We came for the food and the seascape. And more. The city of San Sebastian — or Donostia in Basque — is lovely any time of the year. It’s my 3rd visit in 2 years. First with my friends. Second time with my sister and niece. (Another niece and grandnephew followed) And this time, with my grandniece. The same nieta who has been dreaming of San Sebastian since she painted it on a wall in Bar Pintxos in BGC. Yes, she did the mural based on a photo of San Sebastian’s skyline and seascape. A black and white mural. Now, she’s seeing it all come to life just by being here.

We couldn’t have timed it better. Initially, we thought it was just a simple festivity. After all, it is nearly Christmas so there’s no big deal about the Christmas Market booths lining the Urumea River near the TerminiBus. But we found more stalls, booths and tents near Buen Pastor Church and observed that many locals were dressed in Basque outfits. Turned out one of Donostia’s unique Basque festivals was being celebrated on December 21. The winter solstice is celebrated as Santo Tomas Fair, where the entire city is littered with food and Basque handicraft stalls. Locals dress like rural farmers or peasants and most stalls sell txistorra, that very famous local cured sausage paired with txakoli, a typical Basque white wine or sidra (cider). Of course, there’s also pulpo to be had which I just can’t miss. That, plus the jamon jabugo.

By 11 pm the entire Parte Vieja looked like there were processions going off each corner. The peasant – dressed locals complete with aprons and berets were all milling around the bars it’s nearly impossible to do a txikiteo or pub crawl. Besides, many have had a drink too many and dropped their glasses or bottles. We took care not to step on glass shards, and dodged drunk locals who can barely walk straight. It was NOISY! But fun.

Thankfully, we found an open restaurant for a proper sit-down dinner. Txikiteo can wait till tomorrow. La Viña Restaurante may be most famous for their tarta de quezo or cheese cake (the best!) but they likewise serve good, decent dinners. By the time we finished ours and walked out of Parte Vieja, the locals were still busy downing their txakolis and sidras. But the streets outside of the old part of town were nearly deserted. We enjoyed our walk through the streets bedecked with Christmas lights and decor. Sans the crowd.

(Excuse the nocturnal iPhone shots)