locate a hotel which MIGHT have a vacancy.

I was stressed -- and Paul will probably tell you I was also stressful! So being able to park the car here and walk over to breathe the sea? Priceless. And I loved watching the troops of walkers ticking off their daily constitutionals, as with this group of older women, above.
I wasn't quite done with my stress when I realized the coins we'd put in the parking meter had only bought us 25 minutes, so Paul left me in this charming plaza to sit and get a coffee while he went back to buy a few hours' peace. When he came back, and we'd finished our coffees, we found La Concha (the shell-shaped beach that forms a significant part of San Sebastian's charms). Sadly, the hotel we'd had recommended was full, but the very charming receptionist directed us to other nearby possibilities, and we soon settled happily into this room
For 80-something Euros a night, not bad at all (Parking and Breakfast added 40-some euros).

Luggage stowed, the car safely parked, we headed out to explore. Here's La Concha -- on a day that barely scraped 20 degrees -- imagine it in June! July! . . . Some topless women here, very nonchalant about it, in the minority but still adding that European sophistication to the beach. Enough swimmers in the water to make us think we'll take our swimsuits next visit.
For now, though, a little lunch was in order . . . . we practised our pintxos skills for later in the evening. . . .more on that later, but for those who don't know, pintxos are the Basque version of tapas, if I might put it that crudely. San Sebastian is a gastronomic centre, and one can go from bar to bar choosing a pintxo in each one, from a marvelous range set out on the bar counter. Order a beer or a glass of wine to go with. Grab a seat or just stand against the wall over there . . . and enjoy! Go to the next bar, choose from another selection. . . lather, rinse, repeat. . . you get it, over and over, bar after bar, pintxo after pintxo. I can only imagine this would be even more fun with a group, but we had a great time sharing bites. . .
Here's the interior of one such bar, the hams above, the plates of pintxos ranged along the counter.
After that replenishment, we did a bit more strolling through the old quarter
clearly worth another extended visit
(Notice how much play this Gap tank dress is getting under my Eileen Fisher light merino sweater -- in the shade it was chilly -- the sharp-eyed among you might notice it's not belted as in the earlier posts -- that's because I took scissors to the hem, to Paul's consternation -- but it's a knit so shouldn't unravel much and I can hem properly when I get home. Much more manageable with those 3 inches chopped off!)

Wandering through the old town, we arrived back at the plaza I'd had that first coffee in, and we noticed stairs heading up the hillside, with signs indicating a statue up the top. So we headed up . . .

With more time, we would have learned more about the history of this fortification -- drawing on my oh-so-long-ago university Spanish classes, I did read that rifle practice was conducted here in the late 19th century war with the US. . .
You wouldn't know that from the beautifully filtered light . . .
Look up, look waaaay up . . . the hilltop fortification is crowned with an immense statue of Jesus (more properly, the Sagrado Corrazon, the Sacred Heart)
Around its base, stone walls open to frame magnificent views . . .

La Concha curves its biscuit sands far below
while we play with reminders of less tranquil times. . .
and marvel at the stunning views in every direction. . .

Now off I go . . .someone's making me a birthday breakfast. . . . All of France has taken the day off (it's a jour ferié here (a holiday), and the sun is shining with a promise of real heat. . . Hope it's lovely where you are as well.


  1. Hi Mater, that was me too, in the front seat, crumpled map in lap, pointing out the exit as we passed - until we bought a GPS for the car. Oh my, I don't know how we managed before! It doesn't always work (in a certain district in Budapest we would always end up driving in circles due to many cell phone towers etc.) but mostly it does and it makes life so much easier.
    Happy birthday!

    1. It would take us some time to trust a GPS -- we've used it on the Smartphone before and got stuck because it didn't account for major construction. But I suppose over a longer period, it shows its worth . . .

  2. Happy birthday! Travel can be stressful but you always seem to come through it. Beautiful photos, thank you.

    1. Thanks, K. It does have its stressful moments, but also rewards . . .

  3. Holy beautiful birthday sightseeing! Soak it all in mater! love you lots and lots and lots :)

  4. Happy Birthday!!! Lovely photos. The view from the top of that hill is magnificent!

    SO many people told us we should just rent a car in Provence, and we were SO happy we'd ignored that advice. Between trying to park and trying to navigate, it would have added so much stress to what we wanted to be a more carefree trip. Kudos to you and Paul for braving it.

    1. We don't regret having had the car, but it does add significant stress to a trip that I think many underestimate. And the trains here are so great!

  5. Paul will deserve a medal when this car trip is over. Incredibly beautiful views...from that fort.

    1. He really will! We've returned the vehicle now, so life should be simpler. . .

  6. Such gorgeous, gorgeous views. Lift the heart, they do.

  7. This makes me long to go back to san Seb! You were lucky to go when you did, another friend was there this weekend and it rained for three days!


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