I went on my first vacation from the vacation this weekend!
Annie and I headed to San Sebastián, which is in the north of Spain (Basque Country), borders Portugal and is on the Atlantic Ocean….except it does NOT look like Atlantic City. The water is…not brown.
I am actually typing the skeleton of this post from the train on the way home and will finish it sometime tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday. (Obviously, it is now Tuesday) San Sebastián was absolutely beautiful and we lucked out with a weekend with nice weather!
When I told people where I was going for the weekend, they would either say that it’s absolutely beautiful or give me a strange look and say “really?”. Not a good feeling when you have spent a lot of E!
Apparently San Sebastián is characteristically rainy or overcast, but we arrived to a beautifully sunny and warm beach town, full of people running, walking, sun bathing, swimming and kayaking.
Originally, we wanted to head to Portugal for the weekend, since this is our first four day weekend of the year. Unfortunately, the combination of a holiday weekend and booking so late meant tickets were outrageously expensive (think 500E) so we decided to head somewhere else.
The only issue is that Annie spent a semester in Spain before, so she has been to many of the normal touristy cities and does not want to go back (naturally she wants to explore other places). I, on the other hand, have not seen them and can hardly wait to check them out! I am now taking applications for travel buddies. Apply at firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Sebastián information
Population size: More than 186,000
Known for by tourists: Pinxtos (like tapas), the cloudy weather, the beach, the amazing food, being close to France
Distance from Madrid: 452 Km
How you can get there: bus, train, ride share, drive
How we got there: Renfe train
Price of train: 92.5E each, round trip
Price of the hostel (per night, per person): 40E
How much I spent food and travel over 3 days: around 70€
Total cost of trip: around 260€
First things first was getting there. We took the Renfe train early Friday morning at 8 am and were in San Sebastián by 1 pm. I MAY or may not have been out until 4:00 am the night before so that 6:00 am wake-up call was a bit rough, but when in Spain…live like an Espanola, verdad?? I slept for almost all 5 hours on the train, so…success. We took the train home at 4:30 on Sunday and were back by 10:30 pm. It was comfortable (more or less) and clean. A little bit cool, but I’ll take that over hot. It was also quiet minus the blabbing baby a few seats up and the girl listening to her music like her eardrums stopped working yesterday.
View from the train
The hostel: we booked the hostel before we even booked the trip because we realized that the hostels fill up fast, especially on a holiday weekend. Many of the hostels that we looked at were already booked, or were booked within minutes of getting on the site so when we found Downtown River hostel, we booked it, even though it was pricier than many other hostels. It was almost 40€ per night each, which is very expensive for a hostel (in my opinion…). At first, the hostel seemed clean but on further inspection, we found it kind of gross. As far as hostels go, I didn’t think it was so bad but for the price, it absolutely could have been better. My issue was that we paid a lot and didn’t think it was worth the price. The biggest issue was that the hostel was two levels, one above street level and one below. We were assigned a room that was essentially underground, making it feel dark and…wet, like a pool locker room. It even smelled like a pool locker room. The bathrooms and showers were clean enough, and the staff was friendly enough. The wifi was iffy. The kitchen was clean and adequate.Most importantly, it was centrally located. It was about a 5 minute walk to the train station and a 5 minute walk to “town”.
San Sebastián itself was beautiful! It was a beach town, but didn’t feel like a resort town. This is probably due to the fact that it’s normally overcast and rainy. I imagine it becomes more like a beach town in the summer months.
On Friday, we spent the day walking around and did a little hiking.
We found an outdoor festival, which seemed to happen every day we were there. Not sure if it’s a permanent thing or not. Eventually, we headed to dinner! We had Pinxtos and gelato and I was absolutely stuffed. They set everything out on the bar and you take what you want, they heat it, and then you eat!
Pinxtos are good, but almost all of them had pork so I had my fair share of tortillas this weekend (egg and potato and bread). Exhibit A…
Saturday, we ventured to Bilbao by bus.
Population size: roughly 1 million
Distance from San Sebastian: 1.5 hours, by bus
Price of bus: 18E round trip (but it could have been as low as 13. We did not realize)
Known for: Being part of Basque country, pinxtos, The Guggenheim Museum.
Excerpt from Wikipedia: “After its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de Haro, head of the powerful Haro family, Bilbao was a commercial hub of the Basque Country that enjoyed significant importance in Green Spain. This was due to its port activity based on the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialization, making it the center of the second-most industrialized region of Spain, behind Barcelona. At the same time an extraordinary population explosion prompted the annexation of several adjacent municipalities. Nowadays, Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalization process, started by the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum,and continued by infrastructure investments, such as the airport terminal, the rapid transit system, the tram line, the Alhóndiga, and the currently under development Abandoibarra and Zorrozaurre renewal projects.
It was recommended that we see it since we would be so close. I thought it was nice and I’m glad we went, but I wouldn’t go back, nor would I recommend that anyone go out of their way to visit. Round trip to Bilbao was 18€ (it could have been less though), and while we saw the outside of the Guggenheim, we decided to not go in and instead walk around the town.
Which is exactly what we did… For over 12 hours. It was absolutely exhausting, but enjoyable. We, of course, stopped along the way to take pictures, eat (100 Montaditos…forever and always <3, have coffee, and sit and relax).
Sunday (in San Sebastian) we had some breakfast and then walked along the beach, where there was a race going on.
Sunday was actually a bit overcast and rainy in the morning, but that certainly did not make the views any less breathtaking. It also eventually cleared up and turned into a nice day.
We walked to the Funicular (cable car…side note: it took me a solid two minutes to think of what that was called. Tip of the tongue syndrome!) and took it to the top of a mountain.
For only 3.15€, it offered some incredible views. And there was an amusement park at the top of the mountain! Who knew?!
Hm, I wonder how often that thing gets serviced? Never?
OK Calm down!!! I know what you’re thinking! “TAMARA, WHERE ARE ALL OF THE PICTURES OF YOU IN THIS POST?! I WANT TO SEE SOME SELFIES AND OTHER SELF-CENTERED PICTURES!” Not to worry, dear reader….here they are!
And lastly, on the way to the hostel before heading home, we stopped for lunch. I really think this was my first “real, hot” meal since I have been here! Of course, I eat “hot food”, but there is something different about food cooked on a STOVE vs. cooked in a microwave. It was goooood. And there was a beautiful view of the ocean but I was way too starved to worry about pictures of that…
San Sebastián was beautiful and I would recommend that you go if you find yourself in Madrid. You can definitely do it for less money! And don’t forget your bathing suit!
If you made it this far, thank you for reading! It took me a long time to write this post, but I’m typing from a coffee shop, listening to Gente de Zona and figuring out ways I can go dancing tonight…this music is so good. Haha ok CHAO!