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Basque Region travel: base in San Sebastian?

Basque Region travel: base in San Sebastian?

Old May 22nd, 2009, 07:40 AM
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Basque Region travel: base in San Sebastian?

My boyfriend and I are travelling to Spain this summer. We will be spending about five days in the Basque region. I know we would like to explore as much of the region as possible, especially Bilbao, San Sebastian, perhaps a rioja vineyard, and the coast. My question is primarily regarding where we should stay. I have us booked in a lovely placed in San Sebastian but am wondering if staying there the whole time is a mistake. We were not planning on renting a car but that is definitely an option. We love to walk, explore, take pictures, eat and experience new food and drink (tough life, I know). We are pretty active, in good shape, and might think about going on a hike or renting bikes as well. At this point in our trip, it might be lovely to have a "down" day, spending time at a beach.

We would be travelling in from Barcelona (I have now read a number of suggestions to travel by train so am thinking that is what we will do).

Should I try to book accommodation for a few nights in Bilbao and then move to San Sebastian? Or somewhere else? I'd really appreciate any advice you might have.

Thanks everyone!
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:08 AM
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Where have you booked in San Sebastián, if you don't mind sharing that? I only ask because of location and easy of access for day trips.

If you do wish to include one of the best of the Rioja vineyards, you'll need the car.
The most scenic of the Rioja wine region (Haro to Laguardia) lies closer to Bilbao than to San Sebastián.
From San Sebastián visiting the Rioja wineries really shouldn't be attempted as a day trip. But perhaps the vineyard isn't one of the top priorities for you stay.

There are also txakolí vineyards (the Basque white wine) that can be visited in Getaria (day trip from San Sebastián) or in Bakio (day trip from Bilbao), but both by car.

The San Sebastián jazz festival program has just been announced, if you plan to visit between 7/22-7/26 (?)

www.heinekenjazzaldia.com
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:20 AM
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We are currently staying in Guipuzcoa. I really know embarrassingly little about the geography of the region.

I would love to be around for the jazz festival but we'll miss it by a couple of weeks. Too bad.

Would you do the rioja wineries as a day trip from bilbao? Or stay somewhere else entirely? The vineyards aren't our first priority but it would be a treat to see them.

We are basically up for anything. I generally like to base myself in one spot and go from there but only if it makes sense. I am happy to move around if that would make the best trip.

Thank you so much for your help. I really, really appreciate it.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:30 AM
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Guipúzcoa (Gipuzkoa) is the province. Is your lodging in the city of San Sebastián or in a town in the province?

First time visitors to the area, I think, really should experience a stay in San Sebastián. It's one of Spain's very most enchanting small cities.


On a full day excursion from Bilbao, you can do a couple of Rioja wineries, such as Muga or López Heredia or Roda in Haro, where there are 8 visitable wineries down in the Barrio de las Bodegas, near the railroad tracks-you can walk from one to the next.

Although it can be done as full day trip from Bilbao, it does need some planning. These wineries insist on advanced reservations, as do most Rioja wineries, so that they can have the staff there to provide English tours. Some visits can be booked online and others need an email.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:35 AM
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Sorry...it is in the city of San Sebastian (I would add the accents if I knew how).

So, would you suggest dividing our "bases" between Bilbao and San Sebastian and then renting a car for everything surrounding?
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 09:33 AM
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atalanta934,
If walks in the countryside and the trip down to the Rioja are two important priorities, you might want to start in Bilbao, spent 2 nights.

1st day for seeing the city

Options could include any of the following-whatever strikes your fancy, if anything

Guggenheim
Museum of Fine Arts
Maritime Museum
Hanging Bridge of Portugalete (by metro to Areeta)
Artxanda funicular
Old Quarter/Casco Viejo for pintxos (tapas), cathedral, market (Mercado de la Ribera), Basque Museum

2nd day for drive to Haro for winery visits--which must be booked in advance--lunch

You could visit the wonderful Basque town of Laguardia too, but you'd need to hop around by car to see the most spectacular wineries outside of town, and it takes longer to get to Laguardia
This isn't so wise on a day trip from Bilbao.
The drive Bilbao-Haro should take something over an hour, but since you need to pick up your rental car (probably not before 9), you shouldn't book any winery visit for 10 am.

Haro is just much more practical since you can park in one spot, walk to wineries, then walk up to town for lunch.
Or maybe Sergi Arola's new River Cafe will be open by at Rioja Santiago winery (??)

Here are the visitable wineries (bodegas) all together
www.cvne.com
www.riojalta.com
www.lopezdeheredia.com
www.bodegasmuga.com
www.grupocodorniu.com (for Bodegas Bilbaínas)
www.bodegasriojasantiago.com
www.roda.es

Haro also sports a recently expanded Center of Wine Culture museum.
Beethoven II does nice pintxos. For a gastro splurge, Las Duelas in the Hotel Agustinos has a great €30 executive lunch served Mon-Fri 1:30-3:30. Beautiful space in the cloister.


3rd day
keep the car and drive to San Sebastián on the A8, maybe detouring for the pretty coastal drive from Zumaia to Getaria (txakolí) to Zarauz before hitting the city. Days 4-5 in SanSe.

(One can walk a coastal promenade between Zumaia and Getaria-or take an interesting walk along the headlands at Zumaia)

Then stay put in San Sebastián, where you won't need a car and enjoy its beaches and world class restaurants/pintxos bars.

