Last week at, our school in San Sebastian, Maria showed our new students the best places to eat pintxos. A meet up with a gastronomic discovery and lots of fun.
Last week at, our school in San Sebastian, Maria showed our new students the best places to eat pintxos. A meet up with a gastronomic discovery and lots of fun.
I’m Tanja, 28 years old from Vienna, Austria. I’ve always traveled a lot and enjoyed exploring new places. Unfortunately having a full time job got in the way of my ‘Wanderlust’. So after five years of working for the same company I decided to take a break for one year to travel around the world and learn something new. Before going to San Sebastian, I’ve already spent 3 months at Linguaschools in Barcelona, where I started my first ever Spanish course.
Why did you decide to learn Spanish and why did you choose to learn the language during a language course abroad?
I was always fascinated with languages. After college I moved to Canada for a while to work there, which not only was a great experience it also helped me so much with improving my English. I’ve always been more of a math person, so I knew that just taking on evening courses in my hometown wouldn’t really do the trick for me. So it had to be a language course abroad.
There are many reasons why I chose Spanish, but mostly because it’s one of three most common languages in the world. I really wanted to learn something that I could use on my travels. Since I am also planning a trip to Latin America after my 6 months in Spain, I didn’t think of any other language.
What was your reason to go to San Sebastian and since when have you been here?
A while back I almost moved to San Sebastian because of a job offer. I have never been there, or heard much about the town before that. In the end I didn’t take the job and forgot all about it. In my 3 months in Barcelona with Linguaschools I had such a great time with the school and the people I’ve met there. So I wanted to stick with the school and looked into other places where Linguaschools offered Spanish courses. San Sebastian was one of them. After doing a bit more research and finding out that they do have a great surf beach there, I was sold on the idea of going to the Basque Country for 5 weeks.
How did you experience the time at the language school?
My first day at school was a bit exhausting since I had just arrived the night before and got horribly lost on my way to the school. It took a while and some locals, but in the end I found it.
The school was a bit different from the one in Barcelona, but I liked my group the moment I walked in the classroom. Most of the time we were about 10 students, which is more or less the maximum. Even though we were that many students, it always felt well balanced.
The only activity I attended was surfing. The school had a pretty sweet deal with the local Surf School. Which I would highly recommend for people who are not staying long enough to get their own board. It was usually 4-5 days a week, depending on the number of students who signed up for it. It doesn’t matter what level you are in and I never had more than 2 other people in my group, which gives the teacher enough time to focus on everyone individually. All in all I really enjoyed the school, made new friends there and really improved my Spanish.
How did you level of Spanish evolve during your stay?
I went from 0 to A2 in my 3 months in Barcelona, so I started with B1 in San Sebastian. When I arrived I was able to have conversations with people about basic things, ask for directions or recite what I did on the weekend. I still struggled a lot with my vocabulary and of course still missed basic grammar.
Now I am able to give my opinion, make suggestions and use sentiments. I also understand way more.
When I arrived in San Sebastian it was almost impossible to understand my roommate, because she spoke so fast, the weekend before I left, during a random conversation about TV Shows, I realised that I have absolutely no problem understanding what she’s saying. This and buying my first book in Spanish made me feel really confident about my progress.
Why should someone visit San Sebastian?
The beach, the food, the people. Not the weather. San Sebastian is not they biggest city, but it has so much to offer. The food for example. It’s no secret that San Sebastian has one of the best chefs in the world. But not only the restaurants, pretty much every Pintxo place knows what they are doing. The people are helpful and friendly and very polite. A thing like cat calling doesn’t exist in San Sebastian. (Which one of my teachers always jokingly said is because the Vascos are too shy, and that’s why they will die alone.)
And the beaches. There’s Playa de Concha, the bigger city beach with calm azul waters and cafes with a beautiful view. And then there is Zurriola (Playa de la Zurriola) the Surfer’s beach, where you will find people in the waters at almost any time of day. It also features the cheesiest sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Which spots are really worth to visit? – in San Sebastian and outside the city
Besides surfing at Zuriolla beach, one of my favourite things to do was walking around through the old town – Parte Vieja. That’s where the history of the city can be discovered. You can still see parts of the Town Wall and walk around at the fishing port. Urgull – the hill is a place you shouldn’t miss out, perfect for sundown – picnics. And then there is Santa Clara Island which I heard amazing things about but unfortunately never went.
