On The Road Again San Sebastian/Donostia

We left Madrid 18 months ago as the world shut down and now on 12 September we returned to Madrid en route to San Sebastian where we will begin a pilgrimage of 500 miles, walking from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela along the northern coast of Spain. This pilgrimage is called El Camino de Santiago de Compostela and we are following Camino Norte and Primitivo. Almost 350,000 pilgrims reached Santiago in 2019 following many different routes. The most popular is Camino Frances which starts in France. The route we are taking is less populated and somewhat more challenging as it follows the northern coast of Spain which tends to be more mountainous and rainy. 2021 is a special year to walk the Camino as it is a Jacobean Holy Year. According to Jacobean tradition, pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela during a Holy Year and Pass through the Holy Door of the Santiago Cathedral are forgiven all their sins. And so our journey begins.

On the road again. Sign behind us says “Impossible does not compute.”


This is the coast that we will be walking.


Deplaning in San Sebastian 14 hours later. Donostia is the Basque name for San Sebastian.
Hoping that the one checked bag with our walking poles has survived the trip.
Success, the bag made it!!!!
Unloading at our hotel, it seemed really dark inside, like maybe it was closed.
At check-in they notified us that the electricity had just gone off and they didn’t know when it would be restored.  We were on the 7th floor with no elevator service and no AC. Electricity was restored after about 10 minutes but it took over 24 hours for the AC to work.
Our 7th floor suite, bedroom.
Living room.
The northern deck of our suite, overlooking the Urumea Itsadarra, otherwise known as the Urumea river.
Southern deck of our suite.
Our bathroom with a view.
Our first order of business was to buy SIM cards for our phones.  This girl spoke no English but we got it done.
One of San Sebastian’s beautiful beaches.


Enjoying the views
Town Hall of San Sebastian, originally designed as a casino in 1887 during the Belle Epoque.  The casino closed in 1924 and the town hall moved to the building in 1947.
Ordering dinner our first night at a local bar.
Overly sweet sangria
Grilled ham and cheese bocadillo, very tasty.  Ham and cheese bocadillos will be a staple on the Camino.
Heading out on a walk Tuesday morning, lots of leaves on the ground with no color on the trees.
Walking down the river towards Old Town and the Atlantic Ocean. This is the Maria Kristina bridge.
Santa Katalinako Parkea.
We should have stayed at the Hotel Maria Cristina.
The Donostia Zinemaldia Festival de San Sebastián (International Film Festival) starts on Saturday 18 September, the day after we leave.
Would love to stay and see some of these movies, Tammy Faye, maybe not so much.
But Competencia Oficial with Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, maybe YES.


Unlike USA, Spain is not taking down their memorial statues.
Amazing huge blocks of marble protecting their sea walls and inner harbor.
Looking at Monte Igueldo. We start our Pilgrimage walk at the base of this mountain on Friday.
Parque de Urgull, the road up to Monte Urgull.
Views of San Sebastian harbor on our walk.
Panorama view of San Sebastian with the coastline heading for Bilbao on the right. We will be walking that coast over the next week.
Isla de Santa Clara Lighthouse.
View towards Old Town San Sebastian.
Batteries on Monte Urgull.


Breakfast at Urgulleko Polboriña, a tiny bar at the top of a steep climb.
Looking down on our breakfast table from above.


Another view of the city.
Cristo de la Mota.  This monument is at one with the landscape of San Sebastian and the statue can be seen from four miles out at sea.


The English graveyard at the fort on Monte Urgull.
Life imitating art.
Lunch of mussels and mixed salad.
Psychedelic tiles.
Entering the narrow streets of Old Town.
 Basilica de Santa María del Coro
Catédral del Buen Pastor, a neo-Gothic structure modeled after Cologne’s cathedral.
Playa de La Concha. They groom the sand each night, one of the cleanest smoothest beaches we have ever seen.
Looking back at Monte Urgull.
Playa de La Concha, such a beautiful beach.
End of the beach.
A beautifully painted pedestrian tunnel.
Our first yellow arrows of the El Camino. We will be following these for five weeks and five hundred miles.
You have to always be on the lookout for these.  Yes we are dressed as twins today.
This is our starting point on Friday.
We start our Camino on this steep uphill grade.


First full day in San Sebastian documented above was a leisurely fun day netting us nine miles of walking.  The walk home from the above four pictures was up and over a long steep hill but we felt quite good.  We are both feeling confident that we can walk this pilgrimage.

Second full day in San Sebastian:  Sandy’s primary goal is to obtain a Pilgrim’s Passport or Credencial del Peregrino.  This passport is supposed to be stamped twice per day and dated in order to substantiate ones pilgrimage and qualify to receive a Compostela in Santiago.  The Compostela is the accreditation of the pilgrimage to the Tomb of St. James.  Jim already has one Compostela but he made that pilgrimage without his true soulmate Sandy.  We are now making this pilgrimage together to celebrate Sandy’s 76th year of life and Jim’s surviving an acute myocardial infarction in San Miguel de Allende Mexico.  We will sorely miss our fellow pilgrims, Karen Lewis and J. William Boyle who planned this walk for us and were then unable to make this pilgrimage due to a number of factors.  We will also miss former neighbors Peggy Scott and Margaret Deutsch and her friend Mandy Victor-Pieczarka who were planning on joining us for one week walks.

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Basilica of Saint Mary of Coro is a Catholic parish church and a minor basilica located in old town. We obtained our pilgrim’s passports and our first stamp here.
This is the Credencial del Peregrino showing our first stamp. We will also be hanging the scallop shells on our backpacks. The scallop shell is a symbol of the Camino showing all paths leading to Santiago.
After obtaining our passports we spent a couple of hours at the San Telmo Museum which occupies a former Dominican Monastery.  We really enjoyed their special exhibit which personalized Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe.
Beautiful day in San Sebastian.


