Everyone loves the glitz and glamour of a Film Festival and even more in a beautiful city that lights up the sky! Spain is no exception and ‘Lights! Camera! Action!’ San Sebastián – Donostia – will host The 62nd San Sebastián Film Festival!

San Sebastian - Donostia - Spain

There are more International Film Festivals in the World than you may realize, but what about specifically in Europe? We, the general public, off the top of our heads can name the “biggies” like Cannes, France, one of the world’s oldest, most influential and prestigious festivals – it came and went in May, or maybe Berlin, Germany, the 64th Festival came and went in February and obviously Venice, Italy.

The 71st Venice International Film Festival is in the Silver Screen’s Eye right now!!  It is filling the airwaves, and print, with up to the minute movie and A-list celebrity news.  Cheek to cheek Hollywood stars are boat and gondola ridden in the fantastically isolated Venetian atomosphere until the end of next weekend.

But, what next? Where do the lights, camera and action go after Venice? and if we say Spain! What do you know?

San Sebastián Film Festival 2014

From the 19th to the 27th of September 2014 in San Sebastián – Donostia – all Hollywood shining stars and cinema going buffs eyes will be on Spain!!!  San Sebastian, or Donostia in the Euskera language, is in the Basque Country of Spain and is famous for it’s ‘La Concha’ scalloped bay, great gastronomy, friendly people and leisurely pace.

The San Sebastián Film Festival was established in 1953 in San Sebastián (Donostia) in the Spanish Basque country. The Film Festival is a minor event in the film calendar compared to Venice, Cannes, Toronto and London, but still holds some clout and is celebrity A-List worthy. The San Sebastián Film Festival has seen attendance by many great actors and directors over the years such as Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Roman Polanski, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson and Brad Pitt to name but a very few!  It has been acknowledged by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) as an A category festival and considered one of the most important in Europe.

Next month, Denzel Washington will be opening the 62nd San Sebastián Film Festival with the European premiere of “The Equalizer”, a film directed by Antoine Fuqua.  The actor and the director will be presenting the film at the festival on the 19th of September 2014.

During the opening gala, of The San Sebastián Film Festival, the star of the film, Denzel Washington, will be presented with the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award.  This prestigious prize is an honorary award given each year during The San Sebastián Film Festival to one or several actors and occasionally to directors.  Past winners include:  Gregory Peck (1986), Bette Davis (1989), Lauren Bacall (1992), Al Pacino (1996), Anthony Hopkins, Jeanne Moreau and John Malkovich (1998), Michael Caine and Robert de Niro (2000), Meryl Streep and Antonio Banderas (2008), Glenn Close (2011) and last years winners Hugh Jackman and Carmen Maura.

The San Sebastián Film Festival has seen many premiers over the years, such as “Melinda and Melinda” by Woody Allen and the European premier of “Star Wars” and also been paramount in the advancement of directors such as Polanski, Coppola and Almodóvar.


San Sebastián may glitter each September with Celebrities for the Film Festival but Michelin Stars shine brightly in and around the city all year with the likes of Akelarre ***, Arzak ***, Martín Berasategui *** and Mugaritz **.  But, away from the Michelin starred restaurants San Sebastián’s  famous ‘Pintxo’ culture finds bars packed with tourists and locals as they hop for a bite from one bar to the next. San Sebastián is a culinary dream whenever you visit !!!

We’re not going to lie to you – hotel rates are sky high during The San Sebastián Film Festival but if you’re not bothered about snapping A-list celebs, then this Basque Country city is a great place to visit any time of year.  Enjoy San Sebastián’s leisurely pace, friendly people and fantastic food on our Best of Barcelona and the Basque Country Gourmet Tour, you won’t be disappointed!


The difference between a Pintxo and a Tapa is complicated and depends largely on context and location in Spain. Which came first –  the Pintxo or the Tapa?  Did Pintxos originate in the Basque Country or were  Tapas invented in Andalucia and then perfected in San Sebastian?  The origin of these great Spanish bites is a little hazy, but what IS known is that all over Spain Pintxos and Tapas are a way of life,  Spanish culture at it’s very best!