Another thing I would highly recommend is a day trip to Biarritz. San Sebastian is really close to the French border and there are buses going almost hourly. One day after school, a classmate and I decided to have coffee in France, so we hopped on a bus and 40 minutes later we arrived in Biarritz. It’s a cute little town with lots of coffee shops and a beautiful beach. If you want to go on a little shopping spree just keep in mind that France is a bit more expensive then the places you find in Spain.
Although I got all confused with having to speak French all of a sudden, I was over the moon being there. While it’s so close it has a whole different vibe to it. Next time I will be heading there I will make sure to bring my surfboard though.
Going east is not the only possibility though. A friend I made at school in Barcelona and I decided to meet up in Bilbao for a prolonged weekend. The bus from San Sebastian to Bilbao takes roughly two and a half hours but there are also trains, which might be a bit faster. Bilbao is great if you have more than one or two days. We spent almost one whole day at the Guggenheim Museum exploring the Jeff Koons & the Basquiat exhibitions. It was probably my first real Museum visit after a long time and since I always admired Basquiat I was very pleased to find his work shown at the same time that I was in the city. Once again the weather was on our side so besides strolling through the city, we spent a huge amount of time picnicking, lounging in the sun and unwinding in the beautiful park areas Bilbao has to offer. Our host for the weekend recommended Casco Viejo (The old part of the city) for going out to eat. Which is not only a good place to eat, but also to do a little shopping.
Which restaurants can you recommend?
“La Madame” was my favourite place to go for brunch on weekends. They also have wonderful food during the week. They mix typical basque ingredients with classic Spanish cuisine as well as international influences. Also who doesn’t like Brunch? Then there is “vegan vegetarian km0” which we often chose after school for their lunch offer. I am not a vegetarian but went to class with a girl who was, and I remember it was always very hard to find places in San Sebastian that would serve vegetarian options.
So we were very happy when we found KM0, not only because it was so close to school but also because it didn’t have the typical basque opening hours. If you are not vegan or vegetarian you will have it pretty easy with good food there. In Party Vieja, for example, are many amazing pinxto bars. Also for the best carrot cake in town go to “Robinson Bar” in Gros.
What are your favorite places to go out in San Sebastian?
Every Thursday there is Pintxo Pote in Gros, which I always enjoyed. The bars in the area open around 6pm and serve pintxos with drinks for a bargain (mostly between 1€ – 2€). In Gros it’s not that much about the food, although I had some really good ones there. It is more about bar hoping and have a few drinks with your friends on a week night. There are also some places that changed Pintxo Pote to Pizza Pote or Burger Pote, which are a lot of fun, but as said it’s not all about the food. While the Pintxo Pote is happening in Gros there is also Gastro Pote at Mercado de San Martin in the Centro of San Sebastian. Every Thursday they transform the market area into a little concert hall surrounded by amazing food and great wine. I am not much of a party person, but I do love food and enjoy drinks with friends. So these Thursdays always been the most fun to me.
The Basque city Pamplona is just 80 kilometers south-east from San Sebastián. The ceremony el Chupinazo on the 6th of July is the official start of the San Fermin Festival 2015.
San Sebastián is the perfect destination to combine a Spanish course with a sport activity like surfing or hiking. In 2016 the Basque city will host the European capital of culture and entertainment will be guaranteed.
Enjoy a Spanish class in our Spanish school in the city center of San Sebastián and learn surfing on the best beaches of Spain after school. During the year you can there are multiple events and festivals and the nature of the region Guipúzcoa is a hidden treasure of Europe and reveals 50 million years of history.
Our Spanish school in San Sebastián is located in a modern spacious building in the district of Egía in the center of the city and you can find a lot of small bars and restaurants around this area, where you can have a coffee or a snack in your break. The popular surfers beach “Zurriola” is also just 10 minutes by walk from the school.
The building of the school offers a nice open-air terrace, where you can relax and enjoy the beautiful view on the district. The prices about the surf course you can find in the Spanish & fun section on our webpage.
Our school building is equipped with air-conditioning which is comfortable in the warm summer months. We provide free WIFI internet access and free use of our computers as well as a library of books and films to enhance your learning experience.
