San Sebastian, Spain

Posted By on Sep 7, 2014 | 0 comments

San Sebastion is the kind of place you throw into your trip to rest – and it is perfect for exactly that.

After a long 7 hour train ride mostly consumed by stomach rumbles and photo editing, I landed in San Sebastian.

When I exited the train station I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful and clean the town was. The architecture was older but up-kept and a river ran through the town, brightening the whole place up.

Walking down past the canal at sunset in San Sebastian

San Sebastian Canal Sunset


Hostel Surfing Etxea
The street numbers here were not quite like those at home. First of all, the street names were usually on plaques on the wall. I really don’t know how cars see them. Then the numbers seemed to jump. Sometimes only apartment doors have them and store fronts don’t… So you can pass number 12, go 8 doors down, and then find number 14. When I was looking for my hostel there was a number 33 and 35. My hostel was 34. The other problem was that across the street (where you would expect to find the even numbers) was a park.

I called the hostel and the man couldn’t understand how I was lost. He said I was on the right street and just to find #34. I walked up the street another 2 blocks before I found it. You see, at home the numbers are across from each other. Here 34 was across for 48 (or whatever it was). When I buzzed up I waited another 5 minutes for the guy to come down to get me. When he eventually made it he handed me a map and told me I was at their other location a few blocks away. Why he couldn’t have told me this when I called the first time was beyond me.

When I found the next hostel I was very tired, my backpack was heavy, and my stomach was now making an audible rumble.

Inside it was very modern and clean. It was like a small apartment filled with very friendly ‘roommates’. There were 2 rooms with 4 and 5 beds and the common areas were just like you would see at home. It was a relief to finally be in a modern building.

I dropped my bags and decided to head out to find food. As I was leaving one girl said she was going to hop into the shower and then come and chat. I found this strange because people in hostels don’t usually treat you like a friend this early on. For the most part you just drop your bags and head out on your own. I was excited but also so hungry I would not last until after her shower, so I decided to run and grab something quick.


Welcome to Bliss

A sunset falling over the san sebastian surfing beach.

Sun Sebastian Sunset

I walked around the town a little bit looking for a place to eat. Only 2 blocks down there was a beautiful sandy beach. The sun was just about to set and people were lined up along the seawall to watch. I kicked off my shoes and decided to head to the water for some pictures. Sunsets trump food any day.

The pink and red sky of a San Sebastian sunset over the beach.

San Sebastian Beach Sunset

It was stunning. Bright reds and pinks filed the sky as the sun sank behind a rock wall and eventually the ocean. Surfers were heading up with their boards, and friends were playing games in the sand, it was exactly where I wanted to be.

As it got darker I headed back to up to look for food.


Good Ol’ Murica
I walked back and forth and found nothing quick and easy. There were tons of crowded bars with people gathered around the bar. I had never seen so many busy bar counters in my life (which I later found out to be ‘pinchos’) but I was not in the mood to battle through that.

I walked around the corner and found exactly what I needed. It was embarrassing but it was so right. I walked right into ‘Hollywood’ – the most Americanized restaurant in the country – and ordered an Alfredo pasta with garlic bread. It was not healthy, it didn’t taste amazing, and it was huge. I ate about half and decided I was content and could now go be social.


Beauty Sleep
When I got back to the hostel it was empty. Not a soul was there and only a night light was on. They must have all gone out for dinner?

I decided this was my chance to unpack, check emails, and settle into bed. I was feeling pretty shitty at this point. My nose was running, I had been continuously coughing all day, and my throat stung. I more or less looked like garbage hit by a truck. An early night would be good.

I coughed and coughed and coughed and blew my nose and coughed some more. It was a horrible ‘sleep’ that consisted of me sitting up in bed and keeping my roommates up all night (after they eventually got home at 5am). Thank god I was in a beach town and had nothing to get up for the next day.


Friends and Errands
The next morning I got to meet everyone in the hostel. It was a great bunch of people that had mostly all been there for a while and were quite familiar with how everything worked.

