At the beginning of September we were lucky enough to visit San Sebastián or Basque Country as it is known for a friend’s wedding.
My good friend Google, told me that San Sebastián is one of the food capitals of the world, and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, there are 7 three-star Michelin restaurants in the capital and holds the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter in the world after Tokyo.
On arrival we checked into our hotel Barceló Costa Vasca which looked from the outside like my university hall and I can honestly say is one of the ugliest hotel exteriors I have ever come across… however the beds were huge, the rooms quiet, they had a pool, the aircon worked and as I later discovered they did a great cheese and ham toastie in the middle of the night. It was fine, but if you can afford it, the Hotel Maria Cristina which we went to for lunch was lovely.
Impatient to see the city, we set off to explore and wandered down La Concha beach admiring the horseshoe bay with hills on either side and fantasizing how different our daily lives would be if we lived in a city by the beach.
That evening, we dressed up and headed into the old town. We were greeted with drummers drumming, pipers pipping and ladies dancing. Unbeknown to us, the 31st August marks the day on which the Peninsular War ran amok and much of San Sebastian was burned to the ground. So, whilst we drank, we watched the battle acted out in front of the Cathedral with the Spanish, French, English and Portuguese armies, a torchlit procession and huge canons. Luckily the locals were very friendly letting us get involved in their photos and even wear their hats.
Jacket Mango (old), Dress Zara (old)
Afterwards we moved from pintxos bar to pintxos bar having tapas and drinks. Serrano ham, prawns, calamari, croquettes, tomato bread, potatas bravas -you name it, it’s all simply scrumptious.
The next morning, I was persuaded to go for an early morning dip in the sea before the wedding. The water was heavenly warm, the boats bobbed about and it was blissfully quiet. Whilst I wasn’t enthused by the idea when I was curled up in bed, it was definitely worth it.
Post swim (shower, make-up and change), we headed off to the Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral. I’d never been to a Spanish wedding before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but here are some things I learnt.
- The Spanish are super stylish and love a good a hat. Everyone had outfits to envy and they were a bit bolder than at an English wedding.
- The same tradition of meeting at a bar around the corner for a quick drink first stands, only with the Spanish it was several and they had to run to beat the bride to the church.
- The service can get a little confusing to follow when being done in a mix of languages and where one country knows the songs but not the other.
- After the service, there was a local dance performed by four dancers whilst the newlywed’s stood in the church entrance watching. The dancers then put an embroidered shawl around the bride and what looked like a giant beret on the groom which they had to wear (I think maybe for good luck)
- It is a marathon not a sprint. The drinking started early and carries on late into the early hours.
- A gin and tonic is a pallet cleanser for after a meal, not an aperitif. Dangerous post much wine.
- There is a lot of delicious food – make sure you wear a dress that allows for this!
- It is perfectly acceptable for the room to start clapping, singing and cheering until the Bride and Groom stand up and kiss, at multiple points throughout the meal.
- You will wake up the next morning wishing you were at least part Spanish as they are pretty damn cool.
We finished the night on a bar that looked like a boat overlooking the bay, dancing and watching the fish swim below. The next morning, we had had a huge list of tourist bits we wanted to do but ended up nursing our sore heads on the beach before making our way to the airport.
Would I recommend San Sebastian? 100%. Do I want to return? Yes, absolutely.