Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Walk from Spain to France

San Sebastian is a city located in the north of Spain, on the Atlantic Ocean, affording it beautiful beaches and views. Unfortunately for us, we visited in early spring so the weather was cold (and rainy one day) and we weren't able to see it in its entire splendor.

The boardwalk along San Sebastian's beach
Under the boardwalk, San Sebastian's beach
There is an old part of the city, which most Spanish cities seem to have, with narrow cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings flanked by churches on both ends. This area seemed to be bustling when we were there – around noon on a Thursday. Other parts of the city did not seem to be so occupied. I’m sure the beach area is packed in the summer, unlike the rainy spring day we chose to walk along its edge. The city has a ton of old architectural details, with its white metal railings along the beach, huge Victorian clocks, and other details, but whether it’s the sea air or simply lack of care, this city seems as though it is not as well taken care of as some of its counterparts that we visited along our Spanish adventures. No matter, we enjoyed our short time there, but feel to see it in its glory would require a summertime visit.

Carousel in San Sebastian
From San Sebastian, the French border is about 10km away. Naturally, we had to go! We jumped on a train which took us to the Spanish town of Irun, bordering the river that we walked across to get to the French town of Hendaye, a beautiful little city.
Looking back toward Spain
Us, in France!
The bay of Hendaye

When you first cross the river you walk along the bay, strewn with boats and parks and people walking about. If you follow that for a while and then cross through the streets you arrive at the ocean. There’s a wide beach that goes on and on (bigger than San Sebastian). The wind and air is cool, but the sun is hot and there are tons of surfers braving the frigid-looking water. There are hotels across the street from the beach, but the actual waterfront is primarily a wide sand beach and boardwalk with just a few restaurants sprinkled in.

We took a walk of about a mile and a half up a hill and visited a castle, Chateau Abbadia, with gorgeous views of the beach on one side and mountains on the other.

Back past the bay you can go into town, which apparently is busy at times, but not when we were there. We visited the famous (on Wikipedia) Hendaye Cross which apparently predicts the end of the world (in 2012).

It was very interesting to walk into France. There was no border patrol or any kind of barrier to let you know you were entering another country. We simply saw the sign and French flag waving at the police station once we crossed the bridge. Plus, the signs changed from Spanish and Basque to French and Basque (and still a little Spanish and even English occasionally). We encountered a lot of people speaking Spanish, but the workers at the cafes we visited spoke French to us. Very interesting. Another thing to note: cappuccino in France is topped with whipped.
Instead of walking and then taking the train back, we took the Euskotrain directly from Hendaye into San Sebastian (costing just a few Euros and taking about 30 minutes) for dinner.

Hendaye was a cute little French city and a nice day trip for us. It doesn't seem to be much of a place for tourists, except local tourists in the summer or for surfing. It was nice to go somewhere that we probably wouldn't go to otherwise, and add another country to our list!
Enjoying coffee on the oceanfront
The beach at Hendaye
Drew's crepe and cafe and my cappuccino (w/ whipped cream!)
A tiny car(?!) we saw in Hendaye
Chateau Abbadia
Beautiful wildflowers on our walk to and from the Chateau
Hendaye looked more German than French to us!
The famous Hendaye Cross
A pizza machine...put in your money, out comes a pizza?!

For more pictures of San Sebastian, Spain click here

For more pictures of Hendaye, France, click here

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