San Sebastian seen from Mount Igueldo
I debated a lot while trying to decide what to write about this week.
After all, it is the first week of a new year. I wanted to open the posting with something special.
After putting some thinking into it, I decided to write about the highlight of my 2015 travels.
There are places that you add to your travel schedule because you have read and heard great things about it. However, after hours of research, you do not really know what to expect.
That is exactly what happened when I visited Spain last year. I added the last destination of the journey into the plan without plenty of conviction. I just needed one more city in the itinerary.
Then, after almost two weeks of travel I started to get weary and groggy. I was decided to let the last days of the trip “pass.”
But, something magical happened instead. A new desire to explore resurged when I set foot in San Sebastian. In a matter of hours, the beauty and gastronomy of this coastal city boosted my mood. Oh, and did I mention that we had the place almost to ourselves?
San Sebastian (or Donostia), is the capital of the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. This province with Alava and Biscay comprise the Basque Autonomous Community. Even though in a political sense this is Spain’s Basque Country, traditionally (or in a historical sense), the Basque Country also includes the Community of Navarra and three provinces that are part of France.
San Sebastian has been a food lover’s paradise for several years. It is said it has the highest number of Michelin stars, per capita, in the world. The thing is that the city is getting a boost this year since it was declared European Capital of Culture.
In there, I had the best food of the trip. If you have an idea of how good Spanish food is, you know I am making a serious statement in here. Also, I was so happy to walk along the city’s promenade without having to bump into hundreds of visitors. Madrid and Barcelona are wonderful but there is no denying on how the crowds can drive you a little mad.
I love food and I love places that have not been overtaken by mass tourism. Nevertheless, I think San Sebastian natural beauty is what got my heart.
But, there was a small problem. It rains a lot in Basque Country. Your chances of seeing the city under glorious sun rays are low (chances increase during summer).
Have you seen photos of San Sebastian? If so, you would know that the photo that characterizes the city is an aerial view of the Concha Bay and Catalina Island. Photos like that are taken from Mount Igueldo. But, guess what? You want to go to the viewpoint when the sun is shining.
After three days in Basque Country, I lost hope. We had to deal with the cold and fog most of the time. There was only a small period of sun around sunset. But, that was not enough time to make it to the viewpoint.
For my last day in San Sebastian, the weather forecast looked encouraging. Putting things on perspective, my hopes where feeble since forecasts failed me the entire trip.
I woke up with fingers crossed. It is not easy to take a look at the sky from an apartment in the old part of town (buildings were built very close). So, I had to wait until we were down in the street.
Bingo! The sun was shining in its entire splendor. We were more than ready to walk the entire promenade and take the funicular to the top of Mount Igueldo.
The views were worth the wait. In some sense, there were more than what I was expecting. Using my camera’s zoom, I was able to inspect every little corner of the bay. I made it to one of the most beautiful places in the entire European continent!
I didn’t know that there is actually a park around the viewpoint area.
The views along the coast were spectacular too. There should be a way to see more of the Basque Country by boat.
After more than an hour at the top pf Mount Igueldo, it was time to go back to the heart of the city. We did one final stroll before picking up the luggage and walking to the train station.
You have no idea how obsessed I am with the Basque Country now. All things Basque keep popping in front of me. Do you know that the original city of Durango is Basque? A conquistador named the city in Mexico after his birthplace. Or, do you know the word Arizona has Basque origins?
Love all these little things that I keep learning about the Basque Country. It fuels my hopes of returning one day.
Other Viewpoints in the City
- Santa Clara Island – it is possible to reach it via boat
- Mount Urgull – located at the other end of Concha Bay
- Mount Ulia – located in the east side of the city
Have you thought of visiting San Sebastian?