The drizzling rain couldn’t disguise the city’s charm. We finished settling into our room, noticing through the window that the streets were mostly empty. After seeing the evocative greenery, the bay, the buildings, and the mountains, we simply had to spend our first afternoon outside.
When my husband Talmage and I planned our honeymoon, we chose Spain as our destination. Deciding to visit Barcelona and Madrid was a no-brainer, and on a whim born from my early research, I added the Basque town of San Sebastián to our travel plans. I hoped against hope that it wouldn’t be a disappointment, that our two days there wouldn’t feel like a missed opportunity to explore another corner of the country.
But even in those first moments of roaming the rainy town, I knew that our gamble had been a good one. We wandered to the beach, where the gray sky met its match in an even darker sea. A few untroubled souls were strolling down the boardwalk, but we turned our sights to Monte Urgull, one of the twin mountains at the end of the bay.
The skies cleared as we began climbing, and a trickle of people joined us. The trail wasn’t long or steep (or, surprisingly, muddy), but we still stopped several times to admire the view. The town and the bay looked more striking from each vista, and by the time we reached the top, there was nothing left to do but soak it all in.
As the sky continued to brighten, the water below turned a shade of sage green. The Old Town’s red roofs stood out against their backdrop of cool, muted colors, and the mountains in the distance added texture and depth to the entire scene.
It was one of the prettiest places we’d been together, one of my favorite mini-adventures we’d embarked on.
Talmage and I make good travel buddies. We both love getting to know new cities by setting off on long walks, finding noteworthy views, and refueling over ice cream. During our time in San Sebastián, we strolled all the way around the horseshoe-shaped beach, meandered through the town, and splashed in the water — and yes, we ate lots of gelato.
He knows that I love planning trips, so when we’re preparing for our travels, he lets me do most of the research. I devour guidebooks like they’re novels, but I mark them up and take notes like they’re college textbooks. I pore over online reviews and carefully draw up our plans.
When we first arrive in a new place, I often feel like an artist waiting to hear a critic’s review of my latest work — a little nervous, a little excited. I keep my thoughts to myself until Talmage says something positive about the destination. Then, my choices and plans validated, I begin talking. Before long, I’ve shared way too much background information about everything we see. But he always listens.
Talmage is my biggest fan, and he supports me in everything I do — not just in the big things, but in the small, everyday moments too. He also notices things that would never occur to me and knows a lot about the things I’ve never really learned about. And when we travel and explore together, he helps me see the world with fresh eyes, and I love it.
If we thought that the views were impressive from Monte Urgull, we had no idea what to expect from Monte Igueldo. This small mountain, standing at the opposite end of the bay, has a summit that’s accessible by funicular. When we clunked our way there on our second day in San Sebastián, brilliant sunshine illuminated the entire bay — the trees were emerald green, the water turquoise, the waves blindingly white.
When we came back down, the sun was shining just as brightly, and we realized that the beach looked just as remarkable up close as it did from afar. During the middle of the day, we might as well have been on a pristine island, and at sunset, the water shimmered blue and gold. Though the beach had been alluring in the rain, too, we learned that it was at its best at the end of a clear day.
The city’s food was good too, and we felt extremely adventurous when we set foot in our first pintxo bar. The Basque version of tapas, pintxos are essentially small appetizers, and they’re usually seafood-heavy. In a pintxo bar, all appetizers are piled high on plates near the bar, and hungry customers serve themselves. For first-timers, the experience can be a bit confusing (and nerve-wracking), but we managed. Not every pintxo we tried was delicious, but we were glad we gave it a shot.
Talmage kept saying that we had come to the perfect place.
On our second evening, as we walked past a realtor’s office in a quiet neighborhood, he paused to look at the listings taped to the window.
“It really wouldn’t be too expensive to live here! Do you think we could afford an apartment? Or, do you think our parents would want to buy one and use it for family vacations?”
No, we couldn’t afford one. And we still haven’t convinced our parents to visit San Sebastián, let alone to buy real estate there.
Ever since he first traveled to Europe about 10 years ago, Talmage has marketed Lake Como as his favorite place in the world — but in that moment, as we pointed to flyers about apartments and small houses, I knew that San Sebastián had officially dethroned the Italian destination on his list.
We’ve already decided that we’d like to go back for a milestone anniversary down the road. I don’t know if it’ll be our five-year, our 10-year, our 20-year, or our 50-year, but we’ll be back. And we’ll be even happier, our marriage even stronger, than we were during our first visit.
Until then, San Sebastián.