Days 29 and 30: San Sebastian, Spain

This leg of my trip is noteworthy for it did *not* entail: planning.

As I prepared for my trip, many friends and blog readers told me, "Don’t over plan! Give yourself flexibility! Let yourself change your mind on the road! Enjoy it!" I decided to listen to these people to an extreme the past few days, and generally am happy I only decided to implement such advice for this short leg.

I had a plane ticket from Rome to Santander, Spain and nothing else. I had a night train in three days reserved. That meant I had 2.5 days and 2 nights when I’d have to figure my shit out on-the-fly. It’s definitely do-able if you’re that kind of person, but as someone who likes agendas and organization, it was a hassle.

I arrived in Santander, wandered over to the tourist desk, and asked in more words than these a very blunt question to the woman: "Give me an honest answer. Is it worth staying here in Santander for a night or should I just go to San Sebastian?" She vouched for Santander, but it didn’t convince me. I bought a bus ticket that left a couple hours later (buses are bigger than trains in Spain) and gobbled down a late lunch at a wi-fi equipped cafe.

Sunday evening I set foot in San Sebastian: a) I had no map, b) I knew nothing about the city, c) I had no hotel/hostel reservation, d) I had no phone, e) I had no contacts. So there, plan-ahead naysayers, are you happy now?!  Such circumstances led me to start a search for a low-cost hotel by foot. There was a fancy looking place across the street from the bus depot. I inquired on a price, deemed it too expensive, but took note of the ballmark as a benchmark. I then wandered the streets of San Sebastian for a full hour. I had a hard time finding anything amidst the heavy crowds of old people (it’s a hot getaway beach resort town), let alone a place that had a room. Everything booked, or either too disgusting or too fancy. Hungry, tired, thirsty, and low on sleep from the night before, I trekked back to Fancy Hotel by Bus Depot and bit the bullet.
Upon checking into my room, I immediately became enamored by the ammenities that awaited me. The bathroom was stocked with "bath milk" (in addition to bath gel, shampoo, and other standards), after-shave cream, and other goodies. It even came with a super-zoom shaving mirror, something I didn’t even know existed until I had "The Best Shave of My Life" in Cologne, Germany.

The next morning I discovered the true gastronomic Spanish treat — Tapas. At least I think I was eating Tapas. A "bar" (the kind that serves alcohol) had instead a smorgasboard of various finger foods, but about 200 times better than conventional American cocktail hour finger food. Simply wonderful food. These are scattered all throughout San Sebastian.

The rest of my morning was searching for a cheaper hotel; I found one through the tourist office, moved in, and then had the afternoon to actually explore what San Sebastian is all about, namely beaches and quant streets. I lay on the beach for a couple hours. I love beaches, but dealing with the sand afterwards is a real bitch.
I walked around "old town." You know — all "old towns" in Europe are starting to look the same. (Same with churches and cathdrals.) At around 5 PM I opened up my laptop to do some offline work and discovered, much to my great joy, that this less-expensive hotel had free wi-fi. This may not sound like a lot, but for me it’s among life’s greatest feelings. I anxiously caught up on all the backlogged emails, blogging, and the like. Most of the trip I’ve had to do pay wi-fi, and every time I do so, I get drenched in sweat as I see the clock tick and knowing I’m paying $.12/hour. (My partner Dave told me on Skype last night that this is an irrational reaction, and I respond that we are irrational beings.)

Today I slept in, went for a run on the beach, checked out of my hotel at noon, and the rain promptly came down in bucketfulls to destroy any attempt at a "relaxing walk around town" in the afternoon. Thus, I’ve been confined to the dry lobby of this hotel where I am still enjoying the free wi-fi (yes, it actually is — ok, was — raining, I’m not in here just to use the web).

My night train leaves tonight for Barcelona. Will I be able to go to sleep, or will paranoia about someone stealing my shit not let me? We shall see.

3 comments on “Days 29 and 30: San Sebastian, Spain
  • Hey Ben – you’re going to Madrid just when everyone’s exiting for the coast. Check out Andalucia if you’ve time – we live in the hills north of Granada…fantastic country and cheap as chips. If decide to make the itinerary change then Granada’s Alhambra is one of the great world sites. You can book on line at a cost of about 8 euros. Unicaja’s site should give you a link. No good turning up on the day as they restrict the number of people entering the city.

  • It’s too bad the person you were speaking with was unsuccessful in convincing you to stay in Santander. I was there for a weekend when I was 16 and thought it was awesome.

    Safe travels B.

  • we want to go to san sebastian for our holidaays this year, and i know your not a travel agent but what were the names of the hotels you stayed in? Taah very much (:

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