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Though the Basque Country in northern Spain has no shortage of quaint hamlets and picturesque seaside villages, San Sebastian-known as Donostia by the locals-may well be the country’s most enchanting resort town. With the rushing surf and salty air, fragrant blossom-studded parks and gardens, creative cuisine that tickles the eyes and the palate, monolithic sculptures that beckon to be touched, and the annual jazz and film festivals that attract visitors from around the world, San Sebastian captivates all the senses. The compact city center sweeps around a placid shell-shaped bay (named La Concha, or the shell), where sailboats bob, swimmers cool off, and others take in the rays on the golden sands of two of the three city beaches: Ondarreta and La Concha. A strollable promenade, landscaped with tamarind trees and other colorful plants, meanders between two forested hills that flank this scene: Urgull and Igueldo. Near the foot of Monte Igueldo, waves crash against rock outcrops where children climb Combs of the Wind, native Eduardo Chillida’s three-pronged steel sculpture. More of his stunning, massive pieces are on display at Museo Chillida-Leku, a ten-minute drive from the city, where visitors can have a tactile experience with several dozen granite and steel works scattered on 30 landscaped acres. San Sebastian is dotted with so many of these emerald green spaces that the city’s beaches, boulevards, and buildings harmoniously blend together. The largest park, Cristina-Enea, has a tangle of trails lined with cedar, sequoia, and ginkgo trees, making it feel far removed from the urban life only steps away. Resembling a private garden from outside the gate-enclosed property, Aiete Park is a wonderland of old stone walls, ponds with swans, and a moist grotto with a mini-waterfall curtain. The green slopes of Mount Urgull are popular with those who climb the network of wooded paths for the ocean views and to inspect the twelfth-century castle ruins at the top. One might not expect such aesthetic delights in the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter), with its warren of crowded cobblestone streets, side-by-side bars, and small restaurants where cured hams hang from the ceilings, and used napkins litter the floors. But those who barhop along the oldest city street, Calle 31 de Agosto, to sample pintxos (the Basque equivalent of tapas) will understand why San Sebastian is considered the culinary capital of Spain. Dozens of different tasty morsels, usually stacked atop a small toasted baguette slice and speared with a toothpick, are spread across each countertop. Some of the most delectable pintxos are at La Cepa (011-34-943-426-394), noted for its cured Jabugo ham. Among the pintxos at Casa Gandarias (011-34-943-428-106) are a tuna mousse tartlet and anchovies atop scrambled eggs. A short walk away, near Zurriola Beach, Bar Bergara (011-34-943-275-026) prepares elaborate and decorative pintxos, such as fois gras with grapes. For those who prefer being guided through the array of offerings in the city, Tenedor Tours provides private pintxos tours (011-34-943-313-929). Haute cuisine is raised to an ethereal level at two Michelin-starred restaurants: Arzak (011-34-943-278-465) and Akelare (011-34-943-311-209). The two chefs, Juan Mari Arzak and Pedro Subijana of Akelare, are considered the fathers of New Basque Cuisine, light creative fare that retains its Basque roots. On Monte Igueldo’s slopes in a hexagon-shaped villa, Akelare provides its guests with sweeping bay vistas and equally stunning cuisine from seven-course tasting menus that include prawns and shrimp with tomato meringue. Arzak, housed in an elegant but cozy town house, serves up a six-course tasting menu with such innovative fare as pigeon with bee’s wax. Barely half a mile from Arzak stands Villa Soro (011-34-943-297-970), a nineteenth-century mansion cum boutique hotel, where guests are in the lap of luxury as they breakfast in the former winter garden or wander the original gardens. In another classy neighborhood, La Galeria (011-34-943-317-559) is aptly named: Each guest room at this antique-laden hotel bears the name of Miro, Botero, or another artist, and displays a reproduction of the painter’s works. Not far from Ondarreta Beach, this hotel offers lovely bay views, as does Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra (011-34-943-44-0770), a French-style nineteenth-century building that sits beside La Concha Beach. Celebrities attending the September International Film Festival frequent this hotel and another, the plush Maria Cristina, that has been a favorite of, among others, Fellini and Spielberg. There’s plenty of Old World charm in this Belle �poque property, where the rooms come with brocade curtains and, in the Royal Suites, green onyx bathrooms. Plenty of seductions in this city, no matter where you look. Air:Iberia regularly flies to San Sebastian from Madrid, Barcelona, and other cities. Ground Rent:a car at the airport, take a taxi (the airport is about 12 miles from the city), or hop aboard an airport bus. San Sebastian itself is a very walkable city, but visitors can also rent a bicycle (there are numerous bike paths) or take city buses around town. International Film Festival:September 21-30, 2006, sansebastianfestival.com. On the Web: donostia.org

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