One from the vaults: Postcard from San Sebastian – 2016 City of Culture

Tomorrow there’s the  2022 edition of the Klasikoa in San Sebastián, a race I love seeing live. This year sadly, once again, I’ve resigned myself to watching it on television. Here’s what happened back in 2016.

Typically, our visit to the Clasica San Sebastian forms part of a longer trip but occasionally, like this year, we fly down. In the past we’ve flown to Bordeaux and hired a car. This year my beloved decided we would fly to San Sebastian (via Madrid) and stay in the centre, close to all the action. He booked the flight back in March and gave me the confirmations which I filed in chronological order in my big fat holiday file.

On the Sunday before we were due to depart for our five-day trip to San Sebastian, I took out the confirmation of our flight booking to check the luggage allowance. When I  entered my name plus the booking reference into the Iberia site, it advised me that no such reference existed on the system. Alarm bells started to ring. My beloved undertook a mercy dash to the airport to resolve the issue – several months in the dog house and complete removal of privileges at stake. He returned with a contact number and was put through immediately to an extremely helpful gentleman who obviously didn’t work in their call centre.

It appears that the bank rejected the payment despite more than adequate funds and my beloved correctly inputting the magic bank code he received on his mobile. We can only conclude that because he booked and paid for another Iberia flight, the bank willfully decided to reject one of them. We were blissfully unaware because we had a flight confirmation number. Fortunately, the man from Iberia was able to restore our booking – phew!

I had booked a room in a recently opened 10-bedroomed pension a few steps from the beach and the Old Town which was an ideal location and, thanks to triple glazed windows, blissfully quiet. It had everything you need in a hotel bedroom, nothing you didn’t, and all at a great price. I’ve already booked it again for next year’s race and given it a glowing endorsement on

Apart from watching the race, our intention was to further explore San Sebastian. Even though we’ve been here a number of times, we’ve not seen everything or even eaten in all of its wonderful bars and restaurants. Our days were spent walking along the beach and around the town, visiting its monuments, watching the race, sampling some old favourites and some new restaurants and pintxos (tapas) bars.

The hotel had an arrangement with an excellent nearby neighbourhood bar for breakfast, that also served some fabulous pintxos and local specialities, before deciding how to spend our day. The weather was better either side of the week-end and I like nothing better than strolling along the La Concha beach with my tootsies in the wet sand. The beach tends to be more crowded closer to San Sebastian’s Alderdi-Eder Park but there’s plenty of room further along or you can enjoy the extension of La Concha, in Ondarreta. Alternatively, if you like surfing, head to the beach the other side of the Urunea river, the Zurriola. So that’s three beaches to bronze on, swim, build sand castles, or whatever takes your fancy.

One morning we walked the full length of two of the beaches to enjoy the civic sculptures at either end: Construccion Vacia by Jorge Oteiza and Peine del Viento by Chillida and Pena Ganachegui. Of course, had we been so inclined,we could have hired bikes and cycled on San Sebastian’s many bidegorris (bike lanes). We also walked up and along two of the town’s three hills: the Igueldo overlooking Ondarreta beach and Urgull overlooking the fishing port.

Saturday was spent watching the Clasica, one of my favourite one-day races which we first saw live back in 2010. While the organisation of the race and indeed the route is much improved, much stays the same including the enthusiasm of the fans. Many ex and current professional riders also come en famille to see the race. It’s just that kind of event. We spotted a number of teams the day before riding around and soaking up the sights and sounds. It’s a popular post-Tour race and generally won by a rider who’s shown good form in the Tour.

Sunday we’d set aside to explore the San Telmo Museum which includes a beautiful 16th century Dominican convent, decorated with canvasses illustrating the most important events in Basque history, among its many exhibition spaces. Aside from its temporary exhibitions, the museum presents an attractive journey to the very heart of Basque society from its origins to present day. The entrance fee is only Euros 6 and you get a Euro 2 reduction on a drink and a pintxos in the attached café San Telmo which has an excellent restaurant. I speak from experience.

Talking of restaurants, we’d booked to visit an old favourite Gandarias, in the Old Town, which also has an adjoining pintxos bar but sadly Kokotxa was fully booked for lunch and dinner – next time. On previous trips we’ve eaten at some of the many Michelin starred establishments but we’ve never eaten badly anywhere in the Basque country. Just follow your eyes and nose and you won’t go wrong.

We also had a wander around the town’s two markets in La Brexia and San Martin. Given half a chance I’d have brought back lots of Basque goodies but there was only so much space in my luggage. And while we’re on the subject of luggage, mine is currently still unaccounted for. My beloved’s turned up the following day but they’ve yet to establish the whereabouts of mine. I can only conclude it’s ticking off a few places on its bucket list. Meanwhile, I’m holding onto the thought that airlines rarely lose baggage, just misplace it for a while. But, just in case, I’ve already prepared a detailed list of its contents and their value.

Friday postscript: According to Iberia’s missing luggage tracker, they have tracked down a Tumi they think might be my missing bag.

Monday postscript: My bag’s back, no idea where it’s been, but am very grateful for its return.

17 Comments on “One from the vaults: Postcard from San Sebastian – 2016 City of Culture

    • Absolutely but weather isn’t a given in the Basque Country – it’s green for a reason!


  1. Pingback: One from the vaults: Postcard from San Sebastian – 2016 City of Culture — View from the Back – Jack Russell

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