DINE YOUR WAY THROUGH SPAIN PROGRAMS
The Great Cuisine of The Basque Country
It’s no accident that many of the best restaurants in Spain are found along the northern coast of Spain, otherwise known as Green Spain. One reason is the abundant fishing waters of the North Atlantic. Here you can enjoy unique seafood dishes found nowhere else. Like Txangurro, the shell of the spider crab filled with its own meat sautéed in a delicious sauce. Or imaginative dishes made from Percebes (goose neck barnicles) or endives stuffed with Monkfish.
One secret of the northern cuisine is its flavorful vegetables grown in the fertile Ebro Valley, especially its mushrooms, legumes and white asparagus, which are served as main dishes. Like Porrusalda (leek and potatoes). Or Alubias (white beans prepared with black pudding). Or Pisto a la Bilbaina, a unique dish made from green peppers and tomatoes. Or stuffed Aubergines (eggplant). Or Artichoke fritters and pine nuts to name a few.
Still another feature of northern cuisine is the bounty of fresh water fish and wild game that the mountainous terrain of its interior provides. The wilderness area just north of Pamplona was one of Hemmingway’s favorite hunting and fishing grounds. Like Pheasant, Venison and Wild Boar.
Probably the biggest influence on the cuisine of western and northern Spain is its proximity to France. In the late 70s and early 80s Juan Mari Arzak, and other great Basque chefs gave the French Nouvelle Cuisine a distinctly Spanish flavor to create a proudly original cuisine, La Nueva Cocina Vasca. A typical meal might be as follows: Banderillas (pickled peppers, anchovy and olive skewered on a toothpick) for starters. Followed by the famous Merluza a la Koskera (hake). And topped off by a Cuajada (yoghurt) covered with Intxaursaltsa (a unique sauce made of nuts) for dessert. Of course, to accompany your meals are some of the world’s best wines. The famed wines of Navarra and Rioja. Need we say more?
We can’t talk about Northern Cuisine without at least mentioning Pintxos. Although tapas were invented in Andalucia, they were perfected in San Sebastian. Pintxo is the haute cuisine of Tapas. It’s the Spanish custom to have one Pintxo and Vino in one bar, and move on to the next bar. You’ll never run out of bars. Nor different Pintxos to try.
VIEW SAMPLE ITINERARY
San Sebastian • Hondarribia • Bilbao • Pamplona • Santiago de Compostella
All itineraries can be modified to fit your travel time, budget and specific interests
Day 01 – San Sebastian / Hondarribia (via Madrid or Barcelona)
Upon your arrival your transfer will greet you and drive you to the beautiful border town of Hondarribia, close to San Sebastian. Enter through the 15th century gate La Puerta de Santa Maria, en route to the Paradoroffering great views of the Atlantic Ocean, where you’ll spend the next 4 nights.
This afternoon tour the town ad its narrow winding streets leading to the Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion. Tonight enjoy a welcome dinner, where you’ll sample the local cuisine in one of Hondarribia’s most celebrated restaurants such as: the Sebastian Restaurant.
Day 02 – Day in San Sebastian
Today you’ll spend the day getting to know San Sebastian, one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, traditional and modern at the same time, with buildings that recall the Belle Époque, when Spain’s royal family had their official summer residence here. San Sebastian also boasts a contemporary cultural agenda that includes a prestigious international film festival and a jazz festival. Both attract the most famous and the brightest up-and-coming stars of each genre.
Start your visit trolling along the famous La Concha Promenade, and walk up Mount Urgull to the base of the 12-meter tall statue of the Sacred Heart that stands watch over the city, and admire the “Wind Comb” of sculptor Eduardo Chillida. Along the fashionable beach promenade, you’ll admire the Palacio Miramar built in 1889.
Then continue to the Old Town, by the Plaza de Constitucion surrounded by beautiful buildings featuring colorful balconies, which at one time where used to see bullfights. Nearby you’ll see the Church of Santa Maria del Coro. Then continue walking through the narrow walking streets known for the many bars and restaurants known for their excellent Pinxtos (their own form of Tapas), where you’ll enjoy tasting their specialties accompanied by excellent Basque, Navarraand Rioja wines.
This evening partake of an excellent dinner in one of San Sebastian’s established restaurants: Arzak.
Day 03 – Day in Bilbao
This morning your guide will greet you in Hondarribia for your trip to Bilbao (approximate time: 1hr 25 min). Upon arrival a special museum guide will greet you and take you on a private tour of the magnificent Guggenheim Museum.
When finished, continue to Bilbao’s city center, for a walking tour of the historic quarter or Casco Viejo. This part of the city is home to a number of historical buildings. You will walk along the Arriaga Opera House at the entrance to the Old Town, the Gothic Cathedral of Santiago, and the Baroque Churches of San Nicolás and Santos Juanes. You will also walk along the Church of San Antón, and the bridge to which it gives its name (which appears on the city’s coat of arms).
Nearby is the famed Mercado de La Ribera, the largest indoor food market in Europe, and a true Bilbao experience. Local shoppers do their daily shopping here, as well as the city’s top restaurateurs buying premium goods directly from the local farmers. The perfect end to today’s visit will end with a taste of traditional or Nouvelle Basque cuisine sampling of their gastronomy in one of their established restaurants. Before you sit down for lunch, you can try some Pinxtos (tapas) in the one of the many bar and restaurants by the Plaza Nueva.
Day 04 – Day in Hemingway’s Pamplona
Today you will be met in Hondarribia and driven to Pamplona (approximate time: 1 hr 15 minutes). In Pamplona Hemingway’s favorite city, you will enjoy a walking tour of the historic quarter and some of the places where he lived, as well as the cafes and bars where he loved to unwind.
When finished, continue to the famous El Mercado market, where you will admire, the regional produce favored by local chefs. Then enjoy lunch in one of Pamplona’s established restaurants favored by the local gastronomy lovers. When finished, continue to the wine country where you’ll have an opportunity to visit a prominent Bodega (winery) and taste some of Navarra’s finest wines. You will end your tour in the historic town of Olite along where you’ll admire its historic Palace.
Day 05 – Santiago de Compostela
This morning you’ll be driven to the airport for your flight to Santiago de Compostela, the next stop in your gastronomy adventure. This itinerary has been designed to be combined with Galicia.