Friday, 9 September 2016

San Sebastian / Donostia

San Sebastian from Mount Urgull

We are staying in Biarritz, but today we made an outing by bus to San Sebastian or Donostia, to give it its Basque name. It is known principally as some where to go to eat with its celebrated pintxos (Tapas) and high density of Michelin stars, but it is also a wonderful city in its own right. The population is 186, 000 for the municipal area and 436,000 for the metropolitan area.

The bus deposited us at the central bus station which is right next to the extraordinary Maria Cristina bridge, one of several over the Urumea river. The bridge was completed in 1905. The remarkable pavilions at each end were inspired by those on the Alexander III bridge in Paris.

We decided to head for the beach via the Cathedral and so crossed the bridge and turned half left. Immediately I spotted this beautiful art nouveau doorway in Plaza de Bilbao.

As I was taking this picture, I realised there was an even more remarkable building at Prim 17 over to the left. It seems that this is probably San Sebastian's best art nouveau building. (A bit of Googling located a couple of others at Prim 25 and Easo 47.)

The cathedral turned to be a massive Gothic-revival building. The semi-attached tower was extremely impressive.

We walked along San Martin and this brought us to the promenade behind the La Concha beach which we entered through a line of windblown Tamarisk trees. There were fine views across La Concha Bay to the left, with Santa Clara island and Mount Igeldo ...

... and to the right towards Mount Ugull and the Old Town.

We headed to the right passing this intriguing pair of clock towers.

Then we reached the imposing Town Hall. It had some nice decorative tiles on the side elevation.

After an excellent lunch at a restaurant called Txoko, we began out exploration of Mount Urgull.  Soon there was a lovely view over the old Port. We walked round to the west end and climbed up towards the remains of the castle which sits at the top of the mountain. Soon there were more great views across the bay, and a small building could be seen on Santa Clara - it is apparently a lighthouse.

We continued to climb and emerged onto a grassy area where a brass band was playing and people were eating at trestle tables and drinking from a nearby beer tent. It was a bank holiday so this no doubt explained it. The band was really very good.

Later, people dressed in old style military uniforms discharged muzzle loading rifles over the bay.

We made our way downhill and through the pedestrianised old town to reach this exquisite art nouveau Pavilion, or maybe bandstand, on Zumerdia.

Continuing to the end of this street brought us to the river Urumea again and the extraordinary art deco Zurriola bridge built in 1921. The remarkable lights were designed by Victor Arana.

On the other side of the river was the modern Kursaal Congress Centre by Rafael Moneo. The building holds the Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award, the most important in Europe, for “the exceptional character” of the project and its “conceptual, aesthetic, technical and constructive innovation". There is a second, similar, block out of shot.

There was just time to spot another couple of art nouveau facades in, I think, Paseo Colon as we returned to the bus station.

Conditions: cloudy, thunderstorm.

Distance:  about 3 miles.

Rating: five stars. What a beautiful bay and what a lovely city.

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