I'm no expert on travel or traveling with kids or traveling with kids in Europe, but I can tell you that getting an apartment here in San Sebastian has been a godsend for our family. Frankly, we chose to rent an apartment in San Sebastian because our travel agent didn't think the hotels would be as comfortable for a family of five and she knows that we're babies when it comes to crappy accomodations. So she sent us a few ideas and we found this gorgeous place literally a block from the main beach, La Concha Playa (or La Kontxa, as the Basques call it) through http://www.emyrent.com/. If you are ever traveling here, look for our apartment listed as "Belle Epoque," it is where Emy (the proprietress) grew up and her family lived here for a hundred years -- the walls are lined with family photos and she's mixed modern Ikea furniture with family heirlooms, creating a comfortable and classy place for tourists to stay. She told me that it's a community landmark and all work had to be approved by an historical society.
We met Emy the day we arrived and she shared lots of insider tips about San Sebastian, like how to eat pintxos (San Sebastian's gourmet answer to tapas) and where to buy groceries for the kids. We have WiFi, a TV, microwave, fridge, dishwasher, stove, washer/dryer (it's a combo here, which is interesting) and a laundry line (pictured above). Unique to most European apartments, we also have three bedrooms and two large bathrooms with showers.
Needless to say, fixing our own meals has been incredibly helpful, both for the kids and for us -- we are loving the pintxos and sangria, but in order to eat "normally" we really needed a small kitchen so that we could wash and cut fruit, prepare eggs, store yogurt and chocolate milk, or have a cup of coffee in the morning while the kids sleep (yes, the apartment came with a French press - oh-so-Euro). Last night, I made pasta and zucchini for the kids and an arugula salad for me and Raf -- I've been feeling like we are missing out on veggies while we're away from home -- and it was so much better than ordering from a menu, not sure what you'll be getting on your plate and paying more for it than it's actually worth. Beyond that, I felt like Raf and I were so cosmopolitan, walking into a Spanish supermarket and buying fruit from a fruteria, relying only on our Spanish (because the ladies didn't speak English).
The other amazing part about the apartment is the little washer/dryer appliance under the counter, which is small compared to what I'm used to and a little unusual because it can both wash AND dry (though the dried clothes tend to smell a little moldy because of the excess moisture in the appliance). Being close to the beach means that our towels are sandy all the time, so it's been nice to wash 'em a little as we go, as well as our clothes. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a laundry fanatic. I don't really love to fold, but I love the smell of clean clothes and I tend to hang many of our clothes on a line anyway -- a holdover from my last trip to Italy. The only things I don't like hung on a line are towels -- I try to get them at least partially dry first so that they're not crispy -- but I always feel so smug and eco-conscious when I use the clothesline.
After the first day, we all felt very much at home here, where we have to use three keys to get in: one for the street-level building door, another for the outer door to our suite of two apartments, and the last for our own apartment. All of them stick and have their own quirks for opening, but we've gotten used to the formidable sound of the locks. The girls love to race up and down the worn-in marble staircase to and from our 3rd floor enclave (actually 4th floor, 'coz the lobby level doesn't count in Europe), which takes far less time than waiting for the ancient, crowded-with-a single-rider elevator.
More than those things, though, is a sense of ownership and residency. We are leaving today for Barcelona and, though we are set to stay in the "It" hotel of that city(the Hotel Neri -- our huge splurge of the trip), we're all a little sad to say goodbye to our adopted home on San Martin Kalea.