This summer, I’ve been fortunate enough to make several trips: I’ve travelled as a tag-along on my novio‘s conference trip to Milan; attended a wedding in Częstochowa with a few nights in Krakow; visited Rome with a friend; went the Highlands to see my family; and to northern Spain to visit my partner’s.
The photo above was taken at the beach at Zaurautz – a cute Basque town not far from San Sebastián. We went to eat at Spanish celebrity chef Karlos Arguiñano’s restaurant as a birthday treat for me. The restaurant is right on the beach and it’s perfect- delicious modern Basque food, genuinely warm staff (they were extra nice to me when I clumsily smashed a glass of Tío Pepe), and not ridiculously expensive. Sadly, we didn’t get to see Karlos Arguiñano in person, but you can’t have everything. There’s a very nice video of Arguiñano getting excited about an egg with three yolks here.
I’ve been to the Basque Country before, but it was on this month’s trip that I really fell in love with the place. The beaches! The architecture! The culture! The food! (No really, the food!). I was also here that novio and I made our engagement official. We’d been living together for a while, and the subject of weddings kept coming up: not-too-subtle hints from his family over Skype, and really overt ones at the wedding in Poland. We talked about it in private after we came home and decided that actually, yes, it was something we wanted to do.
As someone who’s been married before, I’ve had a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards weddings and marriage in recent years, sniffing cynically every time a friend or colleague announced their nuptials. And I remember attending a wedding with an ex not too long after my divorce – and crying in the church, despite the fact I didn’t know the couple. Marriage and I had some things we needed to talk about, and I definitely needed some time – but I think finally we’re there.
Novio and I didn’t really make the engagement public for the first month – we wanted to discuss it and get used to the idea before we started to share it. But the trip to Spain was in part to tell his family in person, and it was when he gave me a ring, in the hotel where we were staying in San Sebastián. So there it was – we were engaged. We’ve now told all the family, have a date set and a venue lined up, so it looks like it’s really happening.
Before we went to San Sebastián, I was googling things to do there like crazy, but having visited, I think the best thing to do is to just absorb and take it all in. I mean, they have the fine San Telmo Museoa (free on Tuesdays), a funicular, aquarium, and other fun activities, but the best part of being in the city was wandering the streets, eating pinxos, and watching people go by. It’s very much a holiday place, with plenty of French tourists milling about (it’s just a few kilometres from the border – in fact, the cheapest way for us to get there was to fly to Biarritz from London then take a bus). Everyone’s there to enjoy the exceptional food and wine, the pleasant summer weather, and the gorgeous city beach, La Concha.
So my advice for things to do in San Sebastián? Just enjoy. Don’t worry about a packed schedule – the city is compact and totally walkable, and you’ll get the most from it just by spending time in the streets. It’s also worth mentioning that as the joint European Capital of Culture 2016, there are a ton of drama, music, cultural and other events to be enjoyed while you’re there.
As for day trips, we didn’t hire a car but we were able to get everywhere we wanted on the bus or train (both cover very scenic routes, so if you’re in a hurry or on a tight schedule, I would recommend driving). Zaurautz was much less international, but it’s definitely worth visiting for the beach and restaurant – bookings certainly advised for the latter; it’s really popular. We also made it out to Bilbao, a city which definitely improves on further acquaintance. I loved the casco viejo – there’s a lot more to the Basque capital than just the Guggenheim, IMO.
So what next? Well, we’ve got a wedding to plan, and one or two trips coming up before Christmas, as well as the day-to-day responsibilities of work and adult life. I’m also thinking of taking my DELE B2 in November- ambitious, but hopefully doable. It’s going to be busy.