Ahhh the Basque Country; another destination added to our bucket list thanks to Anthony Bordain’s brilliant ‘Parts Unknown’, and another weekend that didn’t disappoint in the least. The only regret we have about this trip is that we didn’t stay longer!
We had an open weekend in mid-July and Trev was able to find inexpensive round trip flights to Bilbao for the Friday – Sunday evening. We hired a car and drove an hour from Bilbao, up the Northern coast of Spain to the seaside town of San Sebastián. Known for its beaches framed by its picturesque beachfronts, we planned to spend the whole of the weekend near or on the ocean.
Saturday morning brought our 2nd ever surf lesson, through Pukkas surf school, and it was such a blast! Our instructor didn’t believe that either of us had only surfed once before, and we learned that our affinity for snowboarding had massively helped us to pick the sport up quickly. We rode for about an hour and a half, until our bodies had become wasted by the crashing waves, and called it a (super successful!) day. This is an excellent place to take surf lessons as a beginner, and also appears to have more to offer for advanced surfing as well.
Equally to scenic beaches, San Sebastián is also known for a killer selection of restaurants led by world renowned chefs. Because we booked this trip on a last minute whim, we were unable to get a reservation at many of the more highly rated and well known spots…but despite it all, we ate incredibly well on the trip. “Pintxos” are the Basque countries famous tapas, in which nearly every restaurant offers up a vast selection on their bar counter for the taking (keep a tab and pay later). It’s possible at nearly every meal to either sit at a table and have a full on entree, or to stand at the bar and sip a cocktail while hand picking half a dozen Pintxo delicacies. Our typical dining route was to check out a grouping of 5 or so restaurants, go back to the one with the best looking Pintxos spread, and sip a G&T or glass of Rose while we filled our bellies.
Saturday evening after our meal, we spent the next couple of hours walking the famous Playa de la Concha beach, checking out an open air food festival and admiring the beautifully lit architecture around the city.
We ended the night swaying to the rhythmic tunes at the Altxerri Jazz Bar, a vibrant, sexy venue for a romantic end to an evening in San Sebastián.
Sunday morning we packed it up and headed out mid-morning for a croissant and cortado breakfast, and hit the road for a scenic road trip back to Bilbao. We first drove up a windy and narrow road to the highest point in San Sebastián, for the most stunning view of Playa de laConcha beach and the vast sea.
We then drove on to the small coastal town of Zumaia, which hosts the longest continuing set of rock strata in the world, and where a number of scenes for Game of Thrones where filmed. Again, our only regret was not having more time (aside a quick lunch and a couple of photos) on our visit before having to move on to the airport!
If you’re looking for vibrant beach vibes coupled with friendly locals and beautiful food, the Basque region is the place to be.