‘Pintxo’ is the Basque word for the Spanish ‘Pincho’, which itself comes from the verb ‘Pinchar’, which means to pierce.  Pinchos are traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick, to attach the ingredients to the piece of bread they sit on. However, as Basque cuisine has evolved, the food is now less likely to be pierced to a piece of bread than before. Each bar is bursting with many different varieties and Spanish tradition suggests to have one or two pinchos with a glass, or two, of the best local Txakoli wine in one bar and move on to the next.  You can find places that serve up to 100 different pintxos at a time. They can be warm or cold, salty or sweet, and traditionally many pintxos come with seafood and goats cheese, although you will find a many combinations such as Tortilla de Patatas, eggs with tuna, croquets and even  mini hamburgers.

Pintxo etiquette, basically, is that you grab your plate and start loading onto it whatever tickles your taste-buds; it can be difficult because normally they all look so good and you want to try everything.  When you’re full and just can’t  manage one more bite the waiter will come to count the toothpicks that are left on your plate. The most common rule is that you pay per toothpick and because of this there is usually a standard price on all pintxos, no matter what they may contain.

Away from the Basque Country, you will find ‘Tapas’ the plural form of ‘Tapa’ which itself comes from the verb ‘Tapar’ meaning to cover.  In Barcelona, and Catalonia, you will however see the word ‘Tapes’ which is the Catalan equivalent for the Spanish ‘Tapas’.

In the old days Andalusian tavern dwellers used a small plate of food to cover their sherry from the fruit flies between sips, hence the connection with the verb ‘Tapar’.   Today, tapas hopping is part of Andalusian life and in Seville, for example, there are more than 4,000 tapas bars – roughly 1 for every 200 locals so you know they know what they’re talking about!  In the many foodie hot-spots you can try a variety of dishes that come freshly out of the kitchen. Plate after plate of hot and cold food appears on the bar to tempt your palate, so maybe try cold roasted pepper salad or anchovies in vinegar, a hot dish of meatballs in sauce or a slice of Potato Omelet.  In many cities in Spain, particularly Madrid and Barcelona, a large portion of, say, calamares, will be called a ‘ración’ and a quarter-size portion a ‘tapa’.

‘Pintxo’ or ‘Tapa’ ?  Oh! and, free or not free? These are the questions!

In the Basque Country, you are served ‘Pintxos’.  It is never written ‘Pinchos’ and they are never called ‘Tapas’.  Whether it is served pierced to a piece of bread with a cocktail stick or not (a plate of risotto is still a pintxo) you will always pay for your pintxo.

In Salamanca you are served ‘Pinchos’.  They are usually a piece of meat served on a piece of bread. Though not actually pierced with a stick, this is still close to the original idea of what a ‘Pincho’ is.  You will be served a pincho free of charge, to accompany your drink.

In Granada and Leon (and in some other nearby cities) as well as in some bars in Madrid, a small portion, whether served on bread or not, is a ‘Tapa’. It is free, when served with your drink.

In  Seville and parts of Andalusia, all small portions are called ‘Tapas’ and in Barcelona and Catalonia ‘Tapes’. They are not free.

Join the popular Spanish Tapas Hopping Culture on one of our Private Food and Wine Tours where you can hit the Foodie Hot-Spots in Madrid, San Sebastian, Seville or Barcelona with our local Officially Licensed Guides.

As temperatures rise out of single numbers, at last,  jackets, scarves and hats can be discarded because the flowers are blossoming, shoots are appearing and the smell of cut grass fills the air.  Cold air is being substituted for an air that has a fresh warm smell – Spring is coming!  Daylight Saving Time is upon us once again and this means longer days.  Spain, Portugal, France and the UK, among others, will be putting their clocks forward on March 30th at 2am!!

