In Spain, where I live, people go on vacation in August. The whole month is not unusual depending on their resources. It's either the beach or traditionally families have a place from their original village and many go spend time there during the brutal heat of August.
We thought we'd get a jump on that mass exodus of Madrid and went to the beach for a 3 day weekend in July. We'd heard from Spanish friends that San Sebastian is one of the prettiest cities in Spain and it has one of the Spanish people's favorite beaches - La Concha.
We almost pulled the plug on the trip because we couldn't find a reasonable hotel. Prices were crazy high even for Europe. We still paid what is a lot for us -- and we stayed in a dormitory/hotel on the university campus there. It was a decent, basic room with our own bath and only a 10 minute walk from Ondaretta Beach. I was a little disappointed because I was afraid it was too far away for us to get a chance to visit La Concha. Turned out my fears were in vain.
We would drive in the evenings from the hotel to the main downtown area. About a 5 minute drive and the paid parking was cheaper than Madrid too. Evening meals tended to be more expensive of course and the seafood area by the bay had really high prices which we decided not to try, but we still ate good just exploring the city. We had our seafood at the Chinese pick your own food to grill place.
Always remember when you go to the beach in Spain that you'll see some skin, but some beaches are more family friendly than others. These seemed to be the family friendly variety. Some topless bathing or changing into your swimsuit on the beach but no big exhibitions. So that's either really good or disappointing -- depending on your perspective. ha!
It was glorious to be out of the heat of Madrid, but one drawback we faced was that Madrileños had indeed already started going on vacation. The result of all these city dwellers going to the beach or to the old family homestead for the weekend is huge traffic jams getting back into the city on Sunday night (or leaving on Fridays). We spent one hour in a crawl as the autopista approached the city ring highways. In July! So much for beating the vacation traffic of August. But those traffic jams jump up to 5 and six hours when August comes, so maybe it wasn't so bad. Next time we'll ask for Monday off and come back without traffic.