© 2015 Intimate France
16 April 2017

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French-Spanish Basque 2017 highlights

  • Lodging in small, comfortable hotels and inns, all rooms with en-suite bath

  • Transport in van or mini-bus

  • Breakfast daily, plus eight other meals (lunches and dinners)

  • Markets, beaches, sunsets, castles, fishing villages, cathedrals and churches, picnics, mountains

  • The utterly charming port town of St. Jean-de-Luz, with sparkling beaches and excellent seafood

  • Pyrénées Mountain village of St. Jean Pied-de-Port, jumping-off spot for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

  • Whitewashed French Basque villages – Ainhoa, Espelette

  • Boat ride from Hendaye, France, to Hondarribia, Spain

  • Glistening San Sebastian, Spain's gracious Basque seaside spa

  • Exceptionally fine dining, excellent wines

  • Relaxed Vitoria/Gasteiz, capital of Spain's Basque region

  • Cristobal Balenciaga fashion museum, Getaria

  • Eye-popping Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry

  • Windswept Roncesvalles Pass, Pyrénées gateway to the Camino de Santiago

  • Swanky seaside resort of Biarritz, Europe's surfing capital

  • Charming squares and streets of Bayonne, traditionally the most important French Basque town

Detailed itinerary below, or download a copy here.

Day 1 – Sunday, September 17
We meet at the airport of Biarritz, France, and drive to the nearby border town of Hendaye, crossing the Bidasoa River on a tiny ferry to Hondarribia, Spain. Here there is an old town to explore, complete with a 10th century fort converted into a luxurious parador. Later, we arrive in lovely San Sebastian, Spain, on the Bay of La Concha, where our delightful beachfront hotel, the Niza, awaits us. When we've checked in, we walk into the old city for a late LUNCH at a cider restaurant (sidreria). Later we explore old and new San Sebastian and enjoy a Welcome Aperitif. OVERNIGHT – SAN SEBASTIAN

Day 2 – Monday, September 18
We spend the day in San Sebastian, choosing from among a variety of temptations. At some point, we may want to see the Aquarium, Naval Museum or Museum of San Telmo (Basque artists). Just strolling the seaside promenade along the Bay of La Concha is a delight. LUNCH. OVERNIGHT – SAN SEBASTIAN

Day 3 – Tuesday, September 19
This morning we drive to the top of Monte Igueldo for an eye-popping view of San Sebastian and its bay. Then it's on to the nearby fishing village of Getaria. Here we visit the old church, with its floor sloped like the deck of a ship, and enjoy freshly grilled fish for LUNCH. Getaria has other surprises too – a museum devoted to native son Cristobal Balenciaga, the famed fashion designer. Returning to San Sebastian in mid-afternoon, we enjoy free time – our last chance to savor the lovely town before our departure tomorrow morning. OVERNIGHT – SAN SEBASTIAN

Day 4 – Wednesday, September 20
An hour from San Sebastian is the market town of Gernika, immortalized by Picasso in his painting "Guernica," depicting an air attack by the German Luftwaffe in 1937 – a run-up to World War II. A museum educates us about the painting, the Basque way of life and the attack. Later we come to Bilbao, the largest city in the Spanish Basque region, with a beautifully preserved old center along the Nervión River. For dinner tonight, come along on an optional tapas crawl – the Basques call these bite-size morsels pinxtos ("peen-choss"). OVERNIGHT – BILBAO

Day 5 – Thursday, September 21
Bilbao's most distinctive feature is the starkly beautiful Guggenheim Museum, designed by American Frank Gehry. Our close-in hotel allows us to arrive shortly after the museum opens, giving us plenty of time to see both the rotating collection and the stunning building itself. Later, we visit Bilbao's well-regarded Fine Arts Museum, featuring art from the medieval period through Spain's top painters (El Greco, Goya, Zurbarán, Murillo) to Impressionist and modern masterpieces (Mary Cassat, Gaugin, Delaunay). LUNCH today. OVERNIGHT – BILBAO