The Basque beauty at the Atlantic Ocean
When you visit the city with the Basque name Donostia you will realize that there is much more to discover than just beach and sun. The capital of the province Guipúzcoais in the autonomous Basque region is located 20 km away from the French border and offers various exhibitions, concerts, popular fiestas, sports and international events during the whole year. During the night the city is seperated into three main late-night areas. The most popular one is the Old Town. During the day this part is ruled by “txhikiteros” (groups of men and women who drink glasses of wine with pintxos) and at night it turns into a lively bar scene. The Calle Reyes Católicos is the chic area of the city, because there are modern bars with all sorts of different atmospheres and daring music. The relaxing area of San Sebastián you will find at the district of Gros, where bars are more spread out.
SPORT, CULTURE AND ART
1) La semana Grande
The title tells it already. La semana Grande signifies the big week of San Sebastián, where the whole region celebrates annually during one week. The fiestas that are also an annual activity at our language school start at the 15th of August and during this week the entire region changes into a huge party destination with hundreds of activities all around town. The rite of this special is that the locals put on their party clothes and tie a red kerchief round their neck.
The most important event during “la semana grande” is the fireworks competition. This year it celebrates its 50th edition and the est place to join it is La Concha beach.
2) Surffilm Festival
San Sebastián is not only the surf center of Spain, the city also hosts one of the most important film festivals in world. The event with the name Surfilm Festibal Donostia is the world’s finest surf-film festival and has a major influence on the worldwide film industry. This June San Sebastián celebrated the 13th edition and showcased the best in surf cinema, from the major global releases to obscure indie shorts and local flavours. The Surfilm Festibal invites the audience to take a virtual tour to one of Europe’s coolest coastal cities, with great vibes and legendary late night revelry.
3) Jazzaldia Festival
This year the Jazzaldia Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary from the 22nd till 26th July. The annual music event invites “la-crème-de-la-crème” of the Jazz music genre to the Basque city and turns the whole city and region into the Jazz center of Europe. The musical performances take place on different terraces and spaces in the city center as well as on the beach of San Sebastián. Here you find the program of this year.
4) San Sebastián – the European capital of cultures 2016
In 1985, former actress Melina Mercouri, then Greece’s Minister of Culture, and her French counterpart Jack Lang came up with the idea of designating an annual Capital of Culture to bring Europeans closer together by highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and raising awareness of their common history and values. The celebration of the European capital of culture started with Athens in 1985. Since then more than 50 cities have followed the Greek capital.
The Commission of the European Union manages the title and each year the Council of Ministers of the European Union formally designates European Capitals of Culture. Every year the selected cities receive support from the fund “Creative Europe” of the European Union to add wealth, diversity and community to the cultural heritage of Europe.
This year the European Union celebrates the 30th anniversary of the capital of culture with the representative cities Mons in Belgium and Pilsen in Czech Repbulic. Since 2004 the European Union has voted every year for two European capitals of culture, although every three years non-member and potential states of the European Union can apply for the vote in order to announce a representative city.
On the 28th of June San Sebastián in Spain was named European Capital of culture 2016. After Salamanca and 12 years of absence the Basques city brings back the capital of culture to Spain. This project is enormously important for Spain and it is an opportunity to boost culture and education in values in the Basques region. The city of San Sebastián publishes a program preview with thirty cultural projects for the upcoming year.
5) Surfing in San Sebastián
Surfing play a major role in the city of San Sebastián. Even though the birthplace of European surfing is Biarritz in France, the region around San Sebastián is widely regarded as the best urban surfing spot in all of Europe nowadays. As the popularity in the water sport grows, more surfers are coming to this region and surfing schools are open all year round. Thousands of surfers are coming every year to the Guipúzcoais region to experience the best surfing spots in that area. You have also the possibility at our language school in San Sebastián to attend an individual surfing course in order to surf the waves of the marvelous Zurriola beaches.
DISCOVER THE NATURE OF THE BASQUE REGION
1) Geoparque de la Costa Vasca
Only a few kilometers away from San Sebastián you find some of Europe’s most important geological sites. The geoparc located between the cities of Mutriku, Deba and Zumaia connects the local population and visitors to the natural heritage of the area. When you talk a walk from Mutriku to Zumaia you can experience a trip of 50 million years of history and the flysch provides an insight on how our world has been shaped.
For lovers of the countryside and mountain landscape the region Gioerri offers everything you need. The area of Ordizia, Ormaiztegi, Zerain and Ataun is perfect for hiking and visiting historical sites of interest, such as the Roman mines in the nature reserves of Aralar and Aiako Harria, just 30 minutes away from San Sebastián. If you are a fan of tradition and local products, don’t miss out the markets in Ordizia and Tolosa that take place every week and where the farmers of the region present and sell their products.