San Sebastián

 

I went to: Parte Vieja, Urgull, Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, Good Shepherd Cathedral, La Concha Beach


I stayed at: Apartment on Fuenterrabia Kalea booked via Air BnB (3 bedroom, 2 bathrooms) (£££££)


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Mini Review:

I went here because…

We were looking for a long weekend break (where none of the group of 6 of us had been), and we all LOVE good food.

The best thing was…

Where to begin… Yes it's all about the food, so which bit was best? 3 Michelin starred Akelare or Borda Berri in the Parte Vieja hub. Personally, it was definitely Borda Berri. Wow.

I'd like to change…

The apartment was beautiful but as it was an old building there was no air conditioning which would normally be OK with the window open- unfortunately the bar downstairs disposes of their glass bottles from 3 till about 5am!

I wish I'd had time to…

I wish we had another night in Parte Vieja to sample more pintxos.


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FACTS

As the picture introduces, San Sebastián is neither Spanish nor French. Located in the Basque region of northern Spain along the coast of the Bay of Biscay; the community prides itself on their autonomy. Also known as Donostia, they even have their own language. San Sebastián offers hilly walks as well as sunbathing on a beautiful beach. Having said this, it also has a very cloudy climate with high levels of rainfall. Take an umbrella and hope for one of the frequent snaps of sunshine.


OPINIONS

There was a lot of anticipation and excitement amongst us for this trip. It isn't a place I had heard a lot about growing up yet once the trip was booked, anyone I spoke to whether at work or outside seemed to have it on their 'list' or had already visited- more than once! Why it took so long for me to go I have no idea, but I will definitely be going back. The city has high number of Michelin starred restaurants compared to its size and is most known for its foodie background worldwide. We had an extremely long 'to eat' list and somehow balanced this with a few of the city's tourist treats.

Our apartment was about 10 minutes walk from the old town, giving a quieter atmosphere yet still close to everything we wanted. We had had many discussions about which restaurants to visit on our trip. My budget could not possibly afford more than one Michelin starred restaurant and many people had reassured me that this was not the end of the world. We decided to pre-book Akelare (3 Michelin stars) for our first night based on reviews of its food and it's stunning position. It really was a beautiful setting and we watched the sunset whilst we started our tasting menu paired with wines. I have to say, I love good food, but often I want just that-good food. Not something that has been moulded to look like something else, or been purified, dyed or from the part of an animal humans are repulsed by the sound of (e.g. throat). I'm more of a wholesome, taste first food appreciator. I'm all for utilising the whole animal and not wasting, but I'm pretty sure even these restaurants don't use the entire animal- just the odd bits! I did think the menu was very creative, food was beautifully presented and clearly used high quality ingredients. Was it worth £200 for one person? I think not, but as many would argue, it is about the food experience not just the items individually. I am glad I went, but happy with my decision to just visit one out of the many.

 

The following day, we had a wander in Parte Vieja, planning our pintxos stops at the weekend and generally soaking in the buzzing atmosphere. We decided to work off our previous night's dinner by walking up to Urgull to breathe some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful views of the bay. That evening we had booked a pintxos tasting tour with San Sebastián Food, and we did not regret this. In a small group of 9 we wove through the streets under the lead of our lovely guide. We had a huge range of Pinxtos, all so delicious and incredibly creative flavours packed into small portions. I'm very good good at ordering food in a restaurant, however selecting your pintxos, especially those that are fresh or need to be warmed is a bit more of a challenge within the crowds. I don't think I would have managed the first experience and had such a variety of pintxos and wine if we had not been part of a group. It definitely gave us the confidence to know what to do the next night, or if we visit again. Highly recommended for first timers.

We happened to visit during the week of the grand festival that meant there were amazing fireworks every night led by different countries. It was lovely to have a great time trying pintxos, drinking good wine, chatting and ending things with the fireworks by the sea. We also had time to walk along the beach as well as doing a little shopping, asking our taxi back to Bilbao to stop via the Guggenheim. A really wonderful short break.

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Restaurants:

Akelare

Borda Berri

Bar Nestor

Taberna Gandarias

A Fuego Negro

Bar Gorriti

 

Sites & places of interest:

San Sebastián Food

As above


La Concha

View from the table at Akelare

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus

View of Good Shepherd Cathedral from Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus

View of the city from Urgell

 

Parade during Semana Grande (Big week)

Amazing quality Pinxtos

Busy evening pintxos bar hopping

Last stop at the Guggenheim

 

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