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Future Trip to Bordeaux and the Basque Country

Future Trip to Bordeaux and the Basque Country

Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 12:31 PM
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Future Trip to Bordeaux and the Basque Country

While safe at home but mentally feeling trapped, to give us something positive to look forward to my spouse and I have started talking about a future trip, some day that would include Bordeaux and both the French and Spanish Basque Country.

I visited the Basque Country with my parents a couple of years ago, and am eager to return. I especially want to return to the French Basque country to do some hiking (my parents and I stayed in Ainhoa), as well as eating more pintxos in Donostia (San Sebastian).

To entertain us all and help me out, please provide me with your first-hand impressions and feedback, which will allow you to relive your trips to the area. What suggestions would you have? Feel free to provide logistics (we would likely travel in the Spring or Fall), but what I'm really looking for is where you went, and why, and what you liked about your destinations, and why. Especially, did you visit Pamplona? How would you compare it to Bilbao if we had to choose one or the other - I did visit Bilbao and loved it, but have not been to Pamplona.

In terms of our interests, we love food (pintxos!!), local history and culture (my parents and I visited Guernica, which was quite moving), art, hiking, and neither of us like sitting on the beach. Spouse is big into wine. We have made several visits to the Bordeaux region, but haven't yet spent any time in the city of Bordeaux itself.

I hope responding to this gives you pleasure, as well as educating me.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 12:41 PM
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We were recently in Bordeaux and I posted about the trip including this overview:
Bordeaux
We had only been in Bordeaux once prior to this trip. The city was at the time installing its new tram system and we stayed across the river and saw little of the city itself so this was our first real taste of it and we were very impressed. The tram system that had made it so hard for us to see much of the place before was a highlight. We stayed near one of the stops, at the Bayonne Etcha Ona that St.Cirq and others recommended, and were delighted with the tran efficiency--and the hotel. It had apparently been recently redecorated, was well located within the city and met all of our needs.

Highlights of the city for us were:
* Bacalan Market Hall, which compares favorably with another of our favorites, the Torvelhallen in Copenhagen--modern, convivial, with lots of dining but still plenty of foodstuffs to buy as well. This was particularly good because the much older Marche Capucins which my reading had suggested would be a fine old place, was a disappointment, looking down at the heel and sparsely attended. We did, however, also really enjoy the outdoor market along the river in Chartrons where we had a delightful lunch at L'Exploit across the street from the market and the bar and shopping area further up the river from the Chartrons market where on another day we had a nice lunch at Rive Gauche.
*Main sights--Bourse and the water mirror, the lovely Basilique St. Michelle and its surrounding area, Cathedrale St. Andre, Grand Theatre--all of which we enjoyed and loved the beauty of the relatively newly cleaned gold colored stone that is so often cited in tourist guides.
*A delightful dinner at Miles on rue du Cancera--recommended by Fodors Poster Maribel. For a very reasonable sum they served a 5+ course meal to the house in a stripped down, modern setting with very earnest servers. We endorse Maribel's recommendation and pass it on to all.
*Day trips to Perigueux and Arcachon--The former was a favorite from a previous trip and delighted us with a lovely market and a festival near their terrific cathedral, while the latter was new to us, recommended by Maribel and others on this board, which delighted us with its oysters and adorable seaside atmosphere. Unfortunately we did not get as much time to explore as we'd hoped and fear we did not do the latter justice.

I will go through some of my other trip posts and notes and see what I can scare up about our time in the Basque Country. For starters we love St. Jean de Luz. More to follow as I find it.

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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 01:22 PM
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I based in Bordeaux in 2016 and used the tram easily in the area of the Bourse, opera house and this very nice hotel:

Hotel Majestic: Bordeaux
HTEL MAJESTIC
2 rue de Cond - 33000 Bordeaux - FRANCE
Tel. : 00 33 5 56 52 60 44 / Fax : 00 33 5 56 79 26 70
www.hotel-majestic.com / [email protected]

I took the train to St. Emillion. "Paris With a Side of Bordeaux" is my trip report if you are interested. StCirq can weigh in with more info. Hope you get to go!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 02:17 PM
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Attached is my Pays Basque itinerary. We visited the region on two separate occasions, of 2 weeks each.

Stu Dudley
Attached Files
File Type: doc
Pays Basque.doc (58.5 KB, 32 views)
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 05:07 PM
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I wrote a trip report on our travels in Aquitaine which departed from Bordeaux and found us back in the Dordogne after looping around the Pays Basque. Click on my name to find it. Bordeaux is worth a couple of days, and has tasting rooms where you can taste the wines from different producers and different areas of the Bordelais. One of them is across the square from the Opera house:


The area around Arcachon is worth exploring:

There is an eco-muse in the Landes which brings in farm houses from the area and uses an old train to get there, the train is the only way to get to the museum.

