Carless trip to El Bulli
You might want to check your bearings.
San Sebastian is in NW Spain and El Bulli is in NE Spain.
You should be staying in Roses, north of Barcelona. And ask your hotel to arrange a cab that will pick you up later. Expect to pay around $75 for the roundtrip.
But first you have to get to Roses - that may take best part of a day from Barcelona (train and bus).
I think that the only way that you could make that work in one day would be flying (the train is definitely out).
The bus company that goes from San Sebastian to Barcelona is Vibasa:
I believe the trip to Barcelona takes at least 7 hours and you have to leave at 7:00am.
If you can catch a morning flight, you might be able to do it by plane, but it will be hectic. There's an airport in Hondarribia that Iberia serves. And another in Bilbao (check Vueling, among others).
Once you get to Barcelona, you'll be outside of the city center and will still need to catch a train, bus or some combination of the two to get to Roses, which is a few hours away. Once you are in Roses, you'll need to get a cab to get to the restaurant.
If I were you, I'd fly to Barcelona the night before, stay either there, in Figueres or Girona and then go to Roses the next day.
I agree with the previous post that it is extremely difficult to get from San Sebastian to Roses on the same day. Flying is an option but unless you know the cities very well, getting the connections can be difficult and time consuming. The train/bus station is in the center of Bilboa while the airport is on the outskirt. Same for Barcelona, making train/bus/airplane a very chancy proposition. If you do make the connections, you might be too tire or frazzled to enjoy the long meal at El Bulli.
As for cost, San Sebastian to Bilbao by bus or train is about 8E; couple years ago, I flew Bilbao to Barcelona on Vueling for about 50E one way with advance booking. The train from Barcelona to Roses is about 15E and as stated above, taxi from Roses to El Bulli will be at least 75E round trip. I second the recommendation to spend the night in Barcelona which still make the trip quite long.
Would flying to Girona help them any?
We got there via hired car & driver from the Hostal de la Gavina, which, even though halfway between BCN & Roses, was still a haul. You might look into a car & driver that would drive overnight from San Sebastien (at least you'll save $$ on the hotel night) & hire a day room in Roses to rest, then a taxi up to EB. Maybe there's an overnight train if you need to save $$, but I'd go to Girona, not BCN.
re: torta basilica
re: torta basilica
There aren't any flights between BCN or Bilbao/San Sebastian to Girona (http://www.spanish-airport-guide.com/...) . They would have to fly to Madrid and then Girona and then catch a bus (few and far between), car service or cab (pricey) to get to Roses.
There are overnight trains and buses from San Sebastian to Barcelona that could work if they decide not to stay in San Sebas.
Even if you had a car, you wouldn't want to be waking up in San Sebastian the
morning of a dinner at El Bulli. You really should be in Girona or Figueres by
the day before.
The Spanish bus system rocks, in spite of the great mystery surrounding it. Besides
Vibasa noted above, other lines you'll be dealing with are Alsa, Auto Res, and
Continental Auto. They are in competition with each other to have the most
unusable and screwed up websites:
Aside from the Roses/El Bulli taxi, you're looking at about 60-70E each
for the trip.
I wonder if it would be worth considering making the trip across the north
side of the mountains? Head up to Biarritz, over to Perpignan, and then
down back into Spain?
re: Chuckles the Clone
None of those buses serve the San Sebastian-Barcelona route (there are many different bus companies in Spain, but they all tend to specialize in particular routes/intercity combinations). Vibasa is the only bus company that goes directly from San Sebastian to Barcelona. They have around 4-5 buses a day:
07:20 Vibasa 56 Normal
07:00 Vibasa 46 Plus (not on Sundays)
15:00 Vibasa 50 Plus (Sundays)
15:30 Vibasa 59 Normal
23:40 Vibasa 59 Normal
23:50 Vibasa 50 Plus (Sundays)
Though double check this, since things can change.
I did the "through France" route many years ago during a train strike... it's a pretty ride, but that definitely won't save any time (it took 11 hours from border to border with two train changes).
> None of those buses serve the San Sebastian-Barcelona route
Right. I was thinking of what they were going to do after hitting Barcelona.
Another thing to keep in mind about the Spanish bus system is that in
even moderately large towns there can be more than one bus station. Barcelona
has at least three I can think of, probably more. Madrid has about eight. So
if you're transferring you might not be leaving from the same part of town
you came in to. It's just confusing, not prohibitive, and in my experience
the bus people (unlike the train people) actually want to you to get where you're
going and will be very helpful. But still, factor in the near-certainty of a hot
mid-afternoon dash across Barcelona to your travel-time calculations.