If you want to see the Chillida Leku outdoor sculpture garden/museum, you can do this by city bus.

www.chillida-leku.com

If you want to visit Hondarribia, by bus as well.

www.bidasoaturismo.com
www.basquecountry-tourism.com
www.interbus.com.es/nuevoi2directo.htm

On your other thread in Dec., I believe someone referenced my files on the Basque Country and Rioja, so I won't link to them here.

Hope this helps get you started.
BTW,
if you just want to forgo the Rioja excursion, you can stay put in San Sebastián for 5 days and a day trip to Bilbao by Pesa bus. Up to you, of course...
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Old May 26th, 2009, 06:12 AM
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thank you SO much. This is amazing information. I am so grateful.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 07:31 AM
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Pintxos (tapas) in San Sebastian:
www.todopintxos.com/pintxos/pintxos.php
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Old May 26th, 2009, 08:51 AM
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atalanta934,
On that great site that Revulgo has given you, there's one particular pintxos (tapas) route that we really like.

On the left where you see "Routes of Tapas", it's the "Ruta Deluxe", starting in the Old Quarter (Parte Vieja), then crossing the Kursaal bridge to the Gros quarter. These 5 bars serve up true miniature haute cuisine-their creations are not only delicious but also beautiful to behold-

Ganbara
La Cuchara de San Telmo
El Patio de Ramuntxo
Bergara
Aloña Berri

And there's a new one we plan to follow in July-
"Ruta Lo Más Nuevo de lo Viejo" (the newest places in the Old Quarter)
because poster Cristina has recommended Zeruko, so we just have to give it a try!

More info about Donostia/San Sebastián

http://www.donostia.org/CAT/Home.nsf...N?OpenFrameset
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Old May 26th, 2009, 11:29 AM
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thank you so much. I love all of this information! (I'm a bit of an information junkie...this whole trip is a celebration of me finally getting my doctorate and finishing school forever!) If you have any other "finds" or 'must-not-miss' places, please let me know!

We decided in the end to drive from Barcelona to Donostia and stay there for four nights. We might rent a car and drive around there, at this point we're playing it by ear. Then head to Bilbao for one night's stay, enjoy Bilbao and then take the train to Madrid, our last stop.

Coming home is going to be hard after all this.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 11:33 AM
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TT
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Old May 27th, 2009, 03:58 PM
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Hi atalanta934,
Congratulations on your doctorate! A well deserved vacation, I'm sure.

If you happen to be in San Sebastián/Donostia on a Sunday, a quick city bus trip (G2 from Calle Okendo) out to late, great Basque sculptor, Eduardo Chillida's farmhouse and outdoor sculpture museum makes for a simply wonderful morning.

It's such a tranquil, peaceful spot where art and nature come together on 30 beautiful acres, filled with magnolia, oak and beech trees and his stunning works. You can wander at leisure and "please touch" the giant iron, steel and stone sculptures dotting the landscape and also view his smaller pieces of work in the ancient farmhouse, now made into a museum of abstract art.

And on Sundays, you'll be serenaded by string and wood ensembles while you wander the grounds. Just very relaxing and inspiring. It's open on Sun. from 10:30-3.

Although the San Telmo history-ethnographic museum in the Old Quarter is closed for renovations, if you're up for a walk, you can trek up to Mont Urgell, one of the two hills that cup the bay, to visit the La Mota castle.
Inside, there's an exhibit about the city's history, "Looking at San Sebastián". It's open in summer from 11 am-8 pm. And it's free.

The tourist board has initiated a 90 minute, bilingual walking tour of the city, lead by a professional guide, that's offered daily in July-Aug. at 11 am and 4 pm, departing from the tourist office. It costs 6 euros.
I haven't taken it, so don't know about the quality. But it *could* be an informative "insider" look at some corners of the city that you might otherwise miss.

And if you'd like to sample Michelin star cuisine at a very reasonable price, I can personally (and highly) recommend the fixed price Tues.-Fri. lunch (menú del día) at Kokotxa on Calle Campanario 11 in the Old Quarter.
It's run by a charming young husband and wife team who aim to please. And among the many Basque and Navarran Michelin-starred (and Repsol "sunned") gourmet temples, it's one of the very most affordable, especially for their great mid-week lunch that includes a bottle of nice house Rioja.
Very high price-to-quality ratio. An affordable gastronomic splurge to celebrate your doctorate.

www.restaurantekokotxa.com
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Old May 27th, 2009, 10:00 PM
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Are you going at the beginning of July? If so, you have to go to Pamplona, even for a few days. San Fermin ( Running of the bulls) begins on July 6th lasting 8 days. The running is for a half hour in the morning, the remaining 23.5hrs during the day are non-stop partying, dances, crowds, drinking, unbelievably fun. And it is for all generations, the Basque are out in droves, everyone meets their friends in the streets. Accomodation can be tricky, so you can't wing it, but it is a blast! It doesn't matter what age you are, you will enjoy it tremendously. For the people of Pamplona it is the most important time of yr, surpassing xmas, etc. They work endlessly for the days leading up to it, so they can enjoy San Fermin, I'm talking about Architects, lawyers and doctors, ... Look into it. I highly recommend it.
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