Trip Start May 04, 2006
62Trip End Mar 05, 2007
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First of all, let me reiterate this point. I love train rides. Well, I love pleasant train rides. The distinction has to be made because if you recall from some of my earlier entries, I haven´t had the best of luck with my night train experiences. Before heading off on my 8 hour day trek across the north of Spain to San Sebastian, it had been about two months since I had proper train travels, and to be honest, I was quite excited for it.
I arrived at 9PM to a brisk Thursday night in San Sebastian. I had not made any accommodation plans given it was off season but had a hostel in mind that I was hoping would have vacancies. As usually happens at most train stations, I was offered accommodation a few minutes after getting off the train. My own hotel room with a TV for €20 a night. Instead of wandering around town in the cold looking for a place I decided to take the easy road. San Sebastian is not a very big town, only about 180,000 people, and so we arrived to the pension (hotel-sh place) after a short walk through the center of the beautiful old city. That short walk really set the tone for my whole trip, a stroll through the tranquil night down twinkling streets lit with Christmas cheer.
After my map rant about Salz burg I feel it is my responsibility to share this before I go any further. As I mentioned earlier, San Sebastian is a small town BUT they have a small map with just enough detail to be effective. The city does not try to compensate for its small stature with an overbearingly large map. Also, the map was quite durable allowing as many folds in whatever direction you like, a feature rendered mostly useless due to the already fittingly sized map.
San Sebastian´s old city claims to have the most bars per square meter of anywhere in the world. Is that actually true? Who cares? "Let´s go check it out" is what I´m thinking. So after a few hours of wandering I found myself in the heart of the old city surrounded by people out and about and of course, tons of tapas bars. That is one beauty about hitting the town in these parts, you dont really
My "hotel room all to myself" didnt end up being all it was cracked up to be. Big surprise? Not really given some of my other experiences throughout my travels. I did in fact have my own room with 4 single beds in it. Me being only one person, I could only use one, although it did cross my mind to take turns sleeping in each one for a few hours at a time just to get my money´s worth, or even better, move some furniture and push them all together to form one massive bed. It turns out that that actually would have been the best option because I am a bit larger than the average European and I slept all night with my feet dangling off the end of the bed. Oh, and the heat didnt work so it was like an ice box in my room, but hey, I had my own room! What are you gonna do? You cant win ´em all.
I decided that one night of luxury was enough for me so I checked out the next morning and went to find accommodation for my next two nights. I found the initial hostel I was looking for and ended up with my own room for the first night and a hostel full of only girls. That´s right. My own room for a night AND surrounded by girls from several different countries...and for only €14 a night! Who´s living luxury now?
With my accommodation set for the rest of my stay, I hit the streets to see what San Sebastian had to offer. San Sebastian is such a contrasting city to Barcelona in many ways. Its much smaller and portrays itself as almost a little perfect town where there are no problems and everyone carries on with smiles on their faces and a bounce in their step. For lack of a better example, it kind of reminded me a little of the town from the movie The Truman Show with Jim Carrey where everything is happy-go-lucky and perfect.
The streets were super clean and there were so many people out and about being active and enjoying their days. I saw so so so many people out jogging with friends, riding bikes, frolicking on the beach, walking their dogs, roller blading, surfing...anything active. The city really puts off a positive vibe and the people seem that at that exact moment, there is no other place in the world they would rather be.
The border of the Basque Country (El País Basco), the state where San Sebastian is located, is lined with mountains, giving it and San Sebastian a unique and isolating landscape. Looking inland from the mountains on the water´s edge, before you are rolling hills and mountains as far as you can see in every direction, except north, where all you see is the Bay of Biscay disappearing into the horizon.
I had an absolute blast in San Sebastian. Its a truly beautiful city and while I was there in the "off season" I still found plenty to do and loved the tranquility and positive nature of the town. I can´t imagine visiting in July or August because I am certain it is jammed with beach-goers lusting for some time away in this magnificent haven strategically tucked between the mountains and the bay. That being said, I would absolutely love to revisit in May or September when the weather is a bit warmer and the town is alive with the feel of sun and summer.