Posts tagged san sebastian

Dreaming of Donostia

As the air cools down to something pleasant rather than stifling, the swimming pools close down, and the beaches empty out, I start missing summer. Not the uncomfortable, humid summer I found here in on the coast in Andalucía, but rather the warm, breezy, beautiful weather I found in the north.

Not every day was pleasant, but on those days when the sun came out it was perfection.  

Just like my hometown of Seattle.

I had one of those perfect summery days during a trip with my family to Basque Country’s gorgeous resort city; San Sebastián (or Donostia in Basque.)

The water reflected the same azure blue of the sky, the city was buzzing with people out sun-bathing and strolling…it was one of those days I was reminded why San Sebastián always calls me back.

It was one of those days I never wanted to see the end of:

Yes, the water was really that blue. And ombre.

After pintxo-hopping and showing them around this Parisian inspired city, we headed back to the beachfront promenade just in time for sunset:

When is the last time you’ve had a perfect day? Tell me in the comments below!

The Places That Hooked Me in…

You know that moment when you’re in a new place, whether it be for a few hours or a few days and your pulse quickens a bit? When you glance around and your surroundings absolutely grab you?

It may hit you unexpectedly—during an amazing al fresco meal, while strolling out on a balmy night, or watching the sun set. It may overwhelm your senses all at once.

The relationship you can have with a new place is like love; you’re left wanting more.

Here are the places that hooked me in, and the moments where it hit me:

Athens, Greece

Climbing up the Acropolis and seeing the spread of this ancient city below me. Stumbling upon a tucked-away street of chic cafes. Indulging in cheesecake on a rooftop overlooking the Acropolis lit-up at night. Gorgeous seaside nightclubs spent laughing and dancing with friends.

Sevilla, Spain

Exploring the winding, narrow streets of Barrio Santa Cruz. Delighting in cold cervezas and the finest jamón. Relaxing alongside the Río Guadalquiver.  Marveling at the tile-work of Plaza España. Taking in the view from the bell tower.

Naxos, Greece

Riding motorbikes through the countryside. Dipping my toes in the Mediterranean. Feasting on saganaki, horiatiki and souvlaki. Celebrating with drinks at happy hour near the beach. Counting the different shades of blue in the ocean.

San Sebastián, Spain

Devouring pintxos in the old part of the city. Walking alongside the bustling waterfront. Window-shopping in the center. Imagining my dream-home overlooking the sea.

Barcelona, Spain

Admiring the quirky architecture of Gaudi. Experiencing the lively nightlife. Soaking up the sunshine. Snapping photos of all of the city’s color and action. Sampling food in the local markets.

These are the select few places in the world that stole my heart and still call me back long after I’ve left. They leave me daydreaming of a return trip, nostalgically thinking in the memories I created there.

Where in the world has captured your heart?

Pintxo-Tasting in San Sebastián

Pintxos (peen-chohs), the Basque word for tapas, are small portions of food set up on the bar for purchase to accompany your drink. How do they differ from tapas? Well, they don’t really. Pintxos typically are speared with a toothpick atop a small piece of bread and tapas are more likely to be served on small plates, but with the ever-inventive Basque cuisine, tradition isn’t always adhered to. Also, tapas are free in some parts of Spain with the purchase of a drink (though this is the exception), and pintxos are always paid for.

Txikiteo (chih-kee-tay-oh) is at the heart of Basque culture, but what does it mean? It’s the Basque word for bar-hopping, enjoying a pintxo and glass of txakoli (or whatever floats your boat) at each place before moving on to the next. On weekends, txikiteo starts around noon and goes well into the evening when the pintxos are pulled and replaced by cold glasses of kalimotxo.

This summer I spent showing my family a grand tour of Spain, from south to north and back. One of the days we headed to a city near and dear to my heart, simply because it’s gorgeous and I really wished I lived there; San Sebastián. If you’ve ever heard of San Sebastián, chances are the person telling you about this city said in the same breath: “and the food is incredible!”.

Boasting the 2nd most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world (fourteen!), it’s no wonder that San Sebastián is a foodie’s dream destination. But, you don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the pintxos.

There’s no shortage of pintxo bars in San Sebastián, and since they’re regarded as some of Basque Country’s best, you’re really spoilt for choice. Like any cultural thing, there’s etiquette to be followed, so here’s a quick lesson:

  • The best times to txikiteo are from noon-2pm and from 8pm-11:30pm. This is when everyone goes, so the supply is never stale or lacking.
  • Never leave your dirty napkins/toothpicks on the table or bar. It’s rude. Instead, drop them on the floor, like everyone else does.
  • Speak confidently and clearly to the bartender. You’re contending with locals here, and if you don’t approach the bartender in the right way, he/she won’t notice you and you won’t be served. So use your outside voice! :)
  • You may have to get the bartender’s attention to be served drinks, but selecting pintxos is up to you—unless of course it involves raw meat that the kitchen needs to cook for you, or hot pintxos that require warming up. Many pintxos, (like those pictured) are cold however, and you can serve yourself. Keep track of how many you and your amigos have eaten as you’ll be expected to give a full tally to the bartender when you’re ready to play. This is an honor system, so don’t be a jackass.
  • An “eskerrik asko” (thank you) will get you more smiles than a “gracias”.

The Old Town of San Sebastián is ideal for pintxo-hopping as there’s a high concentration of bars there. I recommend starting at either C/ Fermín Calbetón or C/ 31 de Agosto, my go-to areas.