San Sebastian (Donostia) – the Basque country

People wax lyrical about the delights of this northern coastal town, a former holiday destination of Spanish royalty and now a popular holiday  destination for Spanish, French and German tourists. “You have to see the playas (beaches) and the pintxos (artistic mouthfuls of food, usually on top of a slice of crusty bread, which you have with drinks) are wonderful!”


The definition of a beach in Spain seems to be any patch of sand that appears at low tide and is a couple of metres in length. I mustn’t be unkind, but my experience of kilometres of untouched white or golden sand in Australia causes me to smile at how elastic a definition can be. In fact, the main beach at San Sebastian would not exist except for the massive dredge which pumps tonnes of grey sandy sludge from the bottom of the bay, spewing onto the shoreline so that bulldozers can spread it around in time for each summer season.

Donostia has a huge food culture.  The pintxos, a feast for the eyes and the palate,  looked interesting – and they had prices to match. It was a bit of a shock to the pocket, having coming from southern provinces where a tapa (pintxo) is served free with a drink. The other surprise was that all the platters of pintxos were on the bar, unrefrigerated (we’re talking about Russian salad, chicken, fish, prawns, scallops and octopus and everything else here), and therefore exposed to coughs and splutters and snorks. After our first encounter with pintxos we gave them a miss for the rest of our stay.