French-Spanish Basque 2019 highlights
• Lodging in small, comfortable hotels and inns, all rooms with en-suite bath
• 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 Hondarribia, Spain, to Hendaye, France, after sightseeing in medieval Hondarribia.
• Glistening San Sebastian, Spain's gracious Basque seaside spa
• Exceptionally fine dining, excellent wines, including local Txacoli, a slightly effervescent white
• Relaxed Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of Spain's Basque region, with a lively and atmospheric old town
• Cristobal Balenciaga fashion museum, Getaria
• Eye-popping Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, designed by celebrity architect Frank Gehry
• Swanky, seaside resort of Biarritz, Europe's surfing capital, where French nobility vacationed in the 19th century
• Charming squares and streets of Bayonne, traditionally the most important French Basque town
Detailed itinerary below, or download a copy here.
Day 1 – Sunday, April 28
We meet at our hotel near the airport of Biarritz, France, and soon arrive at our first destination – the informative Musée Basque, in the heart of old Bayonne. This museum brings the vibrant Basque culture vividly to life and is the ideal first stop on our tour. Near 1 p.m. we arrive at a cider restaurant (sidreria) in the hills above lovely San Sebastián, for a delicious LUNCH washed down with local cider. Now it's on to San Sebastián. When we've checked into our hotel, we set out to explore this delightful and pretty resort on foot. OVERNIGHT – SAN SEBASTIAN
Day 2 – Monday, April 29
We spend the day in San Sebastian, choosing from among a variety of temptations. Just strolling the seaside promenade along the Bay of La Concha is a delight. We also visit San Sebastián's lively covered market, take the little tourist train on a jaunt through the city and admire the Plaza de la Constitución, where many years ago bullfights were held. In the afternoon, join us on a boat ride around the bay and past pretty Isla de Santa Clara. LUNCH. OVERNIGHT – SAN SEBASTIAN
Day 3 – Tuesday, April 30
This morning we drive to the nearby fishing village of Getaria. Here we visit a museum devoted to native son Cristobal Balenciaga, the famed fashion designer, and peek in the old church, with its floor sloped like the deck of a ship. We also enjoy a Getaria speciality – freshly grilled fish for LUNCH. We return to San Sebastián via the top of Monte Igueldo, where there is an eye-popping view of the city and its bay. OVERNIGHT – SAN SEBASTIAN
Day 4 – Wednesday, May 1
An hour from San Sebastián 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. Also on the schedule – a visit to the Gernika Assembly House, since the middle ages the traditional lawmaking venue of Bizkaia Provence. Later we come to Bilbao, the largest city in the Spanish Basque region, spread along the Nervión River. For dinner tonight, seek out the best local tapas – the Basques call these bite-size morsels pinxtos ("peen-choss"). OVERNIGHT – BILBAO
Day 5 – Thursday, May 2
Bilbao's most distinctive feature is the starkly beautiful Guggenheim Museum, designed by American Frank Gehry . Our close-in hotel is only minutes away from the museum, giving us plenty of time to see both the rotating collection and the stunning building itself. We also 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 at the Guggenheim. OVERNIGHT – BILBAO
Day 6 – Friday, May 3
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 the sumptuous Baroque architecture of its university, the first in the Basque country. Here we check into our atmospheric hotel, a soaring medieval tower from the late 1200s, and have DINNER. OVERNIGHT – ONATI
Day 7 – Saturday, May 4
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, possibly visiting its lovely cathedral. Later we return to France and, near day's end, arrive at the vibrant Basque village of Espelette and its comfortable, centrally located Hôtel Chilhar. You'll delight in the whitewashed village houses, many festooned with locally grown red Espelette peppers. DINNER tonight in the highly regarded restaurant of our hotel. OVERNIGHT – ESPELETTE
Day 8 – Sunday, May 5
On a day trip from Espelette, we return to Spain briefly to visit the enchanting old town of Hondarribia, then board a small ferry and cross the border back into France. In the afternoon, we tour the Château of Abbadia, built in the late 1800s to plans by renowned French architect Viollet le Duc. At day's end we return to Espelette. OVERNIGHT – ESPELETTE
Day 9 – Monday, May 6
We spend the first part of the day in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, a very pretty mountain village with an old-world atmosphere and a historic center, enclosed by medieval walls. Here, help us shop for a gourmet picnic, which we enjoy at a riverside picnic ground in the village of St. Etienne de Baïgorry. In the afternoon, discover one of the area's most important agricultural products – the red wine of Irruleguy, on a winery visit. OVERNIGHT – ESPELETTE.
Day 10 – Tuesday, May 7
Leaving Espelette, we first visit the home of Edmond Rostand, author of "Cyrano de Bégerac," in Cambo les Bains. Then we experience one of the most beautiful villages in France – the Basque Pyrénées town of Ainhoa (a fine 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, May 8
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, May 9
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. Bayonne is renowned for its chocolate, an echo of the early 16th century, when Jews expelled from Portugal brought the secret of chocolate making with them. Then we push on to 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. OVERNIGHT – ST. JEAN-DE-LUZ
Getaway Day – Friday, May 10
After breakfast today we fly home from the Biarritz airport.
PRICE – $4,295* 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 Chilhar, Espelette, 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 (although this is unlikely). Call us for details - (800) 676-1247. Price quoted is for land arrangements only and does not include airfare.