Friday, 12 December 2014

Places to visit when you are in San Sebastian, Donostia

San Sebastian is a coastal city located in Spain, just 20 km away from the French border. We loved the city as it felt relaxing when we were there. Not to mention that the Tapas were great!

When you are in the city of San Sebastian, be prepared to ditch your car in a car park and walk, even though the parking charges were not cheap. Depending on how long you parked your car, the charges is around 2 Euros per hour.

We booked our accommodation at  Enjoy Comfort, which is around 5 minutes walk to the smaller Zurriola Beach.

Zurriola Beach
To get to the main San Sebastian area, we crossed the bridge near the Kursaal (an auditorium and exhibition hall), which took us around 15 minutes of slow walking. I think Enjoy Comfort has negotiated for a good price with the car park nearby. We paid 12 Euros for 24 hours of parking.

Kursaal in the day
Kursaal at night
The host of Enjoy Comfort was very friendly and helpful. He recommended many many nice Tapas and restaurants for us. With only 2 days in San Sebastian, we were unable to try all the food he recommended. We tried a few though, and they were really good. I'll recommend them in this post later on.

Enjoy Comfort
Below are the few places that I would definitely recommend visitors to visit if you are in San Sebastian.

La Concha (Kontxa) Beach

When we were researching online, we saw the beach name as La Concha Beach, but when we reached San Sebastian, some of the road signs actually named it as La Kontxa. So do take note of the different spelling.

The Beach has a nice curve and it felt really good walking on the fine sand, feeling the sea breeze and listening to the sound of the waves. It took us around half an hour to walk from one end of the beach to the other end, slowly.

Mount Urgull and the scenic walk along the coastline

After crossing the bridge next to Kursaal, we took a scenic walk on the pavement on Nuevo Ibilbidea along the coast line.

We saw several such whirlpools while walking on the pavement along the coast.
After slow walking for half an hour on the pavement along the coast, we came to the entrance to climb up Mount Urgull. You can drive to the entrance if you have a car, there's a car park there.

Beginning of the climb
At the first stop of Mount Urgull

Further climb bring you to this La Mota Castle, at the top of Mount Urgull
You can see this statue at the tip of Mount Urgull from far
View of the Bay of Concha, Concha Beach and the town area of San Sebastian
San Sebastian Old Town

This is the place where all the bars, restaurants and yummy Tapas or Pintxos (that's what the locals called Tapas) are located! At night, groups of people gather outside the bars in San Sebastian Old Town. It's so lively and crowded!

I'm now going to recommend 2 nice Tapas shops which were filled with people when we went. Are you ready to drool?

Bar Goiz Argi
Add: Calle Fermin Calbeton 4, 20003 San Sebastian - Donostia, Spain
Opening hours:
Wed to Sun: 6.30pm to 11.30pm
Wed to Mon: 9.30am to 3.30pm

Look at how packed it was in the bar!
Gambas de bruschetta (prawns skewer with bread), Tartaleta de hongos (mushrooms tarts), and yummy beer with lemon cider mix. The prawns and the mushrooms were so tasty!
Tartaleta de Txangurro (Crab tarts). The crab mixture tasted like crab bisque, but with lots of ingredients and little soup. Spread the crab mixture on the bread and eat it. They go so well with each other.
Caldo de Pescado (Fish Soup). It like a bowl of very fresh and flavourful fish bisque! Thumbs up!
There were many ready made Tapas displayed on the counter top for customers to order. But we were told that the yummy Tapas are the hot and freshly made ones, so we didn't take those on the counter. lol
 La Cuchara de San Telmo
Add: Calle 31 de Agosto 28 / Corredor de San Telmo, San Sebastian - Donostia, Spain
Opening hours:
Wed to Sun: 12.30pm to 3.30pm & 7.30pm to 11pm
Tue: 7.30pm to 11pm

Look at the number of people in the tiny shop!
We were told that the chef of this Tapas was formally a student of a Michelin star chef. It's a must try when you are in San Sebastian because they serve posh restaurants standard food at Tapas price!!!

