Snapshots From San Sebastián

San Sebastián La Concha Beach San Sebastián Port Window Spain Sunset San Sebastián Window Spain Cathedral San Sebastián San Sebastián Port Cathedral San Sebastián Cathedral San Sebastián Plaza de la Constitución San Sebastián Jamón San Sebastián Sailing San Sebastián La Concha San Sebastián San Sebastián Port San Sebastián boys fishing

As much as I loved parts about living in Andalucía, (near-daily sunshine, I’m looking at you!) I am so happy to be in The Basque Country. The food, the people, the natural beauty, the culture and getting to live close to San Sebastián all make my heart flutter. This city is so special to me, and if I save up a good chunk of an expat pension, perhaps I’ll buy property there one day and make my lil’ dream of living there come true.

San Sebastián captures the hearts of many of its visitors…so much, that hearing anything negative about the city rarely happens. Ok, maybe a gripe or two about its priceyness, but not much outside of that. It’s a comfortable size, so it’s not sprawling and overwhelming like Madrid (which I love as well!), it’s got that world-renowned food scene that you may have heard a thing or two about, and it’s a hop and a skip away from the French border.

San Sebastián has a long and varied history: what was once a quaint fishing village is now a world-class resort town, thanks to the Queen of Spain making this city her royal summer residence at the Miramar Palace overlooking La Concha Bay. It’s also set to be the European Capital of Culture, along with Wrocław, Poland in 2016.

And did I mention how beautiful it is?

San-Seb, as I affectionately call it, has those rolling, emerald-green hills so characteristic of Basque Country, no less than three(!) beaches, and architecture that rivals the streets of Paris; it’s streets are chock-full of Belle Époque buildings. 

Come for a weekend, and you’ll want to stay forever…don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 What do you love most about San Sebastián?

 Disclosure: This post, while written by me, was sponsored by a third-party.

Why Basque Country Needs to Be on Your Itinerary

Playa La Concha in San Sebastián, Basque Country

I often get e-mails from readers asking for my Spain travel advice. They give me a run-down of their itinerary and it always looks something like this: Madrid, Barcelona and somewhere in Andalucía (usually Sevilla or Granada). Once in awhile I might see a trip planned around a famous festival—like San Fermínes (The Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona or Tomatina in tiny Buñol, but usually they just stick to this tried-and-true sun and sangria trail.

Plaza Nueva, Bilbao, Basque Country

Sounds like a pretty solid travel itinerary, right? Barcelona is a city I could never tire of and Andalucía is a must for a glimpse of the romantic Spain we dream of. But, I can’t help but add my two cents and tell them they should really try to make it up north during their time in Spain. And by “really try” I actually mean if you don’t include it you’re making a big mistake.

Yup, I said it.

San Sebastián

The mysterious north of Spain seems to be the country’s best-kept secret. From the wild coast and fresh seafood of Galicia, to the crisp cider and snow-capped mountains of Asturias and the rolling green hills and Michelin-starred restaurants of Basque Country, the north of Spain is by no means untouched by tourism. But, it offers a completely different Spain than the one you’ve envisioned.

And Basque Country, a region special to me, will be worth every penny it takes you to include it in your travel plans. Different people feel differently about well, different, places but—I’ve yet to meet a person who has been to Basque Country and didn’t love the place. I’m not a gambler, but I’d be willing to bet Basque Country will have the same effect on you too.

You’ll eat delicious pintxos, which kick tapas’ a$$ any day:

You’ll wash it down with Txakolí, a crisp, white wine from the region.

You’ll admire how Bilbao balances its industrial past with its modern present.

You’ll walk mouth agape in San Sebastián.

…but most of all you’ll wonder why a place so beautiful is one many seem to have never even heard of. So, I’m feeling generous and I’m letting the secret out. Go to Basque Country, and thank me later.

Where I Went in 2011

As the year wraps up, I’m looking back on how amazing it’s been, and how lucky I feel to be enjoying these experiences. This year, though I added just one new country to my list, I added many new destinations and explored my adopted country even more thoroughly.

January


I started off 2011 fresh from a Christmas visit in my hometown of Seattle. I rang in the New Year in the gorgeous waterfront pueblo of Lekeitio in Basque Country and made several return trips throughout the year.

I also returned to Sevilla to explore and it grew on me even more.

February


A beach escape to Albuefeira, Portugal for a 3-day weekend convinced me that traveling in the off-season may be the way to go.

March


March was low-key, and I spent it exploring my own backyard; Tarifa, Spain.

April


In April, I returned to Granada, met my favorite Spanish footballer (Fernando Llorente!) and tried out an Arabic Spa for the first time. Sadly, Fernando was not present.

I also celebrated Semana Santa (Easter Week) in the Basque Country, where I dined at my favorite Basque chef’s (Karlos Arguiñano) restaurant in the surfing town of Zarautz.

May


May marked the arrival of feria season in Spain. I went to Jerez de la Frontera for a gorgeous weekend of rebujitos, Andalusian horses, flamenco dresses and more!

June


June-August I severely slacked on blogging as I was busy entertaining visitors throughout the summer months. In June, I took a beautiful train-ride up north to Madrid to meet some friends, went back to Bilbao for a weekend, moved apartments and counted down the days until my family arrived!

Then, I went to Zahara de los Atunes for a weekend of beautiful beaches and al fresco dining.

July


July was a busy, busy, month of traveling all over Spain and France. After getting over a yucky stomach bug, I traveled (still not 100%) to sweltering Sevilla and caught a plane to Paris!

My week in France consisted of seeing the Jardin de Luxembourg, eating all the French pastries I could get my hands on, going to Versailles and soaking up everything Parisian!

Then, I went to Tarifa, Ronda, Marbella, Granada and Nerja before I packed up the car and road-tripped from Andalucía to País Vasco. Along the way I stopped in Consuegra and saw the famous Don Quijote windmills, took a day-trip to Toledo, stopped in Madrid and finally arrived for a week of enjoying Basque culture.

Once in Basque country, I went pintxo-hopping (txikiteo) in Donostia, sight-seeing in Guernica+Bilbao and drove up and down the curvy Costa Vasca until we got to France, making stops in St. Jean de Luz and Bayonne.

On the way back down south, we stopped for a few hours in Salamanca and made it back down to the Costa del Sol.

Phew!

August


August was a bit more relaxed, spent enjoying every minute with my family. We explored Tarifa and Sevilla together, as well as Vejer de la Frontera, a traditional Andalusian pueblo blanco.

September


Back to Basque Country I went, this time to attend my first-ever Basque wedding! It was a fun night filled with lots of food (9 courses!) drinks, and dancing!

October


A car-load of friends and I went to Granada for Halloween weekend, exploring the tea rooms in the Moorish quarter and partying until (almost) sunrise!

November


November was a super exciting month for me as I was heading home(!) to celebrate turning 25 and being there for my first Thanksgiving in 2 years. I spent a week in San Francisco before driving up through Northern Cal and Oregon until Seattle.

December

This month brings trips to Bilbao and Madrid for Christmas and ringing in 2012 respectively.

What a beautiful year it’s been!