San Sebastian, Spain

I had taken Spanish language courses in Granada several times, but decided to try out a new city this time. San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain seemed like a perfect contrast to Andalusia. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of booking a flight with a discount flight ticket agency called Travelstart. Booking was no problem, but later they wrote that the flight was canceled and suggested a flight at unacceptable times, although I could still find it on the airline’s website. I canceled and went to a local travel agency where I was able to book the same flight. I only received a refund from Travelstart months later after I had a lawyer write them a letter. I later read that many people had bad experiences with that agency.

I arrived at the airport at a late hour only to discover that public transport to San Sebastian was not available at that time. I took an expensive taxi, but the driver was not familiar with the location of my accommodation and let me out far from it. After asking several passersby in vain, I found another taxi that took me to the apartment where I had a room in an older woman’s abode. It was okay, but a distance from the city center and consequently not very convenient for going out in the evening. I switched to an Airbnb room downtown after a few days. Renting such was forbidden in the city, so I had to be non-descript when entering and leaving, but the location was great and the guy renting it very friendly and helpful.

The school and teachers were quite good, but I was stuck in level B2 as I have been for years, despite on-going Spanish courses in the adult education system where I live and recently a year of online lessons during the Covid-19 lockdown (did that mostly to support the teachers and school in Granada as much as to improve my language skills). I guess I would have to live in Spain for a longer time to get to the next level.

I had hoped that I could go swimming afternoons, but the weather was terrible most of the time as is usual on the coast there and I was only able to do it a couple of afternoons.

View of the bay and beach

Mount Urgull at 120 m in the background

City Hall: it was originally built as a gambling casino, but gambling was forbidden in 1927. It was used as a hospital during the civil war in Spain and converted into the city hall in 1947.

View of the city with the bridge over Rio Urumea

Not sure what the rowers dressed as bakers were up to.

The Basque language was quite present in the city with many signs in it.

San Sebastian is famous for its pinchos, similar to tapas in other parts of Spain. There are plenty of nice bars downtown offering a wide selection.

By chance, I was there during the San Sebastian film festival. Although it was not easy to get tickets, I was able to see the one that received the Audience Award, Le Semeur, very entertaining, followed by pinchos in a couple of the nearby establishments.

There was a nice excursion with the school to Pasai San Pedro, a few kilometers to the east of San Sebastian.

The weather was fortunately good on the last weekend there, a great chance to hike a small part of the Camino de Santiago, which is a trail covering a great distance in France and Spain, ending at the Santiago de Compostela Archcathedral Basilica in Galicia. It has become quite fashionable to hike it in recent years, but the small section we hiked had few others on it at the time.

Views on the hike

Certainly not one of the most spectacular sections of the trail, but a nice outing all the same.

A nice experience, but the often-rainy weather will probably preclude a second visit.

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