The Basque Country is a beautiful place and very accessible from the UK. A quick flight to Bilbao is all you need to get to this slightly exotic and half familiar place.
Exotic, because this region is a part of Spain, the country of Picasso, Miro, Granada and Seville. However it is northern Spain, ‘green Spain’ and it is very different from most people’s view of the country which is clouded by direct, or indirect, experience of the costas. San Sebastian is quite grand and has more than a touch of the faded grandeur of Brighton, Eastbourne or Bournemouth. Perhaps, as it faces north and is foreign, Le Touquet or Deauville might be a better comparison?
The bars and coffee are much, much better though and as soon as you get into the narrow little streets of the old part, it is clear that you are in a Spanish city and that any comparison with anywhere else is superficial.
Waking up in San Sebastian was a delight and looking out across La Concha beach, which is right in the centre of the city, I was struck again by how varied Spain was. I know a lot of Spain, but this is very different.
My first winery visit was in Chacoli and again this was very unlike the Spain I know so well. The vineyards cover the most spectacular rolling hills and the scenery is very green and so unlike the countryside just an hour away to the south.
I will write it up properly another time, but here are some photographs of this extraordinary area. By the way, that path you see is the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago.