I’m not sure if you believe in love at first sight, but if it exists, Sans Sebastian has surely collected its fair share of hearts.
The transition into Spain is seamless – somehow between the two of us, we miss it. It’s only when we drive out of the mountains to see the sobering view of built up highrise and Spanish numberplates try we realise we’re in Spain.
And it’s not the Goldilocks search for a place to call home. The first is too full, the second too small. But the third, oh my, the third is oh so very perfect. We setttle high on the sea wall, overlooking the magnificent beach, a sapphire blue and turquoise sea below: from here, it takes just one look to fall in love with San Sebastian.
The old city is only a short walk away but we can feel its heartbeat as we approach. There’s a wandering band belting out a Latin dance beat, the air is redolent with the appetising smell of pintxios and laughing happy people are spilled out into the streets drinking, eating and enjoying themselves.
The beach, the La Concha is widely renowned as being the most beautiful in Europe. A gorgeous, wide, long golden arc with sparkling water, elegant yachts dotting the harbour, sunbaked bodies on the sand.
It’s all far to much to take in, I’m in overdrive – I need to walk the beach, explore the old town, climb the hill, tour the magnificent church, try pintxios for the first time… and do it all at once.
Chris is the voice of reason, of course. We walk through the old town, marvelling at the displays of pintxios on show, the local grocery stores with Spanish essentials on offer, plump tomatoes, sweet onions, peppers and sharp bright green chillies. Iberico hams hang from most restaurant windows and house specials are proudly displayed. I can see a cheesecake that is a mandatory future stop.
We decide to tour the churches tomorrow but make a partial lap of the bay – it’s an enormous curved headland, complete with a turtle shaped island in the centre – Santa Clara. With the perfect balmy weather, it’s hard to imagine a more idillic setting.
Hunger eventually drags us away, it’s time to eat as the locals do: grab a plate, pile it high with pintxios from the bar, order wine and settle in. The range of pintxios on offer is extensive, beautifully displayed and utterly delicious. Most are served on slice of baugette, little explosions of flavour. My favourite has to be the crab and prawn pintxios, followed closely by a grilled goats cheese drizzled with honey, set on caramelized onions. Heavenly. Reds are served chilled as befits a warm climate – they slip down pretty easily
I forgot to mention, we did stop our last Basque village, Sare. I’m not sure we hit the brief though, as while we saw the gorgeous white houses with red and green shutters, I don’t think we were in the old town. Sare is broken up into 11 areas, and I’m pretty sure I saw the Les Plus Beaux Villages sign a few kilometres from where we stopped and explored. It’s still very lovely, and we take the opportunity to taste Bayonne ham and check out the local bakery to great success. One thing is sure, you’d never starve in Europe.