Museo San Telmo Shows the History, Art and Innovation of Basque Country

If you feel the need to get some education while in San Sebastian, Museo San Telmo will be your one-stop museum for Basque art, history and culture. The museum conveniently located in the Old Town went through an extensive renovation and expansion in 2012.  The space was originally a convent converted to a museum in the early 1900s. Eventually, the expansion tripled its size so that a new library, learning center and interactive exhibits can be housed.

The best new permanent exhibit, Challenges, is in the restored chapel space. First you see videos of the restoration process. Then the room gets dark and the light show begins. You’ll see image projections all around that traces the history of the region. Eventually, you are lead to the front of the room where you’ll learn what the future holds for a planet in terms of sustainability and equality.

museum-san-telmo-2 museum-san-telmo-1

At the end, you can play around with video panels and learn how our world sucks.

museum-san-telmo-8 museum-san-telmo-7 museum-san-telmo-6 museum-san-telmo-5 museum-san-telmo-4 museum-san-telmo-3

Other exhibits that won’t bum you at tells the story of Basque in the past 100 years in art and culture. You get to see old school records, TV recordings and movie posters.

museum-san-telmo-10 museum-san-telmo-9

The View On Top of Monte Igueldo of San Sebastian Can’t Be Missed

While you’re taking a stroll around Concha Bay, you eyes will gaze up from the beautiful beach to see the stunning Monte Igueldo. The mountain towers over the city like king over looking his kingdom.

Thus, you need to scale that mountain to see the glory of San Sebastian. You take a few hours and walk up the winding road. I took an electric bike up and down the road way, which is cheating, I know.

More than likely, you’ll take the rickety funicular for a couple of Euros. It’s over a hundred years, and you van tell because it wasn’t designed for tall people.

At the top, you have a restaurant/cafe where you can grab a wine and enjoy the view from the terrace. There’s a creepy old amusement park that runs during the summer months, which I would avoid unless you want to re-enact Scooby-Doo episodes.

Here’s what you can expect from the top.

Monte-Igueldo-5 Monte-Igueldo-4 Monte-Igueldo-3 Monte-Igueldo-2 Monte-Igueldo-1

Pub Drop In San Sebastian Takes Care of All Your Craft Beer Needs

While Cervecería Etxeberria in the old town of San Sebastian caters to international and local brews, Pub Drop also features a fiercely local tap and bottle list. Located close to the main shopping district on the pedestrian street Reyes Católicos, this bar has a more younger, modern feel. It’s a great spot to watch some La Liga matches.

The tap list is truly dazzling, meaning it has beers I’ve never heard of with weird and wonderful names. So many beers, so little room in my belly. The sadness comes when this deliciousness can’t be found in America.

Here’s what I got to enjoy:

Mugalari  Pale Ale from Bidassoa Basque Brewery: Has an intense amber color. Mild , but great personality . Barley malt has a soft touch , dark nuances , making clear the nature of the species , with hints of citrus and pine . Floral and fruit aromas.

Vanilla Black Velvet by  La Quince Brewery: Russian Imperial Stout style. Color black with creamy foam color, aromas and flavors of chocolate and vanilla from Madagascar Vanilla.

Plain Porter by Black Bitch Brewing Co.: Black Bitch Porter is smooth and dark, with a thick dense brown head, roasted malt nose, medium bodied, strong malt up front with lingering coffee and some hops to finish with a low carbonation.

Breakfast in San Sebastian: The Loaf and La Guinda

Skipping your hotel’s continental breakfast is  a must when traveling in great cities. Why eat some piece of crap stale pastry when some of the best baked goods are just right out your door?

Thus, when you’re in San Sebastian, head over to the Gros neighborhood via the Puente de la Zurriola and have a leisurely brekkie at these two places.

The Loaf will have gluten-free travelers jonesing for some fresh based goodness. You can have some toast and jam or some banana bread with a caffe con leche while smelling the bread being baked next door. With a glass storefront, you can take a peak at the masters at work.

the-loaf

If you are need a more substantive breakfast, a five-minute walk from the Loaf is La Guinda. It’s a homestyle cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with outdoor seating. You can nosh on their fresh baked cakes and loafs or opt for some egg souffles and tortas.

La-Guinda-3La-Guinda-2La-Guinda-1

Now’s The Time To Buy British Currency; Rate at an Eight-Year Low

With talk of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the news brought down the value of the pound. Bad news for Brits, good news for travelers looking to cash on the exchange rate.

