Rarely travels have expectations and reality overlap, but they are certainly not in Donostia -known that Spanish as San Sebastian , the coastal gem located on the north coast of Spain , just kilometers from the French border, at the foot of the Pyrenees and the heart ( or stomach) of the Basque Country . Wide sandy beaches , cobblestoned old town and sultry weather down both the European jet-set and backpacker masses alike , where they mix happily tapas ( Pinxtos ) and wine.
The Old City is the focus of most tourist attention , and for good reason . Stone roads cover about six square blocks , lined with tall buildings and narrow , only pedestrians and service vehicles, and full of open-air tapas bars , shops and inns . Our first attempts to find a pension were silenced when no one responded to the doorbell hit, but eventually we found a place called simply furnished Pension Amaiur Ostatua , with a large room and small iron balcony overlooking one of the pedestrian streets.
The old section sits on a small peninsula , surrounded by sweeping bays and long beaches on both sides by wide promenades. We were there in low season so it was pretty quiet, but you could feel the urge browned, imagine scantily clad masses that descend on the city during the hottest months. A funicular railway at the other end of the main beach takes you to a lookout point with a magnificent view of the bay with sailboats and tall white buildings scattered off the coast stretched . I've never been on the French Riviera , but that was the first thing that comes to mind jumped glance Santander.
A number of small parks and gardens provide green space for residents and tourists , the recovery from the hustle and bustle , or a short siesta in preparation for the next tapas crawl . From where the old town is sitting , you can wander the old steep footpaths for similar views of the city as well as views of the undeveloped rocky coast. These trails are part of the El Camino Santiago, a complex network of trails used by Christian pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela , and although difficult to find some of the beginning of the ( ask a local) , offer breathtaking views of the coast chance and burn off some of those calories .
Food and drink , however, is what Donostia is really famous and it certainly does not disappoint . While Spanish tapas became famous all over the world , it is generally accepted that the best tapas actually from Donostia Basque Country and is the best of the best. Pinxtos hot tapas in the Basque language , and are small plates or appetizers. In the Old Town Clock from about nine in the evening the tapas crawl begins . This consists of walking from bar to bar , eating a Pinxto , drink a little wine or beer, enjoy conversation with friends or people watching , and then move onto the next , until the early morning hours.
Two types of bar Pinxtos were on offer at each ; cold dishes were on the large counter , the best of which were cooked to order once elected , to spread. Then there was always a small menu of raciones ( larger parts on order) , which also proved to be specialties of the house, and they were the real star of the show in most places .
Almost all of the prepared cold Pinxtos were served on small slices of bread , infinite variety in presentation, but not so much in the substance , which was based mainly consist of combinations of egg, mayonnaise salads , shrimp and cheese. However, the simple and succulent Serrano ham or even better Ibirico ham should not be forgotten, and a simple plate of this melt in your mouth dish can not be missed.
Croquettes , fried balls of joy , it came in many forms, but some of my favorite include the pistachio croquettes and fried like a sponge ball at Astelena and bleu cheese croquettes with an ETA bar whose name I conveniently "forget" .
The raciones , usually written on a chalkboard somewhere in the bar were always what the locals seemed to order, so we started as well, and it is certainly worth it. Rape in salsa verde ( green salsa Monkfish in a ) , tacos de Benito (tuna, lettuce and tomato dressing) and a chorizo con ajillo Veira ( sausage in a garlic sauce ) were some of the memorable dishes .
My favorite place by far but was Ganbara whose specialty mushrooms. On the counter are literally mountains of exotic mushrooms - delicate chanterelles , morels woody, giant mushrooms , fresh porcini mushrooms. The hongas (mushroom ) mixed plate it will forever bring me back ... a generous portion of the different varieties, fried in butter and garlic, until lightly caramelized , served in a casserole dish with bread to sop up every last bit .
Donostia is a very pleasant town to relax and enjoy the good life along wide streets and sun kissed beaches made . It is no wonder that this city 's elite , backpackers and foodies alike draws from all over Europe . If I were young and free again, I could never have left this gem on the coast.