A year in Europe followed by a move to Bangkok

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian is a city of contradictions.  Sophisticated yet laid back, grand yet intimate, upscale yet unpretentious, traditional yet innovative.  San Sebastian is also one of those rare cities blessed with both natural and man made beauty, creating a stunning synergy. While the beach beckons, the true star of the show is the food.   
  
Around Town
The promenade along La Concha (shell) beach is charming.  There is something about a beach plopped down in the center of a city that brings with it a unique energy.  Notice the statue (of Jesus) on the hilltop.  We hiked toward this statue, but never quite saw Jesus (walking uphill is hard!) although we did see some magnificent views of the city and ocean.





An April 2014 article on The Local news site named San Sebastian's Paseo de Miraconcha (below) the most expensive street in Spain, quoting a 646 square foot apartment at €645,835 (approx. $817,000).  Perched above the beach, I imagine these homes boast wonderful views, but whoa!





We started our hike up the hill on those steep gray stairs behind the playground. That was one happening playground - check out the tilt-y circle in the foreground.  Looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen to me...




San Sebastian is in Basque Country - this is the Basque flag.




I thought this building was so interesting.  The architecture looks very British, yet it somehow fits in quite well.  This is the Miramar Palace which was built as the summer residence of the Spanish royal family when they decided to spend summers in San Sebastian during the late 1800s, turning San Sebastian into a fashionable resort town.  Today the Palace houses a music school.


The view from the Palace gardens was gorgeous.




The below photo is of where we parked.  It was the best parking garage I have ever used.  Each parking space had a light hanging above it - the light was red if the space was taken and green if the space was available.  That way, you can glance down a row without turning and immediately see if there are any available spaces.  Very smart!



The Food:
Let's start with the fancy:  Michelin stars are a big deal in the restaurant world, and being awarded 3 of 3 Michelin stars is huge.  Here is a tally of the number of 3 Michelin starred restaurants in various cities:  Paris has 9 restaurants; London has 2; Rome has 1; Madrid has 1.  San Sebastian has 3.  Note that San Sebastian's population is 186,500.  In fact, the San Sebastian tourism website boasts that second to Kyoto, Japan, the city has the most Michelin stars per square meter when you include the one, two and three starred restaurants.  I'm not sure if that is impressive or stretching it, but either way, San Sebastian's food scene is for real.

And now the more casual dining - pintxos!  The center of San Sebastian's food culture, a pintxo is the Basque equivalent of a tapa.  The pintxos restaurants run the gauntlet from classic to crazy (the term used in San Sebastian is "experimental").  Because we were there on a Monday, a lot of restaurants were closed, however we managed to have two great meals.

We started at La Cepa, a more traditional pintxos bar.  It is common for all of the cold pintxos to be laid out on a counter, and you serve yourself.  Now I would generally politely decline an unrefrigerated counter top buffet, however I figured when in Rome.  I survived, and it was a very tasty and fun meal.



Later, we had dinner at Atari Gastroteka, a more modern pintxos bar.  It is common in Spain for pintxos/tapas bars to bring you a free tapa/pintxo (kind of like an amuse-bouche) to eat before your food comes.  Before sitting down, Jake and I had chosen everything we wanted to order by looking at the menu that was posted outside because it had English translations.  We were pleasantly surprised when our waitress immediately brought us one of our choices right after we sat down.  We assumed it was the restaurant's free starter pintxo and were pleased that we had one less to buy. Then, imagine our surprise when another one of our choices arrived soon after.  I thought they were just extra generous with the free starter pintxos.  Jake thought they were reading our minds.  We later deduced that both plates had been the order of the table next to us, and the restaurant graciously did not charge us for them.  Our fortuitously smaller bill, combined with the innovative and delicious food made for a wonderful evening.  Here is what we ate:

Tenderloin steak with teriyaki sauce and pumpkin puree with ginger:

                               

Plate of Atlantic bonito, Basque peppers, anchovies and olives:


Homemade cured salmon with vanilla cream and lime zest:

                                 

Goat cheese salad with roasted tomatoes, walnuts and pesto:

                                

Dessert - Spanish french toast (torrija) with cream cheese ice cream:


Note: we also had beef cheeks with red wine sauce and mashed potatoes - one of my favorite pintxos, but I don't have a photo.


The Hotel
We stayed at the Chateau de Brindos in Anglet, France.  It was about a 30 minute drive from San Sebastian, just over the French border.  Situated on the largest man-made lake in France, it was an incredibly peaceful and relaxing hotel.  In fact, once we were shown to our room, I'm not sure if we saw another person until checkout.  The room was large, even by American standards, which was a pleasant surprise.  I especially liked the wood floors and oriental rug.  Henry especially liked the opportunity to run outside off his leash.








11 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, this seems like a dream vacation! The scenery and the amazing food!

    http://www.ourlifeisbeautiful.com/

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    1. Hi Sarah! San Sebastian was such a fun place to explore. You should visit one day!

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  2. that food and that cute puppy ♥


    www.2nbeauty.blogspot.com

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  3. Such a great post! This is a beautiful place to let your spirit take a break! Food looks delicious, especially the salmon! :D
    kisses!

    www.camelianita.ro

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    1. Thanks, Camelia! Yes, the salmon was amazing! I would love to go back.

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  4. i understand why that would be considered the most expensive street. so extravagant! wow :) and what a beautiful quaint hotel you stayed in! love the balcony. were you travelling with your dog? i can't wait to visit spain some day. it's been my dream ever since taking spanish lessons in high school! hah :)

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    1. Hi Annie! We brought our dog with us to Europe from the US. We spent time in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Italy, and it turned out that the people in Spain were the most dog friendly. They were so sweet to him. We now live in Bangkok, which is a bit harder with a dog because you can't really walk him on the street or at the parks. You should definitely visit Spain, you would love it, plus you could practice your Spanish!

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  5. I'd love to visit Spain one day; these photos are so gorgeous. I want some Spanish French toast. That looks incredible. :]

    // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

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    1. Thanks, Carmen! Yes, the Spanish french toast was fantastic, and the cream cheese ice cream didn't hurt either!

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  6. Very beautiful place. And great cuisine. Must have.

    http://road2beauty.com/

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