European Photography Adventures: San Sebastian, Spain

Spain.

Wow.
We decided that if we could stay anywhere, out of all the places we've seen and experienced, this would be the place--hands down.  

We took a train down from Bordeaux and met Chepis, our kind, beautiful, wonderful, funny, amazing host who gave us the time of our lives over the next couple of days.  She introduced us to Carmen and Carmen's sister Isabelle, who's hospitality and love we'll never forget.  We stayed in Carmen's home during our trip and she immediately became a surrogate mother, making us breakfast, putting food in our backpacks, asking us if we remembered bus fare, giving us her home keys, etc.

 Panoramic taken with Kevin's phone.
So much to say about this place and such short attention spans of a typical reader... sigh.  Don't be that reader.  Stick with me here, you have to know about San Sebastian.

So, in the gastronomical ratings of worldwide cuisine, San Sebastian restaurants are way up there.  The three  best restaurants in the world are located in this city.  Now.  We've had good food before, at least we thought we had, before we came here.  I don't know what we were expecting, but it wasn't the tradition of pinchos--basically tapas that are laid out on the counter tops of any bar/restaurant you walk into.  "Pinchos" is the name of the food exclusive to this tiny part of Spain, and people come from all over the world to experience them.

What you do, is you have a Carmen and a Chepis take you out to the best, most award-winning places and order the particular pincho that that particular restaurant is known for.  It was highlighted in, like, Food&Wine magazine or something and the restaurant has, like, three Michelin Stars or something.  You get a table, pick up this little appetizer-sized pincho and moan and groan as you alternate bites of pincho and drinks of a perfect wine or beer to compliment that bite.  Then, after eating maybe two, and finishing your drink, you go to a different restaurant and do it again.  They took us to three different places that day and the flavor still lingers on our tongues, spoiling everything we've eaten since.  I haven't done this experience justice, but I think the only way you'll believe me is to go there and try them yourself sometime.  Seriously, screw Hawaii or that Florida vacation... go to San Sebastian.

(clockwise from top left): Award winning pincho, view from the pier,
streets of downtown San Sebastian, view from the castle overlooking
the bay, anchovy and crab pinchos (the crab is fake), and
Carmen ordering for us.
We had two photo shoots while in Spain, the first being a couple who wanted engagement-style photos before their wedding the week after (which we would have shot, had we not already been booked for our final wedding in Paris).  We met the bright-eyed, bright-smiled Christina and her soft-spoken sweetheart Nacho at a famous bar with (of course) fabulous pinchos spread all across the counter.  We had a couple and then went to--surprise!--Nacho's castle for their pictures.  They are a wonderful couple with overwhelming kindness and a fierce love for one another.

Christina and Nacho and their beautiful,
bright energy.  Oh, and a repeat photo
from the one right above it.  Nice.
So, we were walking around in the bay on our first day in SB, admiring the
turquoise Atlantic and the mountains around us, when we noticed a
rather large, rather beautiful castle up on the hill.  We didn't think
much more about it until later, when Chepis casually said, "Oh, that's
where Nacho lives.  That's where you're taking photos tonight."   
What the...
View of the bay from the lawn of the castle.  Glorious place. 
After shooting at the castle we went to the boardwalk and watched the sun set over the west coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  It took our breath away, it was so beautiful.

These were all taken on the boardwalk, on the west side of the island
and beach.  In the picture of Kevin and I you can see where the island
rock is flat from where waves have been battering it for centuries.  The
crazy shapes in the sunset shot are massive iron sculptures that the
surf will spray through when there are storms or when the tide is
high.  They're incredibly beautiful and unique.
Kevin and his muscles next to layers
of rock exposed by battering waves.
Our last day there we took photos of this glorious creature, Josie, who's bridal shoot felt oh so Spanish and oh so surreal.  She came wearing a cream-colored gown with rust-colored roses and her wooden fan.  We felt incredibly inspired photographing her, with the setting sun, with the island green in front of us and the city busy behind us.

Our lovely Spanish bride Josie posing for us near sunset.
The photo on the left was taken near nightfall in downtown San Sebastian.
We used a Lumiquest soft box to get the exact look we were going for here.
Could she be more lovely?
With our bellies full of pinchos and our hearts full of thanks we left San Sebastian.  To us, there isn't a more magical place than this.  Someday we'll go back and bring our daughters to meet Chepis, Carmen, Isabelle, her daughter Itsatso (I know I spelled that wrong!), Nacho, and Christina.  They'll swim in the sea and smile in the sun.  But for now, we'll pinch ourselves to make sure it wasn't all just a dream :)