Sirloin steak grilled to perfection with black peppers.
OMG! Foie Gras!! Can you believe the price? A half palm-sized piece of super yummy, melt in your mouth Foie Gras for only 3.90 Euros!!! I love this!! 
Veal cheeks. The meat literally melt in your mouth. It's so so GOOD!! Again, for only 3.40 Euros!!
Lovely cod confit, the meat was so soft. Crispy suckling pig, it's so crispy that it has the 'crackling' sound when you bite it! And Risotto with goat cheese, err.. we were not used to the taste of goat cheese so no comments on that.
Beer with lemon cider. This became our favourite drink! We even made it at home now! Just buy a bottle of lemon cider, mixed 50% of beer and 50% of lemon cider and you get the refreshing drink!
Other than food, there will always be an iconic church monument in the old town of European cities, San Sebastian is no exception, the church of Santa Maria in the old town.

Mount Igueldo

Mount Igueldo is at the other end of La Concha beach. You could walk all the way to the other end of the La Concha Beach and then take the Funiculare up, which costs 3.10 Euros per person.

We were quite lazy to walk, so we drove directly up to Mount Igueldo. When we were nearing the top, we're required to pay a fee of 2.50 euros per person

View from Mount Igueldo, overlooking Mount Urgull, Santa Clara Island and the Bay of Concha.

There's a small amusement park on Mount Igueldo with rides such as a not-so-scary roller coaster (but you can have great views while on the roller coaster), bumper car, trampoline, bumper boat etc. Do note that fees are applicable to take these rides.

Shopping in San Sebastian

If you wanted to do some shopping in San Sebastian, there're shopping area too. Walk out of the old town and you will find shops such as Zara, Desigual and some shopping centre.

Along the shopping street, there's a attractive monument standing tall, that's the Good Shepherd Cathedral of San Sebastian.
These are the places I would recommend for San Sebastian. Of course, there're many water activities that you can do in summer!


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Saint Emilion: UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wine and Vineyards?

Saint Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux. As we drove nearer to Saint Emilion, we could see many many vineyards. It would have been a pretty green with grapes throughout if we were here in the summer. But now, we could only see the stick and all were 'botak' vineyards.

Saint Emilion was quite similar to San Marino, but San Marino was bigger, have better scenery and more things to explore. Saint Emilion was a little 'meh' as a UNESCO heritage site. The 13th and 14th century ruins were not as magnificent as what we saw in Rome. I guess visiting in the wrong season also played a part in making the visit even more 'meh'.

We're done with walking around the whole town in about 1 hour. But if you like wine, it's really a place where you can explore as there're many shops selling wine.

Walking around the town, there're several sites of monuments and ruins marked as attractions on the map.

The most prominent monument in Saint Emilion has to be the Monolithic church. It's sharp tip is the icon of Saint Emilion and seeing it from far helped us determined that we were heading the right way while we were driving.

View of the Old Town during sunset
There were a few steep slopes to climb within Saint Emilion. We saw some ladies wearing heels climbing the slope!? I could never do that!!

Some other ruins marked on the map include the King's Tower.

Errr... This was called 'The Great Wall". The sky was a lovely blue though.

Not sure if this was the Cardinal Palace or the Ramparts.

Walking along the road, we reached a Gate indicated on the map as "Gate and the House De La Cadene". So we saw an arc which was the "Gate", not sure where was the House De La Cadene though.

Another monument listed on the map "Les Cordeliers Cloisters".

Nonetheless, we had a really good meal there at L'Huitrier Pie. We each order a 3 course lunch set and the food was really delicious.

How can we not have a glass of wine when in Saint Emilion
Pumpkin soup with goat cheese and smoked duck. We didn't really like the taste of goat cheese though. But the pumpkin soup was nice.
Crispy crepe with duck meat and olives and salad. This crispy crepe was so delicious!
Red wine beef cheek and potatoes. The beef was so tender and it melted in my mouth!
White fish with creme sauce and mash pumpkin. The creme sauce went well with the white fish. The fish was so fresh and soft.
Macaroons with cooked pear and hazelnut cream.
Creme brulee.
I guessed if we were here in the summer, the town will be livelier and there will be tours available and also the petite train ride around the vineyards. With the tours, I think we will be able to understand the history of Saint Emilion better and thus, able to appreciate the ruins and monuments more.