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Pintxos and Clubbing in Donosti

Having been invited on a pintxo crawl of San Sebastián by the club, Dabadaba, and to steer the DJ booth for revellers to dance to their heart’s content, I set out some hours ahead of my session to find the best pintxos in town. I was lucky to have my friend, Borja, as my guide. Apart from being a local, as well as producing and DJ’ing good music, he knows the temples of those delicious dinky bites like the back of his hand. Here we go…

Evenings In the Thick Of It

Our tour began at Txepetxa, home of the anchovy, offering all kinds of pintxos featuring that small yet noble fish, accompanied by cream of spider crab, sea urchin, olive paté, foie gras, stewed apple or trout and salmon roe. Everything looked awesome, but I opted for a fresh anchovy classic. Great! We went for a stroll to La Concha and headed into Narru, in the basement of the historic Hotel Niza, with views over the bay which clearly ratchets up the experience of tasting their dishes, notably their luma gorri (chicken wing) with potato, smashed fried egg and alioli or the secreto ibérico ham. Stunning! We retraced our steps to the old town and went into Zazpi, where the young chef, Paul Arrillaga, doles out happiness from his fiery helm in the form of a spectacular “potato volcano”, a pintxo based on truffle, egg and potato or an exquisite ox-tail ravioli. A veritable banquet. We made our way to Dabadaba.

After opening in April 2014, the locale has been graced by the likes of Allah-Las, Sean Nicholas Savage, The Godfathers and Omar Souleyman, among others. On stage were The Space Lady, a pioneer of electronic music, with a staging as minimalist as it is breathtaking. They bewitched us completely and, when we came down to earth again, we were faced by Fernando Lagreca churning out his particular electronic brand as a matchless prelude to my own set. My turn came. I started with some new releases I have been DJ’ing recently, interspersing themes from Italo disco, acid and disco bizarro. Things perked up and Dabadaba ended up dancing in full swing. A great night – we had a smashing time. Then we hit the hay.

Saturday In Donosti Is No Ordinary Saturday

Rising early is a virtue, but doing so when you’ve been to bed late is untenable. So we headed straight off in search of pintxos. Again in the old town, I was taken to Paco Bueno, a spot I wouldn’t miss for anything. Offering a meagre four or five pintxos, notably shrimp dumpling, hake in batter, croquettes and pie, this is one of the city’s most crowded bars, opened in 1950 by a retired boxer. The business was later taken over by his son, a rugby player, as is his brother, Chufo, and his son, Gorka. A family concern with warm, family service, the bar walls crammed with pictures of boxing and the sport with a melon-shaped ball – what else would you expect? Still in the inner city, we made for Borda Berri, whose staff are shared by La Cuchara de San Telmo, another illustrious pintxo temple. The star dish is their “kebap”, a delicious pork ribs with an incongruous name which prompts veritable pilgrimages to taste it. Other dishes with the same fate include their cheek of beef, octopus and risotto de Idiazábal. Just opposite lies Txuleta, specialising in meat dishes, if you fancy that. The best thing then was to work off the meal by striking out and we ended up at the Club Náutico de Donosti, with the whole La Concha bay before us. The sun was blazing that day and this spot was divine. The upstairs floor houses GU, another club where you can dance house or techno, depending on the night. I made a point of visiting Tabakalera before I left.

On the verge of making its debut as the European Capital of Culture, with the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the San Sebastián Jazz Festival among its leading cultural draws, the city boasts a peerless interdisciplinary space known as La Tabakalera. This public International Contemporary Culture Centre focuses on promoting upcoming local creatives and hosts activities revolving primarily around research, production and exhibition. Their feature-film and documentary seasons, exhibitions and Hirkilabs spaces, their Digital and Technology Culture Lab and Ubik – Tabakalera Creation Library – make this one of Donosti’s liveliest and most avant-garde hubs. The premises have character, set in a building that was once the city’s tobacco factory. A city with character, too.

There you have it – there’s a lot more to San Sebastián than La Concha. Fancy discovering it? Check out our flights here.

Text and images by Luis Costa for ISABELYLUIS Comunicación


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Shopping in Ventimiglia

By Michael Shuermann from Easy Hiker

I still remember the first time we came into contact with Ventimiglia market – without even knowing that such a thing existed. We were boarding the local train from Nice to Menton, eastwards down the coast of the French Riviera in the direction of the Italian border. We were amazed to find it packed to the rafters at around 11 am on a Friday. From other trips on that line, we had been used to having a choice of seats on a weekday morning, but on that day, it seemed as though the entire population of the Cote d’Azur was on the move.

We did not find out until much later what was going on, but all these crowds were going to the Italian border town of Ventimiglia – the last stop on that line – for the popular weekly Friday street market.
The market mainly offers clothes, handbags and other leather goods – of mixed quality, it must be said, but occasionally, you can find well-crafted products at large discounts.

