The Basque Country

A Euskadi Adventure
 

June 2-11, 2023 

Sept. 20-29, 2023

These are small group tours for no more than 6 people.

The Basque Country, Euskadi, is located in the western Pyrenees Mountains, straddling the border of France and Spain meeting at the Atlantic coast’s Bay of Biscay. Emerald landscapes, distinctively rugged mountains, precipitous shorelines and the rich heritage of the Basque people has kept this area uniquely singular in a world of vanishing cultures. Proudly independent, the Basque people have been living in this secluded corner of the Pyrenees since the earliest known modern man was discovered in France some 45,000 years ago.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1

Following your arrival to Bordeaux’s Merignac Airport we will drive to our hotel, La Reserve, just outside the charming city center of St. Jean de Luz, one of the many iconic Basque fishing villages in the Bay of Biscay. Depending upon your arrival time we will check into our rooms, then stroll along the beachfront walking path from the hotel to downtown for a welcome drink at one of the many colorful cafes  situated alongside the port. Diner will be at one of local Basque restaurants.
St. Jean de Luz is an active fishing village at the mouth of the Nivelle River in the French Pays Basque and is without a doubt one of the most attractive seaside resorts nestled against the doorstep of The Atlantic coast. Though small in size this village draws large crowds during the high summer months hoping to soak up sunshine on its protected crescent beach, but remains charmingly provincial in May. History and tradition shape the heart of the old town.

Day 2

On our first morning we’ll visit the farmers’ market and browse the stalls selling everything from Basque berets, Espelette pepper jelly, Pyrenean sheep cheeses, and local wines. We’ll walk along the main shopping street where boutiques offer a variety of striped Basque linens, and the quintessential Espadrille. We’ll stop at Etchibarra, one of the best pastry shops offering authentic Gateau Basque cakes made with pistachio flour and filled with plump, dark black cherries
We’ll visit the Saint Jean de Baptiste Church where in 1661 Louis XIV married the Infanta of Spain, Marie-Therese to see its unusual vaulted ceiling. We’ll enjoy lunch at one of the many Portside restaurants specializing in local seafood. After lunch we’ll tour the Chateau d’Abbadia perched in the middle of a moor that overhangs the sheer cliffs of Hendaye, and learn about the wildly eccentric castle built by Viollet le Duc for the wildly eccentric Antoine d’Abbadia.

Day 3

An essential stop on our tour is the village of Espelette. Espelette is famous for its red peppers, PIment d’Espelette, which hang in decoration throughout the village. Originally from Mexico, this prized pepper is protected with an AOC label. In the heart of the village sits the seigneurial castle built in the year 1000, ldestroyed in the Thirrty Years’War, rebuilt, then bequethed to the inhabitants of the village in 1694. We will lunch at Pottoka, a fusion of French and Spanish flavors.
After lunch we’ll drive through the lush countryside to La Bastide-Clairance, another beautiful village with Basque charm. Founded by the King of Navarre in 1314 and settled by Gascons, its arcaded square is lined with arts and crafts workshops. The village church is distinguished by a unique courtyard cemetery paved with tombstones and its interiors is adorned with thee floors of wooden galleries. In the 17th century, Portuguese Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisitiuon, arrived in the village bringing with them the art of making chocolate. Just outside the village is the Jewish cemetery.

Day 4

The Basque Corniche hugs the edge of the village of Urrugne,  considered the most beautiful scenic road between St. Jean de Luz and Hendaye. It is one of the last protected natural areas on the French Basque coast offering breathtaking views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This remarkable scenic drive and 11km walk is characterized by steep cliffs, hidden caves, and two famous rocks, The Twins, that have millions of years of planetary history.

We’ll continue along the coastline to the village of Hendaye from whose marina we’ll ride the harbor ferry to Hondarribia, Spain, just over the French border. Sana’a Maria’s gate is the main entry to the old walled town, site of the castle of Carlos V and the 18th century Iglesias del Manzano church. We’ll indulge at one of the many restaurants that has made this Spanish town famous  for its gastronomy.

Day 5

Biarritz was once a Phoenician fishing port used to send goods to Britain, and during the Middle Ages it was the center of the Basque whaling fleet. Whales, once common in the Bay of Biscay, were hunted out of the area by the Basques using their infamous invention, the harpoon. By the end of the 19th century Biarritz has faded into a simple fishing village until Napoleon III and his wife, Queen Eugenie, established their summer court on the beach. During the 20th century Biarritz became the hideaway resort of Hollywood movie stars Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.

There is much to recommend Biarritz. The Rocher de la
Vierge is the best place to stroll above the pounding sea.
There are museums, and a mix of eclectic mansions to visit.
Shops and restaurants line the promenade above one of
the best surfing beaches this side of Malibu. We’ll choose
from one of the many restaurants with a view to enjoy our lunch.

Day 6

Donostia, as San Sebastian is called in Basque, is a vibrantly blended traditional and modern Spanish city just over the French border on the Bay of Biscay. Its circular bay is rimmed with picturesque promenades and pristine white beaches. The Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta have attracted beach goers looking for sophistication and sunshine since the end of the 19th century. San Sebastian has world-class restaurants run by innovative chefs serving regional specialties. In the old town, Parte Vieja, upscale boutiques rub shoulders with lively wine bars, and bakeries selling distinctively delicious confectionary.
We will learn how to make mouth-watering pintos, the essential San Sebastian version of Tapas, at Mimo. This 4 hour bi-lingual class teaches the tricks behind making this city’s emblematic culinary export. A gourmet lunch and wine tasting follows. After lunch we’ll lose ourselves in the cobblestone stress of the old quarter, and walk along the beach before heading back to St. Jean de Luz through the village of Ciboure.

Day 7

Today we’ll visit the little known, unspoiled village of
Ainhoa. The old village was founded in the 13th century.
We will walk along its main street lined with traditional
white-washed houses trimmed with red, blue, and green
timbering. We will stop at the medieval church, and visit
Its small, but unusual cemetery dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Lunch will be at the Basque restaurant,
Argi Eder.

After lunch we’ll drive to the village of Sare, to ride Le Petit train de la Rhune. The train climbs 2,970 feet to afford a 360 degree, unobstructed view of the Pays Basque, Les Landes, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 8

After an early breakfast at the hotel we will drive to Bilbao,
Spain, to tour the Guggenheim Museum of Modern and
Contemporary Art, designed by American architect, Frank
Gehry. The city itself has become a model of art,
architecture, design, and urban development. The exterior of the museum is enhanced by the monumental sculptures
of Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, and Eduardo Chillida.
Lunch will be at the Bistro Guggenheim.

Depending upon the ethos of the group after lunch, we can take a leisurely walk along the river, or wander into the old historic center of town, the Casco Vieja, an interesting place to explore Full of colorful winding streets, and beckoning shops.

Day 9

Cambo-les-Bains is nestled in the heart of the Basque Country with an oceanic climate both mild and sunny. It is noted for its curative spa and the historic monument, Villa Arnega, home to the illustrious author of Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmund Rostand. Now a museum, his residence houses many works of art depicting his life. We will tour his villa and museum, and the remarkable 4 hectare gardens. The gardens, considered a “petit Versailles”, consist of a formal garden combining minerals, plants and water, and an English style garden with a wonderful palette of colors and scents.

Day 10

We will depart for Merignac Airport in Bordeaux.

10 days, 9 nights

$4,695.00 per person 

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