I met a lovely girl named Fiona who was interested in taking a surf lesson, like me. We talked to the hostel owner and scheduled a lesson for the next day. Exciting!

I had some errands to run and Fiona wanted to stop by the bus station so we decided to head out together and get some things done.

Sitting along the San Sebastian Canal. On our way to do some errands.

San Sebastian Canal

We walked to the train station, down past the beautiful canal, where I booked my train to Lisbon. She convinced me to pay extra for a bed since it was an overnight train and 13 hours long (I would thank her later). Then we walked over to the bus station so she could check the times and prices to another beach town. After that we stopped at a pharmacy where I got some cough medicine.

I took the cough medicine right away but my tongue started to swell up and feel numb. It wasn’t horrible but it was slightly concerning – only lasting a few minutes.


Pinchos – Traditional Spanish Tapas
We walked around the old town a little bit and she showed me how those busy bars worked, in regard to ‘pinchos’. We walked into one that was decently busy and had a buffet of pinches across the counter. The idea is that you get a plate, pick the ones that you want off of the plates on the counter, and then pay for what you have on your plate. It was a neat concept.

Most of the pinchos had meat on them so there was only a small selection to choose from as a pescaterian. I got a few with fish and they were alright. Mostly I was concerned about how long these had been sitting out on the counter and how many other people had touched them or coughed on them or what have you. The health standards here were certainly lower than in Canada and it was a hard thing to get used to. None the less, this was the thing to do in Spain so I gobbled up my warm fish tapas and we moved on.


Girly Times

Getting our nails done with Shellac/gel nail polish in San Sebastian on a rainy day.

Shellac Nail Polish

It was now raining. The problem with a surf and beach town is that when it rains there is not a whole lot to do. Fiona and I wandered around for a little while before happening upon a nail salon. Many of the girls I had met along the way had gel/shellac nail polish. It did not peel or chip and lasted for a few weeks. I had wanted to try them for a while now so figured now was a good a time as any. Fiona and I sat down and enjoyed a little pampering on this rainy day. I still can’t believe I got my nails done on a backpacking trip… haha.

After our nails were good and solid we headed back to the hostel to rest up.


Goodbye Dinner & Movie
Two of the guys that were staying at the hostel had been there for over 2 weeks. They were going to be leaving the next day and wanted to get everyone together before they did. They made hamburgers, fries, and desert for everyone at the hostel. I had not eaten red meat in… well… a long time. But I decided to make this social event my ‘one-time meat’ in spain since the meat pinchos looked questionable anyway.

We all sat on the patio outside and ate to our hearts content. My burger was a little bit pink but, upon subtly googling, seemed to be ok.

After dinner we all cleaned up and then crashed into the living room to watch Borat. It was a very relaxing evening and all I had wanted to do. Thanks boys!


Bedtime Panic

The cough medicine that cost me so much grief. remind me never to get this kind again!

Spanish Cough Medicine

We called it an early night after the movie and went to our rooms. I had decided to try the cough syrup one more time since I had not had a chance to find a new kind since. Unfortunately, this time it was worse. My throat started to feel like it was closing up and I began to panic. I got Fiona out of bed to sit with me while the reaction subsided (or incase she had to call an ambulance) and also called my mom in distress. With both of their help I was able to calm myself down and convince myself I was not going to die. Unfortunately the problems did not stop there. My cold was getting worse and I was feeling more and more crappy. And to top it off? My stomach was really not agreeing with the burgers. I spent all night climbing up and down my bunk bed ladder to attend to all of my ailments, including rubbing lotion on my nose since it was getting quite sore from all the nose blowing.

Another sleepless night.


Beach Day

Everyone in San Sebastian enjoying the beautiful sunny day after a full day of rain.

San Sebastian Beach

The next morning Fiona, Marta (another girl at the hostel), and I went down to the beach. We spent the majority of the day there. I sprawled out with a ball of kleenex under my face and worked on my tan in the most attractive way possible. Really, I bet I was getting all of the looks. When I was not blowing my nose I was coughing. But I cared none. I was on a sandy beach on a beautiful day. And this was exactly the purpose of San Sebastian in my itinerary.

