Saturday, 20 August 2016

Adventure 2016 - Part 3

We so excited to be going back to Donostia after enjoying it so much last year. And the kids were just as excited to be returning to the wonderful flat with shutters! It took them about a minute and a half to start playing with them! And then we tucked into a supper made up of all the tastiest things left in the fridge.

We had many plans, most of which were dependent on the weather. I had considered all sorts of things to do when the infamous Basque rain kicked in, but as we left Pujo, our only concern was how we were going to survive the heat! Days of sun and temperatures over 35 degrees were forecast! Also important was not to be totally swamped by the millions of tourists who had overwhelmed the town for the double whammy of both the annual Semana Grande and San Sebastian being the 2016 European Capital of Culture.

Our first plan was to make use of the relative cool and climb though the woods to the top of Mount Urgull. This hill stands behind the old town and marks one end of the fantastic bay. Its topped by a 20ft tall statue of Jesus, so you can't really miss it. We scampered to the top along a maze of twisting paths and steps and terraces, and enjoyed the amazing view.

We explored the Castillo de la Mota at the top with all sorts of tiny stone staircases and battlements and look out points. And lots of canon from different eras. Fortunately Patrick O'Brien has been teaching Ian all about firing canon and the various merits of different designs, so he was able to satisfy the curiosity of the children in a relatively knowledgeable manner.

Another day we cycled along La Concha, the main town beach, to the other end of the bay at Mount Igueldo. This time we didn't mess around with walking and got the funicular up to the top! The views from here were no less fantastic.

At the top is a sort of retro theme park - old fashioned rides and slides and things. We had a good wander about, decided against very sedate-looking bumper boats and a hair-raising "rollercoaster" perched on old concrete viaducts, and took to the dodgems. Each session was really long, and the cars went really fast, and the view was still terrific! It was quite an experience.

Then the kids decided on the Rio Mysterio - a boat ride along a channel perched on the side of the mountain, all powered by a giant water wheel. Thea spent about 10 minutes just scampering along the footpath, following the boats around until they disappeared mysteriously into a cave. Then we all got into a boat and went ourselves. It was great!

It wouldn't be San Sebastian with some trips to the beach, and this year, the kids' favourite was Zurriola, the big waves beach. We managed to play there on two days running, albeit around lots of cycling and eating ice creams. The greatest hit was when we decided to take a body board with us. The tide wasn't really in our favour, but the kids still managed to have a good go at body boarding with Ian helping them onto some pretty big waves.

Thea was a little light for the board (we sillily didn't carefully inspect the boards and realise that there were two different ones to chose from in the garage), and so had a couple of extremely fast rides where she was a bit worried about going head first over the top. Nathaniel had his first washing-machine experience and came out of the water with more sand and shell than hair on his head!

Thea being able to cycle ludicrous distances at a reasonable rate enabled us to see much more of the town than we had last year, which was great, but meant that we didn't get around to exploring the park next to the apartment until the last minute. But is it so beautiful! Its known as one of the most interesting urban parks and has the most incredible number of weird and wonderful plants and some peacocks. We cycle through the very edge of it almost every time we leave the apartment, so it was nice to explore the enticing paths that go up and down the hill.

Nathaniel took great pleasure in cycling around - with so many properly off-road cycle tracks, it's easy to explore the city without constantly being told to watch the road! His favourite stretch was alongside the Mile of Peace (a strech of exhibition space alongside the river). Here the cycle path weaved in and out through tall flowerbeds and sculptural light fixtures in the underground bus station below, and was complete with zebra crossings for unwitting pedestrians.

Ian and I enjoyed the fireworks. During the Semana Grande, there is a fireworks competition with a daily display at 10:45. Despite having some very late nights, the kids weren't really in a state to go out to watch at that time, and our view was blocked by an inconvenient apartment block. One evening I walked down to the river to watch them over the park, but the next evening we discovered that they were being broadcast live of two Donostia's three local TV channels. The delay in the (extremely loud) sound reaching us was the same in the delay on the TV signal, so we enjoyed them in "real time" with the booms and flashes coming in the window. And of course, the excellent commentary in basque, not one syllable of which we were able to comprehend! And now I can definitely say that fireworks are not just fireworks and there is definitely an art to it!

I don't think I'm ever going to be a proper hot-weather-holiday person - there is too much sun cream involved and it makes me sleepy - but I do really love being in the warmnes of Donostia. I love having breakfast on the terrace and it already feeling warm as you step outside in your pyjamas. I love coming back to the cool apartment. I love sitting on the front terrace in the evening when it almost feels chilly inside, but outside it is a pleasant and warm and feels toasty to sit with a book in shorts and t-shirt in the dark.

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