Itinerary · Spain - Basque Country · September 28 - October 6, 2019 · Sold out - Waiting list

One thing to note: this itinerary is the current plan, and, things may change. We will make every effort to provide the tours and experiences that are described below. However, the nature of the places we’ll be visiting — not typical tourist destinations — means that plans may change at the last minute. Also, you always have the option of skipping a particular excursion, but please note that we will be unable to make refunds for any missed meals or other events. And speaking of meals, we will be adapting to the local times for meals, which may be later than you are used to, as well as to the local tendency to enjoy large lunches and somewhat lighter dinners.

Activity Level: Medium

Expect some long strolls of up to 3 hours, standing for periods up to an hour, walking on uneven and soft ground with occasional steep hills, and plenty of stairs.

Day 1 / Sat: Madrid
We will meet up on the first day in the early afternoon at our hotel, for introductions. (We highly recommend that guests fly in a day or two early to get adjusted to the time zone, and visit some of the wonderful sites of Madrid, such as the Prado Museum.) We will start with a leisurely guided walking tour of old Madrid late in the afternoon, to get our bearings and some historical context. Afterwards we will do an exploration of tapas offerings in Santa Ana square, near our hotel.

Day 2 / Sun: Madrid to Lodosa to Erratzu
Today we depart the city of Madrid and make our way out to the lush green countryside of the Basque region. We will have a lovely breakfast at our hotel and then board our bus for the longest stint of the trip. We will stop on the way to visit a Piquillo Pepper Conservas that Jose Andrés says are the best in Spain. We will have a nice lunch in the same town before continuing on for a couple of hours more to our tranquil rural farm hotel in the heart of Basque Country for the next two nights. Dinner at the farm.

Day 3 / Mon: Baztan
We will spend the day getting up-close and personal with the self-sufficient rural economy of this little-known part of the Basque Country – everyone talks about how the ingredients are the key thing in the fantastic food of this region so we’re going to the source. Breakfast is at a leisurely 10am. We start with a visit to a sheep creamery for some delicious cheese and a lesson on cheese making, and, on sheepdogs and sheep herding. We will have an amazing lunch at a farm that produces most of what we will eat. If weather permits we will have a country walk after lunch. Later we will visit a mill that makes a traditional unleavened flatbread of the area, called a talos. Our day will end with a walk around a nice traditional Basque town and light tapas.

Day 4 / Tue: Espellete – Biarritz- Hondarribia
We pack and move out of the hills of Spain, heading to the flatter lands of France. Before we leave the hills we will stop to visit the famous caves of Zugarramurdi for some unique local culture. Then on to lunch in a new country, but still Basque! We will spend some time after lunch in another nearby french town, that is infatuated with red peppers, to learn about the making of a high quality pimenton (don’t say paprika). Afterward we will head to the coast for some oysters and wine before returning to Spain and our next two nights in a larger town and in the local Parador. We will stroll for pintxos in the evening.

Day 5 / Wed: Hondarribia
Today, back on the Spanish side of the Basque region, we will visit an important market, which plays a strong role in the economy of the whole area and is filled with all kinds of local foods; depending on the weather we might see a good variety of mushrooms, as well as perhaps catch a glimpse of a well-known chef or two. Then onward to enjoy an extremely traditional Basque product – hard cider! After a lovely lunch at the sidrería, perhaps a walk to a nearby village, and a stop at a local winery on our way back to Fuenterrabia. In the evening, a light sampling of more local fare.

Day 6 / Thu: San Sebastian
Why not start the day with chocolate? We will briefly learn about the local contribution to the history of chocolate. The main part of the day is in learning about the “alubia negra de Tolosa” – the black beans of Tolosa. We will visit the growers, spend time with a local chef teaching us how to prepare a traditional dish from these famous beans, and then get to enjoy it for lunch. We arrive in San Sebastian in the late afternoon for our two night stay. As per our custom, we will offer a stroll for pintxos in the evening, focused tonight on San Sebastian traditional style.

Day 7 / Fri: San Sebastian
Spain is known around the world for the top quality of its tinned seafood, and on this last full day in the Basque region, we will visit perhaps the most famous producer – Ortiz. We will learn about their processes, and enjoy a tasting of their products before our grilled-fish lunch in this lovely seaport town. After lunch, a little sea air will be just the thing, so we’ll take a short boat ride along the coast, to see the beautiful coastline and its unusual rock formations. We’ll stop for a snack – the small but very famous tapa of the region – octopus! And then back to San Sebastian; in the evening an optional pintxos-crawl, in a different neighborhood from last night – one known for a more modern style of pinxtos, to contrast with last night’s more traditional style.

Day 8 / Sat: San Sebastian – Madrid
Before we say goodbye to San Sebastian you have the morning free to roam. We leave for Madrid around noon and will stop on the way for lunch at a highly rated, yet still traditionally oriented restaurant. Afterwards we will settle in for the 4.5 hour drive back to Madrid. In the evening we invite you to join us in a private club, back on Santa Ana square, for drinks and tapas. We will say our farewells tonight, in case some of us don’t cross paths at breakfast in the morning.

Day 9 / Sun: Madrid
Breakfast in the hotel; some of us will be leaving today, and others may be staying on to explore Madrid.

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