This is the red carpet for the film festival which is starting on Saturday.
We get home from another nice day in San Sebastian and who should show up but our stalkers.
We have not seen them since March 15 2020 when we left them in Sitges Spain and fled back to Madrid and then home to Boston. Dick and Andrew have been in Sitges since then.  We now get to spend two days with them before we set out on our pilgrimage.




30 responses to “On The Road Again San Sebastian/Donostia”

  1. […] Our goal is to begin on Monday the 26th of September and end on the 30th of October. We began this pilgrimage on 17th of September last year in San Sebastián Spain and ended it due to Jim’s health […]

  2. Hi Jim and Sandy, I am so glad you made it onto the Camino! And I am delighted that you are taking the challenging and beautiful del Norte route. You have a lovely blog, and your photos are just gorgeous. Already they bring back so many sweet memories for me. Buen Camino!
    From Tom Connell (Author of “Shadow of a Pilgrim: An Apostate Walks Two Caminos in Spain,” described in http://www.shadowofapilgrim.com)

    1. Thanks for the support and initial help you gave to us. I am finding it quite tough but Sandy is just sailing along. We have had one day of rain but lots of mud. We have already made many friends and are enjoying the experience. You can also follow us on FB at SandyandJim Steen.

  3. Victoria S Kinnally Avatar
    Victoria S Kinnally

    Walking the El Camino trail sounds like an ideal goal. What an accomplishment it will be. i look forward to reading the future blogs about the new adventure. Best. Victoria

    1. Thanks Victoria, You always say such nice things to us.
      Really appreciated.

  4. You two are absolutely amazing!!! These pictures brought back such wonderful memories of the wonderful time Adam and I spent there. I am looking forward to following your incredible journey. Godspeed!

    LOVE, Rebecca

    On Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 5:25 AM Living the retirement dream wrote:

    > Living our retirement dream posted: ” We left Madrid 18 months ago as the > world shut down and now on 12 September we returned to Madrid en route to > San Sebastian where we will begin a pilgrimage of 500 miles, walking from > San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela along the northern coast of Sp” >

  5. Yahooo! You are on your way again! San Sebastian is such a beautiful place on earth.Great place to start “El Camino”
    Que Dios los bendiga en el Camino de Santiago!
    Much Love,
    Jeff and Patricia

    1. We tried to call you after your nice email and have dropped the ball since. May we call you some day?

  6. Claude E Steen, III Avatar
    Claude E Steen, III

    To my dear brother and your soulmate, Sandy!
    My heart is definitely with you as you make this pilgrimage! I was with you, Jim, when you started your first pilgrimage on November 1, 1949 in Gimbie, Ethiopia and we’ve traversed a good bit of the globe together since. From our circumnavigation of the Big Ball, eastward from Fullerton, California to Addis Ababa, then on eastward through Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand, Japan and back to California, during my 15th year and your 10th, to our latest adventure in Austria with Sandy & Donna, celebrating Elden & Evelyn’s wedding and falling in love with Salzburg, your honeymoon destination with Sandy–we’ve shared some good travels. I’ll have to miss this one, but I won’t miss your travelogue or beautiful photos! Thanks so much for sharing! Your brother, Claude

    1. Thank you brother for all of your support.

  7. Have a wonderful time. You sound great! I will enjoy the trip vicariously. lots of love, Lucy

  8. On The Road Again! You both look so happy resuming your adventures and I love reading about them. Looking forward to more pictures and stories of the journey!

    XO Christina & John

  9. Have a safe and beautiful journey!!! Take care of each other and live each day to it’s fullest on ur journey!!!

  10. Just wow – LOVE seeing the beautiful photos you took and reading your amazing descriptions of everything! What a lovely beach city. Great start to your journey and how awesome to see your friends there ! Hope your first day went well and not too much rain You’re strong ! Karen

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. But we really miss having you guys here with us.

      1. …and we will miss the walk with you guys. So glad your friends showed up. They will be the start of many new friends. Buen Camino

  11. Welcome back! So great to see you both on the road again. Enjoy some jamon for me, and maybe some percebes if you see them. Looking forward to seeing more of the trip.

    1. Have already had the jamon as you saw but will have to look up percebes.

    2. Will try the percebes next time I see them.

  12. I am so excited to be reading the Retirement Dream again!!! Good for you!! And great that the Stalkers found you so soon on your journey.

    Buena suerte con vuestra caminata. Ambos estarán en paz. ¡Y disfruta del jamón! Rezaré por ustedes el viernes.

  13. PS I shouldn’t text with children climbing over me. Sorry for typos/auto correct! 🙂

    1. So funny, d and a are very surprised about your two kids.

  14. Sandy and Jim!!

    So wonderful to see you back on the road of adventure! Very exciting to see your photos and hear about this pilgrimage! You are both such an inspiration for the rest of us!! I feel so fortunate being able to get a glimpse as you live dreams! Many blessings to you!!

    Love Rebecca

    Sent from my iPhone


  15. This trip is already fabulous ! Have a safe and joyous adventure. Looking forward to your blogs 💕 Lyn

  16. What an absolutely wonderful blog and journey ahead of you❤️ Best wishes

    On Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 5:24 AM Living the retirement dream wrote:

    > Living our retirement dream posted: ” We left Madrid 18 months ago as the > world shut down and now on 12 September we returned to Madrid en route to > San Sebastian where we will begin a pilgrimage of 500 miles, walking from > San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela along the northern coast of Sp” >

    1. Your journey is inspiring! What a beautiful start to a fabulous journey! Wishing you good health, strong legs/heart, and positive vibes along trout 500 miles! Say hello to Duck and Andrew too! We cant wait to catch up upon your safe return!

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