By Nancy Todd
Staid. Sophisicated. Serene. Scenes that remind you of Paris, can be viewed as you stand on a bridge on the Urumea River. Stately Baroque mansions are graced with Mansard roofs and dormer windows. This is San Sebastian and my Spanish friends tell me they think it is the most beautiful city in Spain.
Queen Maria Cristina summered here in 1893. Adding further p.r. to San Sebastian were King Alphonso XII and Queen Victoria Eugenia strolling in their nautical get-up in 1916. Luxury hotels and casinos flourished. Franco had his summer palace here which is currently being restored. I am hoping it is not in homage to him but to the history of the palace.
The city has been in and out of the bucks over the centuries and is now back in the moolah, thanks, in part, to the wondrous, two mile long beach on the Bay of La Concha. “Concha” in Spanish means “shell” and this curved Bay on the Atlantic Ocean is shaped like a round shell. The sweeping harbor at San Sebastian is anchored on both ends by mountains. Plunked in the Bay is Santa Clara Island which buffets the sea. You can take a boat there and tan in a cove.
Running for two miles alongside the beach is the Zurriola Promenade. At one end, climb to see the iron sculpture by Eduardo Chillida. It is a wild, whipping sculpture like the sea. Imbedded in stone, it is called the Peine Del Viento, or Wind Comb. On the opposite end of the bay is a huge statue of Jesus in full robe and not looking like he is going surfing any time soon. While few young people go to church anymore, this statue does remind us of the historical influence of the church in Spain, good and bad.
Gentility takes a back seat in the B-mer’s as string bikinis break loose in July and August. Tourists eat ice cream cones, sandals smack on sidewalks, and sunbathers align like pink gambas on a tapas tray on the beach. Discos blare, the Promenade is packed, and children frolic. As a relief from the beach, stroll the city parks which are lush with palms and flowering oleander. The Scoop is that I will return in an off season month as a Queen.