And of course there is your destination: the Pays Basque.

Herer are the pictures of our trip in Aquitaine: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjvsgfDP

and Bordeaux: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjreyHkB

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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 11:36 PM
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If you are really into wine, I would visit the Rioja Alavesa wine region, the Basque part of the Rioja D.O.C. (Qualified Denomination of Origin), the oldest in Spain and, in a personal opinion, where the best wines of Spain are produced. And at an excellent price. You can visit centuries old cellars, in family owned wineries and medieval towns like Laguardia, Labastida, Elciego...Just one hour drive from Bilbao.

Pamplona (aka Irua in Basque), a small, nice town, with beautiful parks (Ciudadela-citadel- park), a charming old town and plenty of pintxos atmosphere (like in all the rest of the Basque Country, although Pamplona is in Navarra, politically another region but part of the Basque Country to many of us).

Id visit Arantzazu, Oati, Getaria quaint fishing town home to the first person that circumnavegated the world...and no, it was not Magellan), Zumaia and the flysch, Elorrio and the magnificent medieval mansions, charming Lekeitio on the coast, Hondarribia and its historical old town...

While in the French Basque Country, Id not miss St Jean de Pied de Port, if possible, and most of all, Bayonne (Baiona), the capital of the French Basque Country (or Iparralde, as we name it), full of history, architecture and charming streets. Id not miss the caves of Sara and the zipper train to Larrun, with incredible views from the top.
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 07:38 AM
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mikelg, your photos and descriptions are inspiring! Not to mention Rioja...🍷
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 08:35 AM
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My wife's Shutterfly book of our trip to the Pays Basque & Pyrenees.

https://stududley.shutterfly.com/31

Click "Full screen"

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 08:52 AM
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Thanks for the info, very inspirational and helpful. Keep them coming! MikelG, hello, you took me and my parents on a wonderful history and pintxos tasting tour in Bilbao. I loved Bilbao, in part, because it was a little gritty and seemed not so touristy. On that trip, we also visited and stayed in Getaria and Lekeita. They were charming, I'm not sure that we'll go back on a future trip, we'll have to see what else we put on the itinerary. My mother and I (my dad couldn't walk so far) had a very fun walk to the disappearing island. On the French Basque side, yes we went to St. Jean de Pied de Port, my mother in particular was fascinated with the Camino; we couldn't hike that trip due to my dad, but we all liked visiting the town. Visiting that area, staying in Ainhoa, and reading about the history of the people fleeing in both directions throughout history is why I want to go back and do more hiking there.

Especially in these times, it was a very special experience for me and my parents to take this trip together. They are the people who first kindled my love of travel, when I was a child. I guessed right on a lot of things in planning, like that my dad just has to have eggs for breakfast. I didn't realize they would want to hang out at the hotels so much; I favor hanging out at cafes. I found lovely hotels throughout that didn't have too many stairs, or had an elevator. We visited two Michelin-starred restaurants in the Basque country; that's about my mother's limit for fancy restaurants but they enjoyed those. My dad loves new foods, so he would eat everything, and the small dishes that are always an option in Spain worked for my mom, who has a small appetite. And this was an area that even if they had taken a tour, they wouldn't have gone to the places we went. I enjoyed planning this trip, being on it, and reliving it afterward.

I'll post some pictures of that trip later today.
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 11:54 AM
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Stu Dudley, Your wife's Shutterfly book is quite terrific. I truly enjoyed getting to look through it. Somehow putting the pictures together like that gives more meaning to them than if you just look one picture at a time.
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley View Post
My wife's Shutterfly book of our trip to the Pays Basque & Pyrenees.

https://stududley.shutterfly.com/31

Click "Full screen"

Stu Dudley
One translation is wrong. The sign forbids 4 wheel drive vehicles except for locals.
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 01:04 PM
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Well, I found my other logs from trips to Basque Country and posted but now find the post somehow never went onto the site. Damn!

So here's my second try, a bit more stripped down than the first--which might not be all bad.

I found that we've been to the area 3 times, most recently in 2019. Our favorite place is St. Jean de Luz, in French Basque country. We stayed in a delightful hotel, Hotel de la Plage, directly on the water and pretty much in the middle of town. Nice place, good service, close to main drag, and good restaurants. We were lucky enough to be there on June 7 while they were celebrating National Day complete with costumed dancers, bands and lots of fun. Lots of wonderful shops on Rue Gambetta, many selling traditional Basque linens. Wonderful ancient cathedral with 3 floors of balconies all in wood where Louis the 14th married Maria Theresa at the end of a multi-month period of preparation. Nearby Biarritz is more chi-chi but not as fun IMO. Happy to provide restaurant info if you want it. We were quite impressed with the cooking and service we found in St. Jean.

