Travels in Spain: San Sebastián (Donostia), Part II

Our arrival and first couple days in San Sebastián (Donostia) can be read here…and this is how we ended our time in the Basque city. We awoke early, and as everyone was getting ready I decided to take a walk around the city while I waited. I walked along the the Urumea river, which splits the city, and there were hundreds of daffodils that lined the side I walked on. There are three main bridges to cross the river, and I headed for the most grand, the Maria Cristina Zubia bridge. There are two painted white with gold pillars on each side of the bridge, and shine in brighter in the sunshine,

It was nice to be able to walk the city, not knowing where exactly I was going, just knowing what time I had to be back. I soon found myself near the Good Shepard of San Sebastian Cathedral, which is massive and can be seen in most views of the city. The entry is free, so I walked inside and wandered around the church at a leisurely pace, taking note of the intricate and bright stained glass, that rivaled León, in my opinion, and the way the sun shone through the glass, enhancing the patterns and reflecting bright colors on the stone walls.

After this I returned and brought Jesse and her family back to the church, because when the sun is shining is the best time to visit a Cathedral with such wonderful stained glass. After, we took the car and made the short drive into France to visit Chateau d’Abbadie. It is a grand and exquisite home of an 1800s nobleman astronomer and geographer, Antoine d’Abbadie and his wife, Virginie. The home, which looks like a small castle, faces the Bay of Biscay on one side, and hills on the other, with green grass and farms in between.

We walked the grounds as we waited for the tour of the inside of the home, and once the tour guide was ready, he led us inside, with a dozen or so fellow visitors. We did not know the tour would be completely in French, which was quite difficult for us as none of us speak or understand French. They did provide printed guides in both Spanish and English, which helped immensely. The entryway was done in dark woods, with a staircase to the second level, paintings made from d’Abbadie’s time mapping Ethopia, and three stained glass windows as well. The house was designed by blending Neo-Gothic with Orietalism, and it was truly a unique home.

Each of the bedrooms was done in a different color scheme and theme, for example, the Jerusalem room. There was also an extensive library and observatory with large telescope, that faced the sea. A scientist at heart, d’Abbadie had many clever sayings carved into the stone, or painted on the wood, or created in tiles, in many of the rooms’ furniture and fireplaces. My favorite was, in the tile above the fireplace in his wife’s bedroom, where, in Latin, it read “I heat, but I burn, but I kill.”

The mister and missus’ bedrooms were each very impressive as well, with Virginie d’Abbadie’s bedroom even having its own balcony into the chapel. Yes, they built their own chapel in the home, complete with pews and choir, altar, and stained glass windows behind it.

The coolest picture to take in the whole house is looking straight up in the back staircase. I read this in the guide; I do not think the tour guide mentioned it, as I was the only one taking pictures of it (and the rest of the tour group was taking a lot of pictures). It is the Eastern Star.

Don’t forget to look up!

Our last day in San Sebastián we finally had time to do what everyone has to do when in San Sebastián, walk the Paseo Maritimo in front of La Concha beach (Kontxa Honartza). The weather was cool but sunny and people were out in full effect (mucha gente en la calle) while we leisurely strolled, stopped a few times to take cool beach pictures, and then continued on. It was pleasant to walk and enjoy the company, as we were very lucky to have Jesse’s aunt, uncle and cousin to talk with and share this very cool experience.

We walked past the end of the beach, where there is a funicular that takes one up to Monte Igueldo, that provides the famous views of the city and beach below, seen in so many postcards. Once we exited the funicular, there was a lookout point, so everyone took out their phones to take the picture. Then, we all proceeded up a small set of stairs to another lookout point, and then another, where the park opened up to large platforms facing the city and countryside and small mountains in the background.

The Parque de Atracciones Monte Igueldo is a small amusement park, aimed mostly at kids, with a merry-go-round, carnival games, mazehouse, small river ride around the park, and a cafe, where we had drinks and some snacks, croquetas and patatas bravas, both better than expected. Towering above was the Monte Igeldo Torreon, which, for 2.50 Euro per person, one could walk to the tippity top of the Tower, so Jesse and I did.

There are pictures on the history of Monte Igueldo and workers in San Sebastián’s history, which makes the walk up a bit nicer. We nearly reached the top, and then took a narrow spiral staircase to the open patio on top of the tower.

It was quite windy that day, and while the sun shined to keep us warm, this high up it was chilly, and the wind felt like it would knock the phones out of our hands. We were joined at the top by only a couple and their son, and Jesse took pictures of them and they us. The views of the ocean and beach below were the best we could see, and below you can see how high up we were, as we saw Jesse’s aunt and uncle.

We traversed our way back down the tower, met up with Jesse’s family, and took the funicular down. We walked back along the Paseo Maritimo, toward where we began, taking a picture back toward the tower (you can see it in the picture below of the beach) and looking forward toward old town and the large statue of the Virgin Mary, on top of the hill (which was above the old fortress Jesse and I walked to a couple days prior).

Near old town we found ourselves an outdoor cafe to enjoy some pinchos and drinks, before heading back to the rental apartment. We had time for one more outing. In the last post, i mentioned a spaceship looking building behind the church, and we learned that is the Plaza de Toros de Illumbe, also known as the Donostia Arena.

This evening it was home to the Donostia Gipuzkoa Basketball team, who was playing the Easycharger Palencia team. Jesse, her cousin, and I took the local bus to the stadium, bought 20 Euro tickets, and, after some confusion on which entrance to use, made our way inside. We bought some some snacks: weird gummy creatures, frutos secos, and tasty off-brand cheetos, before taking our seats. There were people in every section, but the arena was by no means full, so we picked three seats to watch the game, which were probably not the seats on our tickets, but it did not matter.

We cheered on the home team, and at halftime a group of about fifty children of all ages took the court; performing choreographed dances wearing all black with each kid wearing a different colored day-glow beret, as the crowd roared. We watched as the Frog mascot riled up the crowd, and even messed with a group of teenage guys sitting a few rows in front of us, it was quite amusing as he took one of the kids’ shoes, ran away with it, and tossed it to a group of girls about the same age as the boys that were sitting a few rows behind us. The Frog was trying to help the boys out, but to no avail.

Don’t mess with the Frog

Although the game was close until the end, the home team lost, and we walked with some other dejected fans back to the bus stop. We returned to the apartment, where Jesse’s uncle cooked us another tasty meal, and we said goodnight to the city of San Sebastián. After our four day trip, I understood the three things that we heard most often when people we met told us about San Sebastián; it was beautiful, the food was tasty, and it was an expensive city, not to be missed.

Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog:

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