As you drive from the tiny airport near San Sebastián into the town, you pass green lush scenery and little farms which then grow to a spectacular ocean vista on one side and mountains on the other, giving you the correct impression that this is a place which offers many things.
The 'new' part of San Sebastián is full of sophisticated shops and beautiful buildings and the old part is where you head for the delightful maze of narrow streets studded with a stunning ornate church or two and a plethora of bars and restaurants. These are the reason most people come here. Quite often on open lush displays are a huge variety of 'pintxos', the Basque word for 'tapas', using the wide variety of local fresh seafood, vegetables and meat.
Around the area of San Sebastián - which the taxi driver described as 'very tranquil' - are an unexpectedly high number of restaurants with at least one Michelin star, many with two or three. Over the past few visits we have started working our way through the list. This time a meal at Akelarre was on our agenda - but the first evening we had put aside for the necessary and extremely enjoyable task of researching the pintxos.
We checked into our little pensione and set off with a few recommendations in hand - an easier way to narrow the extraordinary number on offer, as pintxos are - like the generous-sized pastries here - a rather larger size than tapas and though you may set off thinking otherwise, you can only eat a finite number.
Three on the list were located in the nearby Calle Pescaderia - the first being El Zeruko , known for its 'modern' pintxos. We eased our way through the throng of keen imbibers to the many-varied feast on offer at the bar. This included whole prawns wrapped in ketafi pastry, large whole artichokes with goldleaf brushed tips stuffed with foie gras, transparent whole peeled eggs - and a host of other modern takes on the traditional offers. We chose a couple of things each, ate, imbibed and moved on to the next on our list, El Bar Txepetxa, a couple of doors away.
This was a more traditional offering very nicely executed - lots of choices of an anchovy on bruschetta smothered with toppings such as a prawn mayonnaise - as well as cod-stuffed piquillo pimientos.
On we went to another couple before our last - where we actually found a free table - and enjoyed a savoury pancake, tender octopus dusted with paprika on a skewer and could only at this point admire the fresh prawns, sea urchins, mushrooms, croquettes, pimientos de padron, albondigas (meatballs) and other offerings.
We had a relatively disturbed night in our comfortable little room situated in the old town, where the downside was that it was hot with no air conditioning, but if you opened the door onto the cute little balcony you were kept awake with loud noises of revelry followed by the crash of breaking glass as trucks emptied bins of bottles, then more revelry. Some people really should not sing... So our advice would be to stay along the promenade at one of the gracious looking hotels, as we have previously, or in the newer part of town.
Our last day consisted of a shared breakfast of some spectacular pastries even we couldn't finish, followed by a day of being tourists - which of course involved more food and the purchase of Basque berets for my mother whose last one is aged, but who enjoys wearing one on her daily waterfront walk.
At 5pm we headed to the Museo del Whisky for a recommended and enjoyable giant G & T, followed later by dinner at Akelarre. We selected two of the tasting menus - which were very generous at 8 courses each (you do have the choice of a la carte) matched with some very acceptable reasonably priced wine from the large list. We took the recommendations of the sommelier. Excellent service and food enjoyed with a stunning ocean view until darkness erased it.
Pedro Subijana himself appeared at the end of the evening to greet each table individually - so we naturally took the photo opportunity before a reenactment of the previous night sleep wise.
We headed to Jerez the following day.