Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Arriving in San Sebastian, Spain

We take the Euskotren from Bilbao to San Sebastian, a beautiful, several-hour meandering ride through the mountains and along the coast.  San Sebastian is on the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French Border, and is renowned for its cuisine, with a large number of Michelin-starred restaurants and great food everywhere.  San Sebastian is also known as Donostia, the Basque name for the city.

 Train to San Sebastian

From the San Sebastian train station (where we had great pintxos a few days ago in transit to Bilbao), we walk to the Bay of Biscay and the fabulous beach, Playa de la Concha, check into our hotel, Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterraoverlooking the water, and head over to the nearby Old Town, passing the city hall and plaza.

 First views of Playa de la Concha on the Bay of Biscay

 City hall and plaza

Entering the streets of Old Town

Old Town is full of bars and restaurants featuring pintxos and we pop into one for a few bites.  We first choose a ham sandwich, shrimp with bacon, shrimp on a baguette, and pepper/anchovy/ham.  We then go back for octopus and a tuna sandwich.

 Stop for pintxos, chef/artists at work, Iberian hams in the back

Wandering through the streets of Old Town, we hear music  and head toward the sounds where we find a group outside one of the bars playing, singing, and dancing.  We stop to listen, have a beer, and start talking with the group.  The accordion player is an English teacher and he and his friends come into town every now and then for a bar-crawl with accordion.

 Accordion music in the distance, up close

We move on with them to another bar and they call us "San Francisco" and buy us each a beer as they make music, we all talk, and we all dance in the street.

The people in the group are passionate about their Basque heritage and we talk for quite a while about the relationship of the Basque people with Spain and their desire to be separate from the rest of the country.

 Next stop

The good sounds draw us into another adventure, we make new friends, and have a great evening.
Soon, the group breaks up and some head home to prepare for work the next day, while others continue on their pintxos crawl.  We peer in to the bar where we all ended up, see some great pintxos, and have a few more:  sausage and cassoulet with eggplant.

 Sausage, cassoulet

We wind up our first day in San Sebastian with a walk along the promenade back to our hotel.

 Bay of Biscay at night

Our hotel on the promenade of Playa de la Concha

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