The leading tourist destination in Spain's Basque country is San Sebastián. Shimmering above its breathtaking bay, elegant and prosperous San Sebastián — or Donostia as locals call their town — is your best home base for exploring Basque country.
 With its romantic setting on the sea, lively old town, and its soaring statue of Christ gazing over the city, San Sebastián has a mini-Rio de Janeiro aura.
 Its shell-shaped Playa de la Concha, the pride of San Sebastián, has one of Europe's loveliest stretches of sand. While sunbathers pack its shores in summer, the elegant promenade is pleasantly devoid of commercialism.
 For a century, the promenade's wrought-iron balustrade has been a symbol of the city; it shows up on everything from jewelry to headboards.
 In the 1840s, Spain's Queen Isabel II was a regular here on this beach. Her doctor recommended she treat her skin problems by bathing here in the sea. Spain's aristocracy took note, and soon San Sebastián was on the map as a seaside resort.
 By the turn of the 20th century, San Sebastián was the toast of the belle époque, and a leading resort for Europe's beautiful people. Hotels, theaters and casinos flourished. Even the anti-Basque dictator of Spain, Franco, enjoyed 35 summers here in a place he was sure to call not Donostia but San Sebastián.
 Huddled under its once-protective hill, is the Old Town. This is where San Sebastián was born about 1,000 years ago. Its port, while sleepy today, has long hosted the town's hard-working fishing boats. Because the town was almost entirely rebuilt after an 1813 fire, its architecture is generally neo-classical and uniform. Still, the grid plan of streets hides surprises: ornate Baroque and Gothic churches, delightful plazas, and shops offering fascinating insights into this culture.
 Local guide, Itsaso Petrikorena, is joining me so my window shopping will take on some meaning such as the importance of salted cod.
 But there are plenty of taste treats you can eat right now. Shops show how, with the fertile land, Basque cuisine is rich and varied.
 So, tell me about this marijuana store.....
 Tell me about the marijuana culture. Marijuana is illegal to sell. But anyone can grow marijuana at home for their own personal use. So this shop sells seeds and tools to grow your own? Yes.
 As is the case in more and more countries, low key shops cater to the needs of locals who enjoy marijuana legally by growing it at home. If this variety of plant appeals, just ask for the proper seeds...and some grow lamps... maybe a handbook for this new niche in the gardening market... and then perhaps get the latest on just the right liquid fertilizer.
 The Old Town's main square, lined with inviting café tables today, is where bullfights used to be held. Balconies still sport their seat numbers. Above it all the seal of San Sebastián shows a merchant ship — a reminder of the Basque Country's rich seafaring heritage.
 San Sebastián is famous for its many bars offering a dazzling array of tapas, called Pinxos in Basque. Basically you belly up to the bar, point to what you like, and munch away. Zurito is a small beer (in Basque). Don't worry, they'll keep track of what you eat and drink. It's rude to put dirty napkins on the counter. They belong on the floor.
 No matter how much you like a place, save room for the next bar. You want to be mobile...that's part of the fun.
 This bar is loved for its Txangurro, that's spider crab — and its mushrooms. This one's a town favorite for shrimp. And they all serve Txakoli fresh white wine. Poured from high to aerate it which adds sparkle, it's good with seafood and therefore, pairs well with Basque cuisine.
 Bars present their pintxos mid day and again in the early evening. And keep your eye out for bars with empty counters. The best tapas are often not the ones on display but the hot ones advertised on blackboards and cooked to order.
 The specialty here: melt-in-your-mouth beef cheeks in a red wine sauce, pulpo or octapus, and foie gras — grilled goose liver with apple sauce. Tasty delights – all coming out of a small kitchen.
 Wandering the streets, you see there's a political edge to the graffiti. This poster shows Basque separatists doing time in Spanish prisons for violent activities.
 Certain pubs have separatist sympathies. You'll know by the photos of prisoners and political murals on the walls. While the struggle for Basque independence is in a relatively calm stage with the vast majority opposing violent tactics, there are still underlying tensions between Spain and those among the Basques who aspire to more autonomy.
Find out more about San Sebastián, Spain