Booked on an early evening flight home, we wanted to maximise our last day here and saved a trip to San Sebastian until now. Known as Donostia in Basque, it could get pretty confusing – well, as much as Swansea/Abertawe I guess.
We set off from Bilbao along the motorway, intrigued by the landscape we passed through.
A kind of industrial countryside for most of the way.
We’d see a wide open landscape and then, suddenly, there would be a steaming great factory on one side, or serried ranks of apartment blocks.
But the wider picture was one of rather lovely hillsides, small farms and green fields.
It was all rather intriguing and none of us would have been able to identify where in Europe such a photograph could be taken until now.
An hour or so from Bilbao and we were driving into San Sebastian, through a canyon of apartment blocks, towards the centre of the city.
We parked in a large underground car park and came up for air in a central plaza, outside what appeared to be a theatre.
Aha, San Sebastian, European City of Culture 2016!
We wandered over towards the river, thinking we’d explore the smaller eastern half of the city before returning to the more promising old town on this side. We’d booked lunch at a restaurant recommended by a colleague of Edward’s and thought it might be a good idea to build up an appetite with a walk along the seafront!
But Edward spotted something interesting. Waves. Now he’d drawn our attention to it, we noticed the river itself was full of waves washing up from the seafront a short distance away.
Every so often, a huge wave would come crashing up the river and smash against the walls on both sides, occasionally splashing up against the bridge over which we were walking.
We spotted a crowd of people standing watching over there on the opposite bank and thought that it’d be a good place to stand and watch, too.
The light was quite interesting – dark and yet quite bright too. There was clearly some weather coming our way.
We realised that part the promenade and seafront road on both sides of the river had been taped off for safety reasons.
It’s surprising how fascinating – and invigorating – it is to stand and watch waves such as these and yes, of course, I took a thousand photographs. (Slight exaggeration, possibly)
All the time the waves were crashing down there, to the side of us, a small tractor was cleaning the beach, away from the drama.
We decided it was time to move on and enjoyed our walk along the prom for a short while before turning around and returning to the bridge.
There were blue flashing lights and a couple of police cars. What could be afoot?
Well, it seemed as though there was someone down there in the river, on a paddleboard, riding the waves but in what appeared to be a rather precarious situation. We watched a while, until a large wave came in and knocked him off his board into the water – hopefully not against those huge granite breakwater blocks which line both sides of the river.
Only now, when reviewing my photographs did I realise that it’s not a “him” at all. Seems like young men don’t have the monopoly on foolhardiness.
Wandering about the streets on the west side of the river, we noticed a distinct similarity between the architecture here and that in Bilbao. Lovely details give an air of grandeur and have so much character.
We walked towards the City Hall and to the promenade high above the western bay where the powerful waves were providing some fun for a bunch of surfers.
Seeing this second wide, sandy beach, it’s clear why this is such a popular resort.
As we walked, though, that weather which we’d seen from the bridge arrived and a large downpour made the next half hour rather tricky.
We dived into the market to begin with and had a look around. These are cakes for Epiphany – or maybe they are also going to celebrate Edward’s birthday with us?
One market stall sold only Bacalao – something we’ve tasted here and enjoyed but which I suspect needs skill and careful handling to be so delicious.
This little Basque figure sat upon several of the stalls and having identified him, we began to see his counterparts in real life, here and there!
Of course, there’s alternative shelter from the weather in places such as this, where all kinds of temptation abounds.
Walk along the street and look in any doorway…
Bars piled high with pintxos, awfully difficult to resist as lunchtime approached.
Thankfully, we didn’t have long to wait.
Lunch at Bodegon Alejandro was worth the wait! Traditional Basque food, cooked simply but beautifully presented in comfortable and unpretentious surroundings. Just what we were after!
At the conclusion of our meal, this little chest of drawers was brought to the table. What might be inside? The bill?
No – actually a selection of tiny morsels – madeleines, macarons and small shortbread biscuits. The bill was presented in a basket later.
What a great way to celebrate a birthday. What a great conclusion to the trip!