Turning 25 in San Sebastián

The boardwalk along San Sebastián’s Playa de la Concha

Travel guru Rick Steves recently came out with a TV special entitled “Hidden Europe.” These are gems of cities, and the list includes none other than beachy San Sebastián.

If you live in Spain, this city is no secret to you. Telling friends you’re headed to San Sebastián will elicit sighs followed by “That beach is gorgeous,” “Amazing food,” and “What a beautiful city!”

Since we were in Bilbao, a one-hour bus-ride away from the city, it made sense to day-trip there. I chose my birthday to visit–where better to celebrate the quarter-century mark than in San Sebastián?

First, we went to Playa de la Concha, with the Isla de Santa Klara floating impressively in the background.

Later, the birthday meal was none other than pintxos. This particular pinch-o was one I’d tried on a previous trip in 2010–crepes in Bar Astelena. (Imagine my surprise when I saw this exact pintxo featured earlier this year on one of the blogs I follow!)

The afternoon demanded a stroll around the old town. Did you know that the same artisan who restored stained glass on the cathedral in León in the late 18900s also fitted San Sebastian’s cathedral with his light-catching craft?

“Elegant” is the word that keeps popping up in my mind when I think back on the city. This feeling, first sensed along the boardwalk, is reinforced further inland by arching arcades, lush parks, and stylish window displays. And, of course, don’t forget the well-dressed people strolling among them. It’s hard to imagine a beach city as sophisticated, but San Sebastián pulls it off.

It’s also hard to imagine the city as a hidden one. It’s impossible for me–or Rick–to keep this secret.

Here’s to year 25!

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