Clocks forward 2014

We all love Spring, a chance to shed our layers and open our wings. Our eyes open as we look up rather than down. People are happy, anticipating the Summer, so gardens get tidied and houses get painted.  We feel the need to get out and about under blue skies and discover new places.  Why all the excitement?

Night falls early in Winter, giving the impression that there’s not enough hours in the day and so we crave more daylight. Since the shortest day of the year, back in December,  the days have slowly been getting longer, but it’s not enough, and they need a bit of help!  Don’t forget, day light saving time starts (has started already or ends depending where you are!)  at the end of this month (or not), as most of  Europe anxiously awaits “Summer Time!”  An hour of sleep is lost when the clocks go forward, but daylight saving time arrives with the promise of an extra hour of evening light for months ahead.  On the other side of the World (and in parts of the southern hemisphere) the situation is reserved, as Australia, for example, leaves Summer time and heads into Winter time, thus turning the clocks back.  Something the rest of us will not be doing until well after Summer.

Still confused about if the clocks go forwards or backwards?

Most people use the mnemonic “spring forwards, fall backwards” to know what to do with their clocks.  In Spring they “spring” forward and in Fall (Autumn) they “fall” back.

Clocks in The United States and Canada sprang forward already, on the 9th of March at 02.00h (until the 2nd of November 2014, when they fall back again)

Clocks in Spain and France spring forward on the 30th of March at 02.00h (until the 26th of October 2014, when they fall back again)

Clocks in the UK and Portugal spring forward on the 30th of March at 01.00h  (until the 26th of October 2014,  when they fall back again)

Clocks in Australia will fall back on the 6th of April 2014 at 03.00h (until the 5th of October 2014, when they spring forward again)

Spring is a fantastic time to discover Spain, as well as Portugal and SW France.  Although all year round destinations, Spring is an attractive time offering bearable temperatures, blue skies, flowering gardens, vineyards bursting with new shoots and relaxing bar and restaurant terraces to watch the world go by.  The air is clear and life seems lighter, it’s a great time to be outside! But, if you’re in Spain, don’t forget to put your clocks forward on the 30th of March at 2am to take advantage of those longer afternoons and lighter nights!

Barcelona, Spain

Amble along the streets of bustling Barcelona where the locals will still be hurrying along to work, meetings or lunch.  You, however, can take the time to appreciate the Sagrada Família, La Pedrera or the Plaza Real, people watch on the Rambla, stroll along the Barceloneta or take in the views from Montjuic mountain or Antoni Gaudí’s Parc Güell. Barcelona has something for every taste: Chic Shopping to Artisan Boutiques,  Nouvelle Cuisine to Tasty Tapas, Magnificent Monuments to Arty Meccas.


Madrid, Spain

Visit majestic Madrid with its ornate rooftops, regal Palacio Real or sit and watch the world go by in the terrace filled squares of Santa Ana and Plaza Mayor.  Retiro Park is a great place to enjoy the open air as you stroll along the paths, of this once royal garden, passing fountains, statues, the delicate Palacio de Cristal, the boating lake and maybe the odd street entertainer or art exhibition.  Should you experience an infrequent Spring shower there’s plenty to visit indoors, like the Prado Museum (the biggest art gallery in the World), the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums or marvel at the interesting interior of the Palacio Real.  Our Officially Licensed Bi-Lingual Guide is additionally qualified in Spanish History and Art so a private tour of the museums is a must for any art buff to beat the queues and to make sure you miss nothing!


San Sebastian promenade

Follow the scallop-shaped seafront of San Sebastian as you stroll along the promenade of La Concha bay to the bustling and colorful port at the end and then continue on the path that almost circles Monte Urgell hill.  For some fantastic views over the bay, and the town, climb to the top of the hill, now a public park,  where at the summit stands a castle, and, it’s not Rio de Janeiro but, there’s also a big statue of Christ.  San Sebastian is also famed for its gastronomy so why not hit the foodie hotspots, as the locals do, for a “pintxo” and a glass of Txacoli wine.