Other areas we enjoyed included Pamplona--it seems festive even when it's not the bull running festival. It just felt like a party and we were just there on an ordinary, non-festival day. Also liked Hondarribia with its colorful houses and big time weekend pintxo crawl. Seemed like everyone was outside during a Saturday afternoon. Can't imagine what it must be like by Saturday evening.

Stayed 5 days in Getaria one year and did day trips along the coast from there. Town has great pintxos and they do a wonderful thing with hake neck on wood fired grills besides having a Michelin 3 star restaurant that we never even knew was there. What we did enjoy was the Balenciaga museum, even though neither I or my husband are big fashion fans. The museum itself is lovely and the displays were interesting. Also enjoyed Durango, a prosperous town with a beautiful painted town hall, and a fun pintxos street. Loved San Sebastian where we were lucky enough to get "stuck" for 5 days instead of the only 2 we had planned when we learned that temps in Logrono to which we were supposed to be headed were 108 F while San Sebastian on the coast was experiencing temps in the 70s. The pinxtos in San Seb are fantastic and the pintxos scene is even moreso. We also dined in some sit down table service venues there that were exceptional.

Having escaped Logrono to beat the heat, I will nonetheless endorse it wholeheartedly as a great place to headquarter to explore the Spanish wine culture scene, and echo the praises someone else on this thread has heaped on that aspect of travel in the country. Consider it as an adjunct to your Basque travel. Both the scenery of the countryside and the beauty of the winery architecture is exceptional and makes a nice counterpoint to the Basque country.

If you are foodies and would like recommendations for restaurants in the area as you continue your planning, let me know and I'll be happy to go into more detail on our dining pursuits and I would be happy to follow up with more specific recs on wineries and wine towns to visit if you want a follow up on that option. Enjoy your planning--and your trip, whenever you get to take it.
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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 03:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Lexma90 View Post
Thanks for the info, very inspirational and helpful. Keep them coming! MikelG, hello, you took me and my parents on a wonderful history and pintxos tasting tour in Bilbao. I loved Bilbao, in part, because it was a little gritty and seemed not so touristy. On that trip, we also visited and stayed in Getaria and Lekeita. They were charming, I'm not sure that we'll go back on a future trip, we'll have to see what else we put on the itinerary. My mother and I (my dad couldn't walk so far) had a very fun walk to the disappearing island. On the French Basque side, yes we went to St. Jean de Pied de Port, my mother in particular was fascinated with the Camino; we couldn't hike that trip due to my dad, but we all liked visiting the town. Visiting that area, staying in Ainhoa, and reading about the history of the people fleeing in both directions throughout history is why I want to go back and do more hiking there.

Especially in these times, it was a very special experience for me and my parents to take this trip together. They are the people who first kindled my love of travel, when I was a child. I guessed right on a lot of things in planning, like that my dad just has to have eggs for breakfast. I didn't realize they would want to hang out at the hotels so much; I favor hanging out at cafes. I found lovely hotels throughout that didn't have too many stairs, or had an elevator. We visited two Michelin-starred restaurants in the Basque country; that's about my mother's limit for fancy restaurants but they enjoyed those. My dad loves new foods, so he would eat everything, and the small dishes that are always an option in Spain worked for my mom, who has a small appetite. And this was an area that even if they had taken a tour, they wouldn't have gone to the places we went. I enjoyed planning this trip, being on it, and reliving it afterward.

I'll post some pictures of that trip later today.
Thanks so much then for choosing me to show my hometown to you, and also for your wanting to return. If you need any info on places that are normally off the beaten path but really worth the visit, please feel welcome to ask (or private message, if you prefer), itll be my pleasure!
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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 08:10 AM
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I've travalled to Bordeaux a fair few times over the years but I cycled from La Rochelle to Bergerac via Bordeaux just a few years back and loved it. Wine has been central hobby of my life and we found St Emillion too touristy and packed with international travellers being sold over priced wines. However, if you can manage to get there early in the day or late in the afternoon the place becomes more interesting, especially if you climb to the top of the cliff and walk westward the views of the little town are pretty good.

Bergerac is more like a country town that got it by a tourist bus. But even here Montbazillac is a little gem to the south.

We also liked Rochefort, for its central old buildings and the access to the Frigate down on the river.

Other sites worth looking at include the travelator/transporter bridge and (also In San Sebastian and Bilbao) and the ferries over the Gironde. Normally about now someone pipes saying that France doesn't have a nice beach on the Atlantic... however the Cote d'or disproves that with miles of golden sand dunes to the south and north of the Gironde (though I guess the name changes).

Traveling south to Basque country is a little dull, lots of trees