San Sebastian Old Town, Spain
The port gateway into Parte Vieja, San Sebastian Old Town.
Best Tapas in San Sebastian Old Town
Typical lightweight, tourist-oriented tapas, pretty good but not the best.
Donostia Old Town is famous for its pinxtos (Basque tapas) which are served either ready-made (grab a plate, load it up with pinxtos and get it priced by the barman) or select dishes from a chalk board and order them from the barman or waiter, which are then cooked to order (generally considered to be a much better way).
The best: On one occasion three of us ate (not the place above) plentifully of superb calamari (2 large plates), mussels (both mariniere and vinaigrette), grilled peppers, spicy boiled potatoes and three glasses of wine (in tumblers) at a cost of 33 euros. Admittedly we had to stand/eat/drink at the counter and shout our orders (in Spanish) in the midst of a Basque feeding frenzy but it was great value for very fresh home cooking!
Museo San Telmo, Jai Alai
A San Telmo Museum Jai Alai display, with video! The challenge is. . . . can you see the ball?
Jai-Alai, sometimes known as Pelota (which actually just means ball in Spanish), is a Basque handball game where the ball is accelerated to such a speed by the use of these baskets that a spectator cannot see it, even when it bounces off a wall.
This is not San Telmo’s Basque art gallery’s best work, but the weirdest, provoking a number of thoughts. Sadly we neglected to note the artist or any information.
Basque Week, Semana Grande, San Sebastián-Donostia
The annual ‘Big Week’ festival takes place in mid-August and includes parades of giant Basque characters during afternoons and a major international fireworks in the evenings, among other activities.
This celebration of Basque culture happens at the beginning of September and involves various events such as traditional improvised poetry, Jai-Alai games, massive stone lifting contests and dance exhibitions. The highlight is the rowing competition, with teams of 14 rowers (unlike the traditional UK eight) competing for the Flag of La Concha.
We were not very captivated by the rowing as boats set off one at a time, in other words timed racing like Le Mans, and they rowed straight out into the Bay of Biscay from Concha, and anyway we weren’t supporting any team.
Monte Urgull, San Sebastian Old Town
Monte Urgull viewpoint, at the top of the castle walls, not quite as high as the Urgull Christ figure but free, easy to reach and offering a fantastic panorama almost equal to that of Monte Igueldo.
And on the Atlantic side of Urgull is the English Cemetery with a couple of figures sadly decapitated, probably by Basque separatists.
In 1813 British and Portuguese troops finally succeeded in capturing San Sebastian, a heavily fortified town occupied by Napoleon’s troops during the Peninsular War.
After many weeks of siege the troops entered the town leaving many dead in their wake. They did not behave well, ransacking the town for loot and in the process starting a fire that burned the place to ashes.