One of the market’s attractions apparently has something to do with the fact that – whisper it – the Italian police is less strict than its French counterpart in pursuing brand counterfeiters, so the French customs occasionally stop people on their way back from the market, asking them where they bought their shiny and new “Louis Vuitton handbag”. Be forwarned.

The market also features a section where farmers offer domestic food products. You can buy specialties from all over Italy here – Calabrian sausages, Parmesan cheese, olive oil – but also local produce such as sun-dried tomatoes and home-made pesto sauce, one of the things for which the province of Liguria (which includes Ventimiglia) is famous.

Have a coffee in one of the many charming little coffee houses around the 1930s municipio, the City Hall. You are only 15 km away from the French border town of Menton, but you will already feel a marked difference in the general liveliness (and noise levels) of the street life.
On market days, there is also a particularly large number of ambulant traders around who are walking from cafe to cafe peddling key chains that glow in the dark, small novelty household items and the like.

We have gone shopping many times at Ventimiglia market, and often, what we have bought from the peddlers turned out to be our most unforgettable purchases. What would our lives have been without the cicada fridge magnet that starts to sing when somebody approaches it?
You can reach Ventimiglia conveniently by local train (TER) from Nice. Trains leave frequently, generally every 30 minutes throughout the day. Don’t forget to bring a valid ID!

By Michael Shuermann from Easy Hiker 

Why not take a trip to Nice? Have a look at our flights here!




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Tête au Carré

The popular expression of “square head” made real, literraly: Tête au Carré is an architectural masterpiece, designed by Sacha Sosno, which helds three floors and the administrative offices of the Central Library of Nice.

With the park that surrounds it, is one of the most curious spots of Nice. In addition, during library opening hours, you can visit its quiet spaces, art exhibitions or the magnificent views of the city from the top floor.

A huge bust is truncated at the height of the mouth, for a bucket of 14 square meters. The building, 30 meters high in total, was officially opened in 2002. The night lighting is a work by French conceptual artist Yann Kersalé.

Photo: Oren Levine

Why not take a trip to Nice? Have a look at our flights here!


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Spend two hours in Nice

By Michael Schuermann from Easy Hiker

The French Riviera is best understood not as a region or an area but as a single town, a thin coastal strip of settlements never more than a kilometre deep that is stretched out over a distance of 50 miles, like an extruded French version of Los Angeles.

With two hours in Nice, the capital of the French Riviera, you can even play the game “which is which” – with Monaco standing in for Beverly Hills, Cannes rivalling Hollywood in movie star glamour and Menton probably coming closest to the more charming LA neigbourhoods such as Santa Monica or Venice.

And Nice, the largest town on the Côte d’Azur, would undoubtedly be the equivalent of downtown L.A.

If you are an American, you would probably find nothing strange about visiting the French Riviera without going to see its “capital” at least once. I have a friend who lived in LA for five years and had never once been to the downtown area. For Europeans like me, that is a strange, strange thought.

So we did go to Nice for a day-trip, and so should you if you can.

There are more glamorous towns along the coast, cuter ones too, but few that put all the things that make the French Riviera so great into a single, tight package: urbanity, openness, glamour, beaches. Nice has got it all.

Start at the train station, cross the road and head straight down the Avenue Durante to the beach promenade, ……

… the Promenade des Anglais, probably the most famous street along the Côte d’Azur. Take a brief turn to the right for a look at the Hotel Negresco and its famous pink cupola, rumoured to have been modelled after, ahem, les gazongas of the architect’s mistress (oh, the Belle Epoque!)…

… and the equally splendid Hotel Maison de la Mediterranee before turning back along the coast in the direction of the Old Town.

Key sites include the magnificent Opera on Rue Saint Francois de Paule …

… the Cours Saleya with its daily markets of flowers and antiques …

… and the atmospheric Place du Palais with the Palais Rusca, one of the town’s most famous landmarks.

Once you have explored the Old Town a little, it should be just about the right time for lunch. We suggest you go into one of the many shops that serve a local specialty called Socca, aromatic pancakes made from chickpea flour baked in a wood-fired oven. Served with nothing but a pinch of salt and pepper, it’s simply delicious.

If you have had any doubt as to whether Nice is an Italian town or not: Place Garibaldi with its colonnades and a statue of Italy’s national hero – who was actually born in Nice (when the town was still a part of Italy) –will provide you with all the evidence you need.

Walk from here to the Place Massena, another of the city’s main squares …

… and finally down Avenue Jean Medecin, the city’s main shopping street, back to the train station.

There are many sites for which you will not find the time within a two hour visit, such as the famous orthodox church (you will get a tempting glimpse when you depart or arrive by train), but you can always come back, of course. We know that we certainly will.

By Michael Schuermann from Easy Hiker

Why not take a trip to Nice? Have a look at our flights here!


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