Foggy view from our hotel just before sunset in San Sebastian
We left Situse and Esti off in Bilbao about 4:00 and arrived in SS about 5:00. It took us more than half an hour to find a hotel. We couldn't understand why everything was full. We paid more than we wanted to for the last room in our hotel, but it was conveniently located by the river walk rambla--15 minutes one way to La Concha Beach and about the same distance along the river to Old Town. We decided to do Old Town for dinner and catch the beach walk the next day.
The next morning we walked toward the beach at La Conca and found a cafeteria with outdoor seating for breakfast. As we sat with our tortilla de papa (potato-onion omelette) and a coffee (no free refills), we saw a group go by wearing yellow shirts and waving yellow flags. A few minutes later we saw blue shirts, then green, then a huge group wearing red shirts and marching with a band. We asked what was going on and were told it was "The Basque Country Regatta Championship." The Basques have long been known for their sailors. In days past they used these 17-men rowing vessels for hunting whales. They'd harpoon a whale and hang on until it became tired. Talk about a Nantucket Sleigh Ride!
The Sailor Band: a group of real Popeyes
I wonder if the Popeye costume was inspired by these Basque Sailors. They sing the Popeye song--in Spanish: The first line is Popeye (Po-pay-yay) Marino soy. (Popeye the sailor I am.) This was one of several bands that marched along the route to the port where the boats entered the water, loaded the crew and made their way into the bay.
The group in the red are the defending champions--and local favorites.
Tickets for every possible viewing place--up on the cliff sides, on top of buildings, all along the beach--had been sold in advance. We thought about buying one but the lines were outrageous and we had planned to go to Zarautz this day and be back by dinner. We certainly felt the enthusiasm and festivity--and now we knew why the hotels were full.
When we arrived back from Zarautz, the Champion had been crowned and the crowds had dispersed leaving just a few die-hard beach fans to watch the sunset.