At close of business today, the rate fell to between 1.40 and 1.42. The last time it was that low was the end of 2008 during the U.S. economic crisis. As you can see in the chart below, the average is about 1.60.

currency exchange

As I mentioned last summer, it was a perfect time to stock up on Euro notes during their economic crisis with Greece. The rate was almost equal to the U.S. dollar at 1.06.

Even if you don’t plan on going to England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, buy them now and save them when you are ready. Then, when the market eventually gets strong for the U.K., you will have saved a nice chunk of change by buying now.

I always go through my bank and have it taken out of my checking account. They have the same rate if you go through AAA and you pay the same shipping. Plus, your bank is probably close to where you live or work.

Pintxos in San Sebastian: Borda Berri, Bar Zeruko and La Cepa

Even though I spent three nights in San Sebastian, I think it’s impossible to have a bad meal. I hate to think under what circumstances that your meal was under-whelming.

When making your way around the Old Town of San Sebastian, you’ll just be over-whelmed with the choices. If you’re thinking that if it’s crowded, it’s must be good, you would be correct. If you need someplace quiet so you and your companion can have your peace, you can find a place and still be amazed by the quality of food.

The tapas crawl, or pintos crawl in Basque country, is a local activity. As I mentioned before, if you sit at a table and look over a menu, that’s what the tourist do and is considered sacrilegious. The best thing about this is that you go randomly and have amazing food or come with a plan and be satisfied.

On my first night, I have a trio of places that my research showed were popular and highly rated. Just as side note, don’t be surprised if bars are closed on random days. It tends to happen without reason.

Borda Berri was the one bar that I would see listed frequently on guides and articles as the top rated joint. I headed there and squeezed myself into the crowded bar. The menu on the chalk board was written in Basque, but I knew going in that their rice dishes and beef cheek are what to get. Not even Google Translate was able to decipher the menu.

I order some Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and the rice plate and waited patiently. I waited, and waited. I was started to think that order didn’t make it to kitchen. After 15 minutes, the guy looked at me and said “¿Recibió su arroz?” and I just shook my head no. He yelled at the kitchen and finally my seafood and rice dish was ready. It was worth the long wait. When I order the beef cheek, it came out instantly. That was some mighty fine cheek.

If this happens to you, just smile politely and eventually they will see that you’re food hasn’t come yet. Don’t make a scene, you’ll have a whole night to explore.

borda-berri-2

 

borda-berri-3Next stop was Bar Zureko, on the same block. Just make a right and a right. Many of the pintxos bar complete in contests every year for taste, innovation and originality. Zureko has won many of these awards for their pintos. Just looking at their spread, and you’ll see why. Fried meatballs, seafood stuffed wontons and champagne glasses filled with anchovies and olives bathing in olive oil. Yeah, I went twice. Not ashamed.  Those damn fried meatballs were insane.

Bar-Zeruko-1 Bar-Zeruko-2

Bar Cepa is another legendary place founded in 1948. You can tell it’s popular when they have a wall of celebrities. Hey, if it’s good enough for Joe Pesci and Willem Dafoe, it’s good enough for me. Their pintos and sandwiches come with English translations so it’s good for those who want to know exactly what they are eating.

They’ve got a good sidra if you’re looking for something unique.

la-cepa1 la-cepa3 la-cepa2

Walk Among the Fishes at the San Sebastian Aquarium

The Aquarium Donostia-San Sebastián is one of the top attractions in city that’s light on things to do. People come for the beach, the surfing and the eating — not in that order.

In actuality, the aquarium is one of the best in Europe and the only one in the continent with a glass tunnel you walk through to see the fish at all angles. So if you’re traveling with little ones, they’ll love this place.

If anything, you can end your hour walk around the picturesque  La Concha Bay at the aquarium. It’s open seven days a week. It’s 13 euro for admission, half off for kids 4-12, free for toddlers under 4.

I’ve only been to a handful of aquariums in my life, but I find them peaceful with all the blues and lights bouncing around from the water reflections. Walking through that tunnel was pretty neat. Since I’m not much into the science behind the fishes, I breezed through in 90 minutes so I could go back to my hotel to check in.

san-sebastian-aquarium-10 san-sebastian-aquarium-9 san-sebastian-aquarium-8 san-sebastian-aquarium-6 san-sebastian-aquarium-5 san-sebastian-aquarium-4 san-sebastian-aquarium-3 san-sebastian-aquarium-2 san-sebastian-aquarium