Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain

Have you ever heard of this place??? If not, you are in for a treat! Let's explore, immerse and embrace this little gem.

Take a peek inside Donostia- San Sebastian, Spain. You will experience a wide range of scenic landscapes from beautiful topless beaches, mountain ranges to old cobblestone towns.


Why is San Sebastian called Donostia?

Etymology. Both the Basque form Donostia and the Spanish form San Sebastián have the same meaning as Saint Sebastian. The dona/done/doni element in Basque place-names signifies "saint" and is derived from Latin domine; the second part of Donostia contains a shortened form of the saint's name.

Where is it? Donostia- San Sebastián is a city in northern Gipuzkoa in Spain, located on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, just about 40 miles from the border between Spain and France. It is a beautiful coastal city and resort town, with a few beaches and some great tourist destination points. The city is divided into a dozen parts, with most of them being parts of the old town (Parte Vieja), with amazing architecture and plenty of old historic buildings. San Sebastián is also an important commercial point, with various trade-related businesses.


Do they speak English in Donostia-San Sebastian? You will find people in bars, restaurants, and hotels that generally speak English. You will also hear a lot of Basque being spoken.


What is Basque? It's almost unheard of these days which is why we wanted to share what we learned. Basque is believed to be one of the few surviving pre-Indo-European languages in Europe and is the only one in Western Europe. The origin of the Basques and their languages is not conclusively known. Some words have migrated to Basque from Spanish over the centuries, but the structure of the language is very unique. Linguistically, Basque is unrelated to the other languages of Europe and is a language isolate to any other known living language. Only about 28% of people residing in Basque territories speak the language. The remaining speak Spanish and/or French.


The best time to visit San Sebastian is from May to July. While the majority falls during peak tourist season, these months offer the best temperatures. San Sebastian is generally a cooler destination, with spring and fall temperatures seldom topping 65 degrees.

What to pack: Light layers are key. You don't need a huge, heavy coat when visiting San Sebastian in spring, but a lighter leather or denim jacket will keep you warm and stylish. A pair of comfortable walking shoes or boots for hiking is a must.


Explore

This area is often referred to as The Basque Country (Euskadi). An autonomous community in northern Spain with strong cultural traditions, an area with celebrated cuisine. The Basque people inhabit an area that is mostly within Spain, but also in Southern France.





But first, exercise! We make an effort to get our workouts in while traveling. A run along the beach, the smell of fresh air and the gentle push of the ocean breeze is motivation and the perfect way to start the day in San Sebastian.


The Beach of La Concha - is a crescent shaped urban seaboard in the city of San Sebastián located at the Bay of La Concha. Yes, the beaches are topless !! Of course I had to immerse in culture and drop the top! It's a very freeing experience. Just imagine running around the beach playing and lounging around with no top on. There were boobies everywhere! Bring em out ladies, I most certainly did!

In case you were wondering about the letters in the first photo: We saw this guy writing IBI =+P over and over in the sand. IBI (tax on immovable property ) = + poverty. He was protesting the rise of taxes on second homes owned by the municipality. We will get more into this below as we embraced various art forms in the city.


Jesus Statue - Take this hike! You will experience 360 degrees of unobstructed views of The Bay of La Concha. We also decided to go off the beaten path a bit to explore the castle and its surroundings. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found!


Immerse

Our belief is, one of the best ways to immerse in a culture is through people and food. We are thankful to meet so many genuine souls during our travels. As we hiked up to the Jesus Statue we went off the beaten path and discovered the Moto Castle. It's known to be one of the best places to catch the sunset and the super chill atmosphere provided time with locals, draft beers & margaritas plus the best views of the city!

Donostia-San Sebastian is a social town. Rooftop gatherings and outdoor dining are ways to hang with locals and other travelers. The streets are lined with bars and you'll find live music in front of the cathedral throughout the day and night.


Day Trippin': We took a ferry ride from San Sebastian to Hondarribia to explore the cutest little coastal town in northern Spain, right on the French border. Santa María gate is the main entrance to the walled old town. It super relaxed and quiet during the week, but weekends are packed with people in the streets. Since it's located across on the water, it's the perfect weekend hang out for the French to come over on the ferry.

For the foodies: Donostia is renowned for its delicious bites of tapas, known as pintxos (Pinchos)- small finger foods served at bars and taverns throughout the Basque Country. In this area, they serve pinchos which comes from the Spanish verb ‘pinchar’, which means ‘to pierce’. So we dove a little deeper to understand what the difference is between tapas and pintxos??? The main difference between pinchos and tapas is that pinchos uses toothpicks to pierce through to avoid the food top from falling off the bread slice bottom. In many parts of the world, toothpicks are also used on tapas....🤷🏽‍♀️ so, the lesson here is: Pintxos (Pinchos) are quintessential Basque and form the backbone of the local food culture. Also note, they are perfectly paired with a local beer or sangria. Bartolo Restaurante is one of the oldest Pixtos Bars in Donostia San Sebastian. Erica prefers seared meat vs cold or room temp. Bartolo offered both options, whereas many locations only served cold cut meats. Most of the bars are jammed packed with pinchos and there isn't much room for actually sitting around the bar for drinks. Most people grab a table for a while or hang out front to people watch.


Petritegi Cider House- We visited to learn all about cider and how to taste it properly. Accompanied by a cider expert, we took a guided tour to understand the Basque natural cider making process. This was a unique, cultural and gastronomic experience!


Characteristics of Basque Origin Natural Organic Cider Petritegi 

PETRITEGI EKO cider is an organically-produced cider, made using apples from organic apple trees, as well as organically-grown apples from different suppliers. You will appreciate its freshness on the palate thanks to its subtle acidity, and hints of fruity flavors. This sustainable product is environmentally-friendly and health-conscious.

And its sooooo good!

Our Traditional Basque Dinner:

Appetizer: Salt cod omelette with Txiri (Cider) and bread.

Dinner: Fried salt cod with peppers, Bone-in ribeye steak (weighing 800g).

Dessert: Cheese, quince jelly, walnuts, almond ‘tiles’ and ‘cigarettes’ .


Embrace

We embraced the Basque Countryside as a whole. From the people and traditions to food and experiences. As we explored various neighborhoods, we noticed a lot of graffiti. The street art in San Sebastian and surrounding areas reflect a spirit of Basque identity. Many illustrate strong political undertones written with colorful text in the local language. We learned it's a way of protesting the government in the beautiful form of artistic expressions. In the past, street art was shunned upon and noted areas that tourists should stay away from. Present-day, graffiti is more accepted as art and often the center of attraction for visitors.


Overview: San Sebastian is famed for its beaches, quaint Old Town and first-class restaurants. Known as Donostia in Basque, you'll find a great choice of cultural events and strong regional character. Our experience was lovely. People were warm and inquisitive, as they are not used to seeing African American travelers in this region unless they are athletes or have some type of sports affiliation. It's truly a small, tourist town on the very northern tip of Spain and somewhat a secret paradise. I'm glad we took the opportunity to check this beauty off the map. Next time in Spain, we plan to visit the middle and southern half of the country. Madrid, Seville, Granada, Malaga are on the list. Where would you like to go next?


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