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San Sebastian


Sandwiched between imposing steep-sided headlands, the busy transport hub of SAN SEBASTIÁN was the first Spanish settlement on the island and has grown to be far and away La Gomera's largest town, though with a population of 5000 and a waterfront that runs to just 400 metres, it's hardly hectic or huge. Central to the functional little town's role as the island capital is its good sheltered harbour , home to many yachts and docking point for ferries from Tenerife. The harbour was also party to La Gomera's most famous hour, on September 6, 1492, when Christopher Columbus led three small caravels out of the bay on his first voyage west to the Americas.

Over the years the harbour has drawn the attentions of other seafarers, including English, French, Portuguese and Dutch pirates. Gomerans became well used to doggedly defending their patch, fleeing to caves in the hills with their possessions and fighting fiercely from there; as a 1599 Dutch raiding party found: "Canaria is by interpretation, dogs kinde, for they ran as swift as dogs, and were as tyrannicall and bloudthirsty as the ravening Wolfe". Losing over a hundred men in skirmishes further up the valley, the Dutch contented themselves with setting the town ablaze. English pirates had even less luck; Sir Francis Drake's attack of 1585 was successfully repulsed, as was Charles Windham's in 1743, as is celebrated in murals in the town's major church.

The harbour mostly turned itself to less dramatic events after this, as San Sebastián busied itself with the island's agricultural exports , first silk and rum and later cochineal dyes. But when the boom and bust cycles of these monocultures hit the island's economy, the port was host to tearful goodbyes as many of the islanders left for South America.

There is still something of a rural atmosphere in San Sebastián, and though most visitors tend to see it as a noisy transport hub, high-tailing to quieter parts of the island as soon as bus timetables allow, there are plenty of attractions here and these days the little place is emerging as a good base in itself. Away from the cliques of tourists in Valle Gran Rey it is a fine place to retire to after a day in the mountains, with plenty of bars and restaurants. If you only have a couple of days on the island and no car, you'd do well to base yourself here, from where all the island bus services radiate.

Other than the sturdy little medieval fort, Torre Del Conde , in a park near the promenade, all the town's most interesting buildings are to be found along the Calle del Medio. These include a number of elegant wood houses and the town's main church, Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion . Townspeople try to link many of these buildings with the visit of Christopher Columbus. In fact links are at best circumstantial, and in any case most old buildings in San Sebastián have been destroyed and rebuilt several times following the repeated sackings of the town by pirates. Even so, a wander around the old streets gives an insight into the town's history and probably won't take much more than an hour. A stroll along the promenade overlooking San Sebastián's main beach leads to the harbour and a headland, around which is the town's second, more secluded beach.


Also See:
• Arrival And Information
• Eating
• Drinking And Nightlife
• Listings
• Explore San Sebastián

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