I bought my Trenhotel high-speed night-train ticket several months ago, sitting in my freezing flat in Wellington, hunched over my laptop and under 3 layers of clothing and a rug, at the time heart in mouth as I attempted to navigate Renfe’s site in Spanish to book myself a sleeper compartment and not a seat for my all night train ride across Spain and into Portugal.
The departing train track in San Sebastian was changed at the last minute which caused a lot of anxiety for non PA Spanish/Basque speakers but finally figuring it out, I hefted my pack down the stairs against the human tide and back up to the new platform, quickly boarded the newly arrived train in the pouring rain to find my 4 berth female compartment (phew), all ready to leave. And waited, and waited… Read more
San Sebastián (Spanish) or Donostia (Basque) lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French border, and an hour and a half travel time from Bilbao via bus.
The city is well-known for its Basque food and art culture; holding numerous food festivals and an annual international film festival which brings scores of celebrities from all over Europe to the city (in fact Hugh Jackman was here for the film festival last week). It has fantastic city beaches with a complementary temperate climate, and as such, San Sebastián is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain. Read more
When I arrived in Bilbao, I was somewhat bemused to discover that pintxos (pinchos) bars are not the flashy trendy cafe style establishments I imagined. They can be – especially around plazas, but generally pintxos are found at most bars and some cafes in Bilbao and San Sebastian.
Pintxos are like a small open-faced sandwich – consisting of a flavoursome egg, vegetable, fish or meat offering served on a small slice of baguette with a toothpick holding everything together so you can eat without needing cutlery. The name pintxo comes from the Spanish verb “pinchar” meaning to poke or stab, and this is where pintxos differs from tapas, the latter generally having no bread and no toothpicks. Read more
Travelling to Bilbao was one of my longest travel days yet, and involving 2 planes, 2 buses, a ferry and a train. I left Hydra at 1:35pm on Sunday – getting into Piraeus at just after 4pm (plenty of time in case my ferry sailing got cancelled, or I got caught up in strikes, protests etc in Athens). I then took the x96 bus (5 euro) an hour to the airport, getting in around 6pm – my flight departure was at 1:35am so suddenly I had massive amounts of time to kill. I couldn’t drop my checked bag off until 11pm so I read, used the free charging stations to charge my phone and had dinner, all accompanied by my luggage trolley like a large Great Dane dog. Read more