Restaurants & Bars

San Sebastian recs.

peter pumkino | Feb 13, 200304:48 AM     11

I have just returned from a great weekend in Donostia (the now-common Basque name for San Sebastian) and thought that the folllowing might help someone.

First of all I managed to get a very cheap flight with EasyJet which was £83 (including all taxes) for me and my Significant Other (that's £41.50 per person!).

The flight left at 7:30am Friday and landed in Bilbao at about ten local time. First thing I noticed was the Basque language prevelant everywhere. All traffic signs, notices etc etc were in Spanish and Basque - so since I was last here things have changed considerably.

There is only the local bus (or taxi of course) going into Bilbao and it's every half hour. No problem there then. Not! Because the bus drops you off at Plaza Mayua but if you are continuing on elsewhere you have to make your own way to the bus 'Termibus', which is quite a walk (especially with bags) away. Take the Metro two stops and you are there but why they cannot stop the airport bus at the Termibus I'll never know.

It's an inexpensive one hour ride to San Sabastian but, again, the bus stops at one end of the city a long way from the old town and beach. It went against my grain but I hailed a taxi as I wanted to get there some time that day!

We stayed Fri and Sat night at the Hotel Londres y de Ingleterra and this was a real find. Somebody said the only hotel in SB was the Maria Cristina. Nonsense. We went there for tea and the location is not nearly as convenient and it was three times the price! We paid for an upgrade at the Londres to a sea view room at Hotel Londres so the rate was 130 Euros per night. This is a Real Find as the hotel is wonderful with friendly service, a great location right opposite the beach and a short walk from the old town. Somebody also said that the rooms were 'not 5 star but neither was the price'. I thought the room was wonderful and had every 'extra' you could possibly want - a very special place and I will return. We also looked at Hotel Niza a few hotels south on same beach and found it very nice but for the minimal difference in price the Londres was a great experience, still I wouldn't discount the Niza.

On Friday night we went tappaing in the old town (they call them Pintxos in Basque) and we found that Pintxo bars were really a lot of fun with an incredible assortment of food. San Telmo was closed for vacation but the others were extremely lively - in particular Bar Ganbarra (great hot and spicy pulpo) and La Cepa with great Jambon and Gambas alla plancha.

On Saturday we went to the world-famous 3-star Michelin Arzak. Truly historic, great food and great service. Very interesting Menu Gastonomic with some imaginative specialties (anyone for cooked Fois Gras on warm melon, or sweet egg yolk with bacon for dessert??). Quite expensive but memorable(the tasting menu we had was 92 Euros per person which is high for Spain, plus drinks of course). I loved the way the femail Maitre recommended that we have 2 half portions of desserts each so we ended up tasting 4 desserts and each one was better that the previous one. Very, very, very good. (I had eaten at Akelare previously and that was nearly as good but with a nicer location - it was closed during Feb).

On Sunday we were stuffed and we checked out and took the bus to Hondaribbia where we had a room at the magnificent Parador confirmed (Paradors are wonderful hotels owned by the government and are usually converted castles or such - sort of like our National Trust owning a hotel chain!). This one is a converted 10th century castle overloooking the town. Wonderful place and the room was 83 Euros! Unbelievable value.

We ate delicious sea food in Hondaribbia at the Yola Berri restaurant in town and we walked around quite a bit as it's a lovely, very quaint spot.

After a very nice buffet breakfast at the Parador we had some more Pintxos and then took the bus, via Irun direct back to Bilbao and a pleasant flight home. A truly great break and not too expensive.

I welcome any comments on the above.

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