During our week at Socoa in south-west France we took a day trip south across the Spanish border and spent most of a day in the large city of San Sebastian. Despite the seaside location it reminded me in many ways of Paris or perhaps Barcelona, with its wide avenues and riverside promenades.
We had a lunch in a local cafe which had an enormous range of tapas lined up along the bar. The routine is to ask one of the many staff for a plate, select the items you want and – when required – ask to have them heated. The proprietor was on point duty, moving up and down the bar, instructing and directing the traffic. He seated us at a small table and brought us drinks, laughing at my first foray in Spanish. The food was good, the atmosphere was frenetic.
An hour later at another cafe, we saw six local men sitting around a table playing instruments and singing. None of them was less than sixty years old, all of them had attractive voices which they blended in effective harmonies. It would have been pleasant to sit and enjoy the entertainment had time allowed.
We noticed one point of difference between San Sebastian and the various cities we’ve visited in France and Italy: the churches were all shut. Usually we can walk in and look around, but that wasn’t possible at any of the churches we saw in San Sebastian. Despite this small disappointment it’s an attractive city, with pedestrian precincts and gardens on the boulevards, and a warren of quaint alleyways in the old town at the end of Mount Urgull.