Granada, Spain


Granada in Spring time offers a fantastic time to visit the great Alhambra and the gardens, which will be bursting with color, all the way to the Generalife – the summer palace of the Kings of Granada.  Walk over to the Albaicin and Sacromonte  for fantastic views of the Alhambra and the surrounding mountains.


Orange trees

Saunter around Seville, getting lost in the picturesque narrow streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, breathe in the scent of the famous Seville oranges (the trees flower in Spring) and visit the grandiose Cathedral to take in the spectacular views from La Giralda.  Join the tapas hopping culture of this great city as foodie hotspots offer their fresh-out-of-the-kitchen plates.  Seville boasts more than 4,000 tapas bars – roughly 1 for every 200 locals so you know they know what they’re talking about!


Costa Brava, Spain

Breathe in the Mediterranean air, in Calella de Palafrugell, as you walk along the miles of coast path that line the wild Costa Brava coast.  Enjoy a short walk to discover some hidden coves or maybe a longer route, on the meandering clifftop path, to enjoy the wildness (in less common parts the path is quite wild). Calella de Palafrugell to Llafranc is a delightful, easy walk and a glass of wine on a sea front terrace at the end can be your reward!   What’s for sure is you will be at one with nature and feel as free as the sea air.


Spanish Winery

The Wine Regions of Spain will  gradually be getting their grapes and, depending on the time you go, the vines in Spring in Spain will be sprouting or full of leaves.  Join us on a wine tour of Spain to enjoy private winery visits to our hand-selected vineyards and exclusive wine tasting!  Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Penedès, Empordà, La Rioja …… will all be waiting, expectant of your comments on their wines as you taste their best!


These are just a few of the many places in Spain that you could be visiting on one of our Food, Wine and Cultural Tours in Springtime, but there’s so very much more! And, not to forget Portugal and South West France that too are eager to welcome you into their hearts and their lives!!

Contact us for a personalized quote of your perfect private tour of Spain, Portugal and/or SW France.

The traditional “pintxos crawl,” moving from bar to bar: tasting, drinking and socializing is nowhere more prevalent as a way of life than in San Sebastian, where pintxos are ingrained in the city’s culinary history. These ´pintxos´consist of small bite size tapas, usually ‘spiked’ with a skewer or toothpick, often onto a piece of bread. As a result of the evolution of these wonderful creations by some of Spain´s top chefs, San Sebastian is currently the world’s most exciting culinary destination, and whats more, it holds more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else.

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First things first- it is a pintxo not a tapa. The Basques are very particular about this. The main difference being that pintxos are usually ‘spiked’ with a skewer or toothpick, often onto a piece of bread, and, like tapas, are best enjoyed with an ice cold cerveza propped up at a Spanish bar. Read more

The legacy of French cuisine is being honored at a major gastronomy festival in San Sebastian, Spain this week, where some of the top chefs from France have been invited to represent the past, present and future of their country’s culinary heritage.

As Hilario Arbelaitz said at this years San Sebastian Gastronomika Festival “Basque Cuisine has changed with the influence of French Cuisine. France is an example to all of us!”

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It seems the magnificent legend of Restaurant Celler de Can Roca in Spain has no boundaries!

We are thrilled to confirm that Spanish restaurant Celler de Can Roca, our own very precious Girona based Michelin 3* restaurant, has been confirmed, yet again, as No: 2 Restaurant in the World, at the much-anticipated World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2012, which was held tonight, Monday 30th April at the historic Guildhall in the City of London, in the company of the world’s finest chefs, international media and the world’s most influential restaurateurs.

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Various individuals from the wine and hospitality sectors including Ferran Centelles of El Bulli and Josep Roca of El Celler de Can Roca will give talks on “wine production and enjoyment as part of the culinary experience” at the international culinary congress, San Sebastián Gastronomika 2011 – commencing Monday, 21 November.    Read more