Reel Time: Spain – Basque Country and Andalusia

Reel Time: Spain – Basque Country and Andalusa
The view of San Sebastian from Mount Urgull. The Old Town is on the left. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

For a country that’s smaller geographically than Texas, Spain is diverse in its culture, customs and cuisine.

After exploring the capital Madrid and the ancient city of Toledo, a short flight to San Sebastian on Spain’s northern coast seemed more distant as the autonomous Basque Country is distinct, with its strong cultural traditions, celebrated cuisine and distinct language pre-dating the Romance languages. A vibrant coastal city, San Sebastian is a resort town on the Bay of Biscay that’s celebrated for its picturesque bayfront promenade and beaches lined by world-renowned restaurants.

The cobblestoned old town, Parte Vieja, features a variety of upscale shops and vibrant pintxos bars, or tapas restaurants as they’re known here, that pair local wines with the small portioned regional specialties. We were centrally located in the Old Town in the Pension Iturriza, an intimate accommodation that was just steps away from the harbor, pintxos bars and the picturesque Monte Urgull, a public park that features the remains of fortification that dates back to the 12th century.

The park has many winding trails along the Atlantic Ocean’s rocky coastline and spectacular views of the city and bay from its lofty promontory. The city also has a world renounced film festival and a beach that attracts surfers from around the world. A local square was a wonderful place to people watch and featured a bandstand where musicians entertained tourists as locals participated in traditional Basque dances.

At the suggestion of our hosts Ibon and Miata, we rented a car and drove to the small coastal town of Zumaia that is world-renowned for a geologic formation along its beaches that’s known as the Flysch, the longest set of this particular continuous rock strata in the world. A walk along the beach with its towering cliffs and caves that feature the uplifted layers of sedimentary rocks was truly awe-inspiring.

On the final leg of our trip, we traveled south to Seville in the autonomous region of Andalusia, situated on the southwestern Iberian peninsula, an area rich in a mix of cultures dating from the early Romans. Over the centuries, it was dominated first by the Moors and then Christians. On the first day, we took an electric bike tour with a local company Elecmove that gave us an excellent introduction to the city and lesser know but more authentic enclaves like Triana.

Next week we explore the Giraldi Bell Tower, The Alcazar and the fabulous cuisine of Seville.

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