© 2022 - USMAIL24.COM. All Rights Reserved.
Mention San Sebastian to foodies and they’ll be rhapsodies about the many culinary delights this Spanish port city has to offer.
But while it has more Michelin stars per capita than any other city in the world except Kyoto in Japan, there’s a lot more to it than stomach-churning chewing.
For starters, there’s the stunning view over the city, set on three beaches, the most impressive of which is the expansive La Concha, with its miles of fine golden sand.
Dominic Midgley thinks that while San Sebastian (pictured) is a city of culinary delights, ‘there’s a lot more to it than stomach-expanding chewing’
Walk along the La Concha promenade and you’ll see dozens of surfers catching the waves that pour in from the Bay of Biscay, although the biggest curlers are at La Zurriola’s eastern beach.
San Sebastian is located on a floodplain between green hills that once enjoyed the protection of the Castillo de la Mota, a fortress whose original ramparts date back to the 12th century.
But it wasn’t until 1845, when Spain’s Queen Isabella II visited San Sebastian, believing that the healing properties of the seawater would alleviate her skin problems, that it became a fashionable seaside resort for Madrid’s savvy set.
I’m staying just over a mile inland from La Concha at Villa Soro, a meticulously renovated 25 room boutique hotel, with stylish decor and a fleet of free bikes available around the clock.
Aside from the Michelin restaurants, the old town of San Seb has dozens of pintxos bars, the Basque version of tapas.
‘San Sebastian is situated on a floodplain between green hills that once enjoyed the protection of the Castillo de la Mota (above), a fortress whose original ramparts date back to the 12th century,’ writes Dominic
Our guide for the evening is Eskerne Falcon, who has a Masters in ‘Gourmet Tourism’ from the Basque Culinary Center. The first stop is Casa Urola, where we are introduced to the art of cider casting – and Basque cider is a very different beast than Magners.
It is so flat that to give it some fizz you have to pour it into the glass from a height of well over 3 ft – not an easy procedure, even when completely sober. There were once 6,000 cider houses in and around San Sebastian, and today there are only 800.
Regional cuisine has long been a distinctive feature of Spanish cuisine and nowhere has a stronger sense of local identity than in the Basque Country.
The beaches of San Sebastian often attract surfers, with the biggest waves ‘from the eastern beach of La Zurriola (photo)’
Above is a sculpture in the Museo Chillida Leku, ‘a unique outdoor gallery just 15 minutes outside of San Sebastian’
For decades, the paramilitary group ETA waged a violent campaign to pursue its goal of independence in the region. But it gave up the armed struggle in 2011, and today support for independence hovers below 20 percent.
San Sebastian also offers a feast of art. There is the Museum On Basque Society dedicated to the work of two Basque sculptors: Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida. The latter was Real Sociedad’s goalkeeper in the early 1940s and was tipped to move to Real Madrid until a crushing tackle ended his career.
Real’s loss was the art world’s gain. Chillida became a sculptor with a worldwide reputation, with pieces on display around the world, including in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the courtyard of the World Bank offices in Washington.
The best place to see his work is not at the Basque Museum, but at the Museo Chillida Leku, a unique outdoor gallery just 15 minutes outside of San Sebastian.
“The old town of San Seb has dozens of pintxos bars (one of which is pictured), the Basque version of tapas,” Dominic says. He learns about the city’s cuisine from his guide Eskerne Falcon, who has a Masters in ‘Gourmet Tourism’
Double rooms at Villa Soro start from ¤250 (£212) per night B&B, hotelvillasoro.com. British Airways offers direct flights to San Sebastian. EasyJet and Vueling fly to Bilbao, about 100 kilometers away. Brittany Ferries have two sailings a week from Portsmouth to Bilbao, brittanny-ferries.co.uk. For more information about San Sebastian, visit sansebastianturismoa.eus/en/.
The largest of the 40 works on display is a 54-ton sample originally destined for a site in the British port of Whitehaven.
In 1996, the city fathers of the city in Cumbria invited Chillida to create something in the spirit of his El Peine Del Viento (Comb of the Wind) sculpture, which consists of three iron pieces embedded in rocks on the coast near San Sebastian.
Chillida went to Whitehaven, donned oil bags for protection from the bad weather and identified a location.
But his resulting vision proved a little too sharp for local tastes, arguing that his proposed design suggested “a prototype of the first hip prosthesis.”
Chillida – known as ‘the man of iron’ – made it anyway and it now stands in the park of the museum he made in the Basque Country.
The work of another local sculptor, Inigo Manterola, takes pride of place in the center of my hotel’s circular lawn, where a single line on the room service breakfast menu tells you all you need to know about the attention to detail: guests those ordering boiled eggs are asked to indicate not only how many minutes they want their eggs to be in the pan, but also how many seconds.
They definitely take their food seriously in this part of Spain.