If you ever want to travel across Spain, Basque country – San Sebastian is an amazing place to start. A laid back fishing village, with copious amounts of pintxos bars, Sangria and sandy beaches.
The people at HomeAway.com must have known it was the weekend of Angus’ 30th, as they randomly decided to upgrade us to an apartment overlooking the river. The location was very central to the old town and spacious enough to cater for our lovely London friends who kindly flew down for the weekend of celebrations!
We met Ineke and Matt on the Friday night for some dinner and drinks. The old town is relatively small and we found ourselves walking the same streets over and over. (This was prior to the drinking starting!) The first tip we got before arriving in San Sebastian, was to obviously try the pintxos bars (tapas bars), but to eat at the bar with the floor littered with the most napkins- as it signifies that a lot of people have eaten here. If you really want to try a local spot, look for places with saw dust on the floor, we tried a place with both! The pintxos are delicious – Ham being the main ingredient in most pieces – Spaniards LOVE their ham. We found ourselves eating a plate of pintxos and a glass of sangria for about six euro each. Great for the budget traveller!
Restaurants in San Sebastian do not open for dinner until 8:30pm, so these pintxos bars thrive on business up until then and then clear out at 8:30pm. We had reservations at a Michelin star restaurant called Bodegon Alejandro. It was a degustation set menu with eight courses, just as you thought you’d had enough, they’d bring out more. I actually asked the lady to stop but the dishes kept coming. It was insane!
The next day we explored much of the same streets and prepared for the events of that evening. We’d decided that Saturday night would be the night of Angus’s 30th celebrations as Eka (our other London friend) was arriving that night. The celebrations started in our apartment at about 7pm – Andy joined in via Skype for a couple of drinks and then had to head off to sleep! Rightly so, it was 2am in Melbourne! We partied on though and six bottles of wine, a couple of appetisers and many photos later we headed out into town!
We started in the same form as the previous night, some pintxos bars with the emphasis being on finding some that catered for our vegetarian in us all! And Eka also of course! We made our way to three or four bars, the birthday boy skolling sangria or Spanish cider at every stop. Interesting fact: The cider in San Sebastian is poured straight from the barrel at a distance to ensure the cider has a good head. We decided that we had to finish off dancing it up at a small nightclub/bar that played all the top 40 hits from 2006.
We danced the night away, while Eka refilled our drinks, Gus was superman and used his jumper as a cape, Matt helped the birthday boy fly his cape and Ineke and I…well…we were busy happy snapping the events of the night! A lot of sangria and a whole five hours later we called it a night. A successful and happy 30th birthday celebration, with success defined as finding our apartment at the end of the night!
As you would expect the next day was a write off, so we won’t go there. But the day after (Angus’ real birthday) we checked out the best San Sebastian has to offer. We hiked up Monte Urgull and saw the spectacular beach views from the top. There are ruins of the forts that were used for the French revolution and a giant Jesus statue at the top of the mountain. The hike was tricky, with old cobblestones and cracks in the paths that make it difficult to trek in thongs, so if you’re going to do the hike make sure you wear appropriate footwear. We stopped off at a bar on top of the mountain for a few drinks and just absorbed the gorgeous views.
That same night we had a food and wine tour that we had originally booked for the previous day, but were too hungover to do. We met our lovely tour guide at the information desk in the middle of the town and headed off to our first stop. Our first stop was at a local bar (that we hadn’t gone too yet) and included patatas bravas, mussels and fried calamari. By far, the BEST patatas bravas ever! We were bummed that it was our last night there, because we would have had them every night – probably a blessing in disguise.
Our tour guide took us to at least four different bars and depending on the dish gave us wine or cider to match. It was a great tour and showed us a lot of places we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. The tip she gave us was to order our pintxos hot. Even though some of the pintxos out on the bar are cold, we can ask for fresh ones or ask them to heat them up inside. This would have been good to know at the start of our stay at San Sebastian as all the pintxos we ate were cold! Still delicious, but can you imagine the potential if they were fresh or heated up! Massive tip for next time.
We finished off the night back at the apartment, with some wine and some Tiramisu birthday cake! An awesome weekend with some awesome people. A special shout out to Ineke, Matt and Eka for coming from London to share this special event – Angus had an awesome 30th and none of it would have been possible without you or San Sebastian for that matter. No more SANGRIA![vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/24584866 w=600]