The San Sebastián Chronicles

J.C. Reid in San Sebastian, Spain
J.C. Reid in San Sebastian, Spain

It all started in October 2012 when my wife Tamara and I visited friends at a vacation house near Ventorros de San José outside of Granada, Spain.

We decided that we’d spend a few extra days in Spain after that visit was over, and we started looking for possible destinations. I’d spent quite a bit of time in the usual places like Madrid and Barcelona, so we looked at some alternate possibilities.

As my background is in architecture, we settled on a trip to Bilbao to see the famous Guggenheim Museum there. As we researched the region, we became more and more fascinated by this place called the Basque Country. Further poking around the interwebz led us too a place called San Sebastián, that I had only heard of in the context of its film festival as well as the “troubles” it faced due to a separatist political movement that gained prominence in the 1980s and 90s.

So after our stay near Granada, we piled into a rented car and drove a full day to Basque Country. Bilbao was fantastic and produced one of my all time favorite posts, but San Sebastián proved to be a truly unique place. It evoked a feeling that was both foreign and familiar. The people were both aloof and engaging to visitors. Some of them, depending on their age and when they went to school, spoke an indecipherable language known as Basque (many of their “Generation X” grew up during a time when the Basque language was officially outlawed by the Spanish government and do not speak it fluently).

And more importantly, everyone we met there was obsessed with food and wine.

I kept thinking to myself, “How did this place happen? What’s the story here?” So for the next four years, off and on, I wrote and researched and sifted through hundreds of pictures we took. Additional research happened during a return trip in January 2014.

The resulting piece ended up being about 8000 words. Realistically, few people sit down and read 8000 words at a stretch anymore, so I broke it into 10 easy-to-digest chronicles that tell the story of contemporary San Sebastián, as I see it. To convey the feeling of the place as much as possible, I’ve included images, videos and maps that tell the story as much as the copy does. Smell-o-vision and taste-o-vision would have certainly helped, but I’ll leave it to you to travel there yourself.

I’ll post the links to the chronicles below, one per day, starting on Monday October 3rd. Thanks for reading!

  1. Borda Berri
  2. Cider
  3. Txikiteo
  4. The Basques
  5. Txokos
  6. Tamborrada
  7. Pintxos
  8. Gastronomika
  9. Arzak
  10. Star Struck

Index & Bibliography

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4 Responses to The San Sebastián Chronicles

  1. Amaia says:

    Thanks for the effort on understanding us. I’m glad you liked so much the city.

  2. Joe Ficarra says:

    JC/Chris – just wanted to say thanks for this write-up. Remembered you had posted it, and used it as a quick primer/resource for our current trip. San Sebastián is lovely, and the food has been wonderful. It appears that all Houston opening reservation slots get the corner table at Arzak :). Thanks, Joe

  3. David Craig says:

    I worked in Spain for 6 months back in the 1960s.Had a great time there when working at U S radar sites,visited Majorca for a month and did a running with the bulls in Pamplona ! Dave Craig

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