Once You Go Basque...
Raised in the picturesque Basque region of Northern Spain, designer Andrea Robredo Ruiz’s career took her throughout Europe’s fashion capitals before landing her in New York City. Now the senior designer of special projects at Coach, the self described “quirky, optimistic” Spaniard spends her days handling celebrity collaborations and creating custom pieces for VIP clients.
When she returns to her hometown of Getxo, a suburb of Bilbao, her favorite neighboring city to visit is San Sebastian. We sat down with Andrea to get an inside look at the “delicious and elegant” Basque hotspot.
San Sebastian is very beautiful and cosmopolitan despite being small. It has three beaches and little islands, and it’s a cultural hub, in part because of its famous annual international film festival which gathers all the big Hollywood and European stars.
The city also used to be a vacation destination for the royalty of Europe so it’s secluded, but luxurious. It has some of the best restaurants in the world. Actually, there are more Michelin stars in that city than any other.
I love going to Hotel Maria Cristina. It’s a very elegant, old school hotel. I stop in for a cup of tea in the morning and then walk around La Concha, the main beach across from the hotel. It’s a beautiful scene.
I go for pinxtos, which are the Basque version of tapas. You hop from bar to bar eating these small bites and you can also have a zurito, which is a very small beer you sip on instead of ordering a larger one since you’re going to multiple places.
The food experience in San Sebastian is not to be missed. Hopping around the best bars in the world and tasting the best food imaginable as you mingle with the locals and hear them speak Basque is a dream.
There are great boutiques from both local and high end designers. Spaniards will always tell you the people in Basque Country are very elegant. Even though it’s a very small region, they have lovely taste in fashion. For luxury shopping go to Arbelaitz, a multi brand store with a great selection. Also check out Sketch Concept.
Childrenswear is very important in the city and stores like Irulea are world renowned for their classic and high quality pieces. Even Princess Charlotte wears clothing from that brand!
A good rain coat! Theres a kind of rain in Basque country we call txirimiri, which is a light, misty rain that you don’t see or feel until you touch your clothes. So a very chic rain coat is a must. I have one from France that I love and I’m definitely taking with me when I go back.
Perfume. There are a couple of places that sell beautiful locally made perfumes. There’s a very famous balm in the Hotel Maria Christina called La Concha. I always go with my mom to try the products there. Also some Idiazabal cheese or Txakoli (specialty white wine from the area).
Go to the Kursaal. It’s a big exhibition center and cultural hall designed by Rafael Moneo. They have a truly amazing arena and an incredible choir that plays there, singing in both Basque and Spanish. Basque is the oldest language in Europe not connected to Greek or Latin, and it’s beyond beautiful to hear it in the choir. I highly recommend catching a concert if you can.
A quick jaunt to the small town of Getaria where fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga was born is definitely worth the trip. There’s a museum dedicated to his life and it’s absolutely wonderful.
TAKE A HIKE:
It’s lovely to have a little wander and hike at Mount Igueldo. It’s not very steep but you can look out over the three beaches from the top and have a moment of peace with a view of the ocean, the city and the lights. It’s quite magnificent.
The cheesecake at La Vina is incredible.
I love La Concha beach. It’s right in the city so you can easily go from the hotel to tan on the beach and have a great glass of wine observing the ocean.
A good pair of high heel booties to take you from work to fun and a cashmere sweater.
Don’t blink. Don’t miss anything and enjoy everything from the departure, to the time there, to coming back home. I apply it to my life always.