DSS 2016

My university held a cultural trip to San Sebastián (also known as Donostia) last weekend. I had been excited about it for a while as it was named Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2016 and was highly recommended for me to visit. There was only one catch, a small and somewhat unspecified detail:

The tour was conducted in Spanish.

All of it. No English translator to accompany us. Every single fact about the places and sights we were taken to was explained to us in Spanish. This was something I should have expected, given the proficiency of English in Madrid is not as high as other cities in Europe.

So it made for a very interesting trip for Georgie and I (both of us Australian and with little Spanish under our belts) but thankfully we made some Spanish friends on the trip who helped us understand what was going on and taught us a lot about life in Spain.

We arrived in the early afternoon after a 5-6 hour trip on the bus. After lunch, we headed up the funicular al Monte Igueldo for some spectacular views of the city. I should also mention here that it was pouring with rain when we arrived!




We walked along Playa de Ondarreta and saw the Palacio de Miramar, the location of the summer house of Maria Christina (Austria) when she was widowed by a former king of Spain. There is a bridge in San Sebastián also named after her, though I didn’t get the chance to take a picture of it.



Below is one of many signs all over the city advertising itself as the Capital of Culture. San Sebastián is in Basque Country where both the languages of Spanish and Basque (Spanish dialect) are spoken.


With some free time to walk around, we had a look at the Iglesia de Santa María and Plaza Mayor:


People actually live in houses here and the apartments are quaintly numbered in yellow!

 

The sun came back the next day, although it was extremely windy. The tides are so strong in San Sebastián that rocks had to be placed by the bridge to prevent it from crashing too hard on the land:


  
We also saw the Kursaal y Cubos de Moneo, the cultural centre famous for its architecture:


With some free time, we went out for pinchos (pinxtos): a San Sebastián specialty which is essentially smaller tapas with toothpicks. The entire bar was loaded with plates of different foods which you could pick from and then take to the waiter for him to calculate the cost of your meal. I don’t actually remember exactly what I ended up eating but it included octopus, a fish (once scooped out you can see the shell plate on the bottom, so my favourite!), tuna, dumplings, beef and green olives.

After lunch we walked on Bahía de la Concha (the beach!) and ate some gelato before meeting the group at the carousel.

Ayuntamiento: the building operated as a casino until the dictatorship which began from late 1930 to 1975 where gambling was banned and the venue was operated as the house of the mayor

 

Trufa negra: dark chocolate truffle flavoured gelato. So rich but so delicious!!


San Sebastián was so beautiful, it was nice to get away to the coast for the weekend. Definitely a bit more of a relaxed feel than the busy city of Madrid!

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