After the beach we went back to the hostel and showered up. Marta was leaving later that day and a new crop of girls had come in.

Fiona, being the most welcoming person I’ve every met, gave the new girls a tour of the town and showed them the beach while I got ‘About Time’ ready on the projector and rested in bed. My cold was not subsiding and another movie night would be perfect.

Unfortunately the movie was not loading very fast and it was getting late so, after saying hello to everyone when they got back, I went in for another early night.


Beach Day #2

Enjoying some quiet time reading on the beach in San Sebastian

San Sebastian Beach Reading

What else is there to do? We got some coffee and tea and spent the whole day on the beach again. Well, everyone else did. I spent about half the day before I went back to the hostel to have some yogurt and sleep some more.

When everyone got back, Brigitte (one of the new girls) was heading out to find some food. I figured it was probably a good idea to try to eat so I went with her and Fiona. Unfortunately, 5 minutes after sitting down at a restaurant, I knew it was too much for me. I apologized and returned to bed. This cold was kicking my ass.

After a nap I watched the rest of ‘About Time’ and then everyone went to go get ice cream at the other beach. I went. Even on my death bed I doubt I’d turn down ice-cream. It was delicious and made my throat feel great. I was happy I went. After I finished my ice-cream, however, I left everyone hanging out to go back to bed.

Great blog eh? Beach. Bed. Movie. Bed. Ice cream. Bed. Bed. Bed.



Surf & Burn
I slept a good while before Fiona came and got me. It was time for our surf lesson. I felt like I had been hit by a truck but I knew this was my one and only chance to get a surf lesson on this trip. I suited up, coughed up a lung, blew my nose until I could not blow it anymore, and we headed out to the waves.

Heading out into the water for some surfing in San Sebastian

San Sebastian Surfing

After a quick lesson on the beach we were off! The waves were not great but for beginners you don’t need much. I tried and tried and tried while the instructor helped the others and when he came over to me he informed me that the reason I was not getting up was because… well… I don’t even want to tell you…

Holding my face in pain from the rush of salt water that just went up by raw nose during my surfing lesson in San Sebastian.

San Sebastian Surfing Lesson

Once I flipped my board around so that it was actually facing the right way {face-palm} I got up on the first wave. PHEW. After that one wave though I bailed and salt water flushed up my nose. It stung so bad my eyes began to water. The salt was really stinging my nose, which was now raw, and my cough kept throwing me from the board. Needess to say, surfing with a cold is not the most fun.

I was happy I went but even happier to get back to the hostel. Everyone was going out to a nice pincho bar and to do some dancing and I took that as my opportunity to… you guessed it… go back to bed.


Killing Time
The next morning… what morning? I slept until I had to leave for the train in the late afternoon. Fiona and Brigitte helped me carry my bags to the train station, because they are wonderful human beings, and also because I was almost in tears.

I thanked Fiona 1000 times over for convincing me to get a bed on the train, which turned out to be the best decision ever, and said goodbye.

I would be seeing Fiona in Paris for a day so the ‘goodbye’ was a happy ‘see you later’.


First Overnight Train
I got on the train and found my bunk. They were little rooms with 4 beds (2 bunks) and a sink. I asked the conductor if I could put the beds down right away because I was sick and he reluctantly unlocked them. I threw my bags up into the cubby and slept immediately.

The next lady that came in was clearly not ready for bed. She sat on her bed uncomfortably and talked on her phone for an hour. I gave her a few “are you almost done” looks but she just looked away. Some people…

I could not sleep over her obnoxiously loud phone conversation so I went to find food. When I tried to order food at the cafeteria the man just kept saying ‘none’. After my 4th attempt, with a different meal every time, he said ‘closed’. Umm… so a 13 hour train ride and you have no food? Great… glad I had some granola left from the hostel, though someone ate 80% of it…. guess that’s what I get for leaving it on the counter 🙁

It stopped the tummy rumbles and the lady finally got off her phone. I slept until the conductor knocked and told us we were the next stop.


Helloooooo portugal. I was now 7am.

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