An Insider’s RoadTrip with Kate Hill to the Basque Countries ~ September 5-11, 2020

France: St. Jean Pied de Port, St Jean de Luz, Banka, Espelette, 

Spain: San Sebastian, Getaria, Axpe, Bilbao

Welcome to Basquelandia! This special Insider’s RoadTrip as an introduction to one of my favorite parts of the world- the culturally distinct and politically independent Euskal Herria or the Basque Countries. Three regions in France and four in Spain combine to make one strong and not quite independent nation- le Pays Basque, or the Pais Vasco. I call it Basquelandia and that reflects a bit of the mythic qualities I love about the people, their language, the food and the culture. The history of the Basques is written across the green hills of the Pyrenees and down to the sea as the architecture, industry, and agriculture are a reflection of the tight family and community bonds that keep the Basque Country economically and culturally viable. Come with me to discover the backroads and bars, Michelin-starred restaurants and charming inns, and seaside ports and fisheries that fill the Basque table. It’s a RoadTrip so we move from mer to muntanya, and village to city. Six Nights and seven days of exploration, good food, and new friendship on this Insider’s Roadtrip with me, Kate Hill.

Part One France ~ St. Jean de Luz to St. Jean Pied de Port, the Sea to the Mountains

Pilgrims start here, at St. Jean Pied de Port, on their way to Santiago de Compostela

Pilgrims start here, at St. Jean Pied de Port, on their way to Santiago de Compostela

The famous Basque Pig in its native setting

The famous Basque Pig in its native setting

DAY 1- Sat Sept 5 -St Jean de Luz

Afternoon Arrive in the charming fishing port of St. Jean De Luz on the French Basque coast by the TGV fast train (Gare St. Jean de Luz) or plane (Biarritz or San Sebastian airports). We meet at and check in to the centrally located Hotel La Devinière, once the home of writer Francois Rabelais, an elegant and charming private hotel whose owner presides over the Slow Food Movement in the Basque area. Walk along the historic port jammed with colorful fishing boats of all sizes, or explore the historic royal architecture. We dine at a favorite casual spot for tapas and fresh locally caught seafood, charcuterie, and local basque wines.  

Hotel La Deviniere; Dinner- Chez Kako

DAY 2- Sun Sept 6- Banka in the Pyrenees

Morning Market! What better way to discover an area than by its food?  Taste the French Basque Country at the St. Jean Market Hall- our morning destination where we shop for Basque specialities like gateau Basque, sheep’s cheese, jambon de Bayonne, farm cider, and Txacoli white wines.  Then we create the ultimate Le Pique-Nique in the hill of the bright green hills of the western Pyrenees.

Lunch Picnic along the way with our baskets of market goods.

Afternoon We drive through the picturesque Basque Country with its white and red villages of Espelette, Banka, Les Aldudes, and St Jean Pied de Port. This is intersection of the Pilgrim’s route that people walk across the mountain passes and on to Western Spain along le Chemin de Saint Jacques.  We stay in a charming Basque Mountain Auberge run by the Bidart family at Banka.

Hotel Erruguina. Dinner by Alain at our lovely Inn where homemade food is preserved year round and we sleepi to the sounds of mountain sheep bells.

Ardi galdua atzeman daiteke, aldi galdua berriz ez.
— Time is Precious

Part 2 Spain ~ San Sebastian to Bilbao

Working our way through the Pintxos in Old Town San Sebastian

Working our way through the Pintxos in Old Town San Sebastian

DAY 3- Mon Sept 7 Les Aldudes to San Sebastian

Morning  We’ll visit some of the top food producers of the area: Truita de Banka for smoked trout, Pierre Oteiza’s Basque Pig charcuterie, Arda Gasna farmstead sheep’s cheesemakers, and Iroulequy Vineyards.

Lunch Picnic on the side of the Nive.

Afternoon Drive to San Sebastian/Donostia, what I call “The Other Side of the Mirror'“. Welcome to San Sebastian and the Southern Basque Countries! Voted European Cultural Capital of the year,  Donostia (San Sebastian’s Basque name) is a beautiful small city (190,000 pop.) wrapped around the shell shaped bay called La Concha. From our centrally located boutique hotel, you can explore on foot, by bike or taxi all of the city’s great shopping. Hotel Okako in the Gros.

Dinner Tapas and walk around town  Pintxos (Basque tapas) line every bar in San Sebastian’s famed Old Town, but knowing where to find the best ones is an art. While it’s hard to have a bad meal in town, knowing exactly where to go for the best, freshest, and most exciting pintxos takes local, insider knowledge. We dive straight into the culinary heart of the city for a night of eating and drinking unlike any you’ve ever experienced. Wear your walking shoes!

