Images from a Resort Town

July 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm 1 comment

When we planned our trip to Spain, we knew we wanted to take more than the 3 weeks I’d be teaching, so we added a week to our plans, but left them open, correctly thinking that we’d have more information after we had spent some time in the country.  What we didn’t plan on was a bad case of travel fatigue.  After 3 1/2 weeks, we’re really ready to be back home. However, we were able to enjoy 3 days in the lovely town of San Sebastian (or Donostio as it is known here in the Basque Country).

We drove there Monday afternoon. The drive was uneventful, mostly thanks to an incredibly well-engineered highway that rivals the Pennsylvania Turnpike for its topographical challenges. If the roads in this part of the country are at all representative, I’d have to say that these folks really know how to build highways (and tunnels, and bridges…) These mountains are of similar scale to the Appalachians in size and distance between ridges, but share the drama (steep granite cliffs) with the Sawtooths or Tetons.

Once we were checked in to the Hotel Codina, we took a walk down the the extensive beach.  Seen from above, Donostia wraps around a very protected cove, with high hills on both corners.  There is a wide paved sidewalk along the seawall above the beach that wraps nearly 270 degrees of a circle around the cove.  Below the seawall is a pristine sandy beach filled with sunbathers, soccer players, volleyball, you name it.

As we approached the old quarter of town, we took a break on a park bench.

"..And he played real good/on his (clarinet) for free"

The scene reminded my wife of an old Joni Mitchell song.  Heck, when you’re our age, everything reminds you of a Joni Mitchell (or Simon & Garfunkle or James Taylor…) song.

To my unpracticed eye, it appears that the core of the towns along the coast were all built around the same time.  The old quarter of Biblao and Donostia looked much the same, with narrow streets running between high sandstone buildings with iron balconies and red tile roofs.

Old Town Donostio

Near as I can tell, the reason Donostio and Bilbao became something much bigger than a fishing village is that there was room to do it. Mundaka, Lekeitio, Bormeo, are all hemmed in by steep mountains.  There wasn’t any room to expand. On the other hand, there the relatively flat regions surrounding the old quarters must have looked empty at the time. My elder daughter (and my provost, for that matter) would be pleased to hear me repeat it:  “geography matters”.

Toward the end of the walk, we were headed back to the hotel and stopped to enjoy one last view of the beach in the waning light.


Entry filed under: Bilbao.

Why Can’t We Do That? 5 Things we’ll miss about Bilbao

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Dustin Shively  |  July 23, 2010 at 6:50 pm


    Looks like you are having a great time in Donostia! I hope the road you took from Bilbao was along the coast, not the freeway through Amorebieta – that coast road I think is one of the most scenic in the world. I look forward to hearing your stories but come on.. Joni Mitchell? ouch…

    Make sure to check out a bar/restaurant called La Cepa in the old part of San Sebastian, its the best there is! Try the “pimientos de gernika” but watch out for the rogue hot one.



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