Day 6 – Friday, September 22
Leaving Bilbao, we turn away from the ocean and enter the hills. Soon we are in the capital of Spain's autonomous Basque region – Vitoria-Gasteiz, a pretty town with a vibrant center and a lively district of pinxto bars. After sightseeing we make the short drive to the town of Oñati, considered the "Toledo of the Basques" because of its sumptuous Baroque architecture and many other historic buildings. Here we check into our atmospheric hotel and have DINNER. OVERNIGHT – ONATI

Day 7 – Saturday, September 23
From Oñati we first drive to Pamplona, known for its running of the bulls festival in summer. We won't be there on fiesta day, but we'll enjoy sightseeing in this historic town and visiting its lovely old cathedral. Later we climb into the Pyrénées via the pilgrimage center of Roncesvalles, long considered one of the main waypoints along the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Then we return to France and come to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, a very pretty mountain village also on the pilgrimage track. Here we check into our centre ville hotel. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT

Day 8 – Sunday, September 24
Today we make a day trip from our base to the enchanting Château of Laas, a sumptuously decorated gem surrounded by lush gardens. Then it's on to Sauveterre-de-Béárn, an exceptionally pretty medieval town on a river. At day's end we return to St. Jean Pied-de-Port, where we have DINNER in the Michelin-starred restaurant of our hotel.. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT

Day 9 – Monday, September 25
We spend most of the day in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, a very pretty mountain place with a medieval atmosphere. The town boasts a historic center, enclosed by medieval walls, as well as a fortress and, in an old bishop's prison, an exhibition on the Camino. In the afternoon, come along as we visit another adorable Basque village, St. Etienne de Baïgorry. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT

Day 10 – Tuesday, September 26
Leaving St. Jean Pied-de-Port, we first visit the home of Edmond Rostand, author of "Cyrano de Bégerac," in Cambo les Bains. Then we experience some of the most beautiful villages in France – those of the Basque Pyrénées. We stop in Espelette to view its venerable whitewashed houses, many sporting garlands of red peppers, and in adorable Ainhoa (LUNCH here). Later, we arrive in exceedingly charming St. Jean-de-Luz, magnificently sited on a wide bay of the Atlantic. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-DE-LUZ

Day 11 – Wednesday, September 27
There are many things to do in pretty St. Jean-de-Luz, including taking the little tourist train for an overview of town; touring the town church, where the marriage of King Louis XIV and the Spanish princess Maria Theresa took place in 1660; embarking on a boat ride in the Bay of Biscay, with magnificent views of the coastline and the town; and strolling through the old streets to the busy harbor. Tonight we enjoy an exceptional DINNER. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-DE-LUZ

Day 12 – Thursday, September 28
On a day trip out of St. Jean-de-Luz, we drive to pretty Bayonne for lunch and a walking visit in the old town, the traditional capital of Basque France. There will be time to take in the informative Musée Basque, in the heart of the old town. Later we arrive in chic Biarritz, a world-class seaside resort, to admire its wide beaches and crashing surf – it's France's surfing capital. Finally, we return to St. Jean-de-Luz via the charming Chocolate Museum. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-DE-LUZ

Getaway Day – Friday, September 29
After breakfast today we fly home from the Biarritz airport.

PRICE – $3,995* per person sharing a room. Single supplement of $550.

MEALS – All tours include breakfast daily and eight other meals (lunches and dinners), as indicated in BOLD CAPS in the itinerary.

Hotel Niza, San Sebastian, Spain
Hotel López de Haro, Bilbao, Spain
Torre Zumeltzegi, Oñati, Spain
Hôtel des Pyrénées, St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
Hôtel Marisa, St. Jean-de-Luz, France

HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS – Subject to change according to availability.

* TOUR PRICE – Price is based on a U.S. dollar/euro exchange rate that existed pre-tour and could change in the event of significant exchange rate fluctuations. Call us for details - (800) 676-1247. Price quoted is for land arrangements only and does not include airfare.

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