The best of Spanish Jamons for us to try.

The best of Spanish Jamons for us to try.

DAY 4 Tuesday Sept 8 San Sebastian

Morning After a morning tour of the city market with it’s jamon stands and fish mongers, we break for a café con leche with tapas, and then take the time to explore the shopping district of the city center or a promenade along La Concha bay.

Lunch Casual lunch of fresh from the market produce

Afternoon San Sebastian is a sophisticated cultural small city where international film festivals and jazz festivals fuel the trendy bars and designer shopping. Architecture highlights include the baroque church of the patron Saint Sebastian and the lovely old port houses. Enjoy a free afternoon for shopping, sightseeing, or strolling along the bay.

Evening:  Arzak *** Michelin rated is our special destination for tonight’s multi-course dinner. Juan-Marie Arzak put the Basque Country on the world gastronomic map and his daughter Chef Elena Arzak continues the tradition of exceptional ingredients treated in a most inventive and distinctive way. The perfect place to begin to understand the new modernist cuisine with heart.

Three-Star Michelin Rural Restaurant- Asador Etxeberri in Axpe

Three-Star Michelin Rural Restaurant- Asador Etxeberri in Axpe

DAY 5 Wednesday September 9- Basque Coast to Bilbao

Morning departure and Drive to Getaria:  Explore the Balenciaga Museum, a bright jewel on this coast, and the birthplace of the the 20th Century designer. Followed by a stroll through the old streets of Getaria and down to the port. Some of the best seafood is caught and preserved here in this ancient port town.

Lunch  Asador Etxeberri *** Michelin rated is our second three-star dining experience. Of all the restaurants in this area, it remains my favorite for teh elegance of service and food all preapred from the modest and spectacular wood-fired kitchen of Chef Victor Arguinzoniz.

Aftgernoon and Evening: drive to Bilbao where we stay at the luxury 4-star Hotel Miro across from the Guggenheim Bilbao. Those wishing to visit the Museum early might take advantage of the late opening hours or stroll along the river for some fabulous evening photographs of Frank Gehry’s ‘Doghouse"‘. Dinner - casual tapas in the bar.

Jeff Koons- The Puppy 1992

Jeff Koons- The Puppy 1992

DAY 6 Thursday September 10 Bilbao

Morning Private introductory tour to the Guggenheim Bilbao and it’s permanent collection. Two hours spent exploring the inside and out of this city changing building is just a taste of what you might enjoy on your own later. I love the behind the scenes stories our private guide shares as well as the insights into managing a monster of a monument.

Lunch at one of the Museum’s fine cafes where the Bilbao’s top chefs compete to offer the finest architectural tapas. No need to stop admiring and delighting your eye and brain.

Afternoon free for some more museum time or walk and shop about town. A glass of sherry at the Ritz-Carlton? or take a nap before jumping a tram into the old town where we meet later for dinner.

Evening Dinner and promenade at Victor Monte’s in Bilbao’s Old Town for a final celebratory bottle of Cava, Ribera, and Rioja wines. Basque cuisine is best celebrated at a convivial table where memories of this week are storied by all the actors around the Insider’s Table.

Day 7 Friday September 11 Bilbao departure

Morning Final luxurious breakfast before checkout and departure before noon. International and domestic flights leave from Bilbao Airport (BIO); and train departures to Madrid and Barcelona. The hotel will make all the necessary transfers.


Insider’s Roadtrip: Basquelandia  

September 5-11 2020

Price: 6275€ private room and bath (5 nights luxury accommodations, 1 night comfort); 5675€ (shared room with queen or twin beds and private bathroom)

Includes: Seven days/six nights completely private small group tour (maximum seven guests) with six nights luxury accommodation; all full breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with wine including two Three-star Michelin meals; ground transportation to and from the meeting points (arrival St.Jean de Luz, France & departure Bilbao, Spain ); private guides, all entrance fees, tastings and classes; and as a special bonus spa credit at the Hotel Miro. We are happy to work with your travel agent to make your travel easy and comfortable. Just ask. Want to see more pictures? Click here!

Not included: airfare or transportation to the meeting points (arrive St Jean de Luz, France & depart Bilbao, Spain); personal purchases at hotels including mini-bars, bars, etc; other transportation as required or desired- taxis, shuttles, etc;  gratuities (hotel room service or private guides); travel insurance (recommended and see booking form for suggestions).

To reserve a space on this RoadTrip with Kate, request a Booking Form and Payment information below. There are only 7 reserved spaces available on each tour unless previous arrangements have been made. Adult solo travelers as well as couples are more than welcome. Interested in a Women Only RoadTrip? Just ask us!

The colorful market at San Sebastian

The colorful market at San Sebastian