Fall is a fickle time in the Basque Country. On the best of days, the leaves turn from their dark green summer hue to yellow to red to fallen-on-the-ground-brown. They crisp and crunch as we walk along, their sound mingling with the smell of roasting chestnuts and the twinkle of early-evening stars. On the other (not so best-of) days, the pelting rain and chilling wind can seem endless, but refuge can be found in within a block or two of wherever you are, ducking into a neighborhood bar or café for something hot to drink. Some autumnal days are more beautiful than summer ones, while others make you long for the spring to come.
In any case, no matter the day, there are a few essentials to have on hand:
Boots, to stomp, slush, and sashay.
Whether tall or short, heeled or flush, clunky or sleek as silk, you’ll need a good pair of boots. Those of us who live here: we have many, and from October through April, you’ll see them alternating days on our trotters. San Sebastian is a walkable and active town, with the city center flat as can be and everywhere you’d care to go “about ten minutes away” (whether 5 or 35, it’s always “about 10 minutes”). Boots are essential for keeping sure footing on the slick fallen leaves in autumn, the sheen of frost on winter mornings, and because they just look oh-so-cool. Elegant riding boots, sporty hiking boots, badass motorcycle boots: there’s no one who doesn’t walk with a bit more swagger in a pair of good boots.
Sunglasses, to soften the long autumnal rays.
The shadows are long in the fall, and the sun sets early. Never mind that, though: you should still sport a good pair of sunnies. Aside from providing protection for your eyes, there is no easier way to polish up your fall look than a pair of face-framing shades in tortoiseshell, gold, or classic black. Glasses stores and opticians are seemingly found on every block and Donostiarras are always donning the latest and greatest in eyewear. Plus, you can avoid eye contact with that annoying neighbor.
An umbrella fit to withstand the Cantabrian winds.
An umbrella is essential. You may spend days or weeks without needing it, but it should always be on hand. The wild Cantabrian sea can send a storm whipping through the city on a moment’s notice, and an umbrella is your best defense. As I mentioned above, San Sebastian is a very “walking” city, and so during days of wind and rain, its citizens go about their daily business, just with an umbrella in hand. There are times when it rains hard, but the most famous type of rain (is there a famous type of rain? Really?) is called xirimiri, that low and slow drizzle + rain that soaks you to the bone before you realize it. But never fear: compact, folding, large, golf, and everything-in-between umbrellas are sold everywhere in San Sebastian. The trick is to get one that’s sturdy enough for the wind, but not too pricey, because it’s a fact that you’ll eventually forget it in a shop or café, or the Cantabrian winds will have their way.
Scarves of varying stripe and weave.
The ultimate in autumnal coziness. Whether you prefer a fleece neck gaiter, a classic Hermés silk, a big nubbly wool wrap, or something the size of a blanket, you should always keep your neck covered, lest you catch your death of cold (never mind that there are warm fall days--don’t take a chance!). The Parisians may be famed for their scarf-tying skills, but Donostiarras could have them beat in terms of style and variety. Scarves can dress up or dress down an outfit, add visual warmth to a stiff business suit, and provide a pop of color to those of us whose fall wardrobe includes the colors black and blacker. You may have only one pair of boots, a single pair sunglasses, a lone umbrella...but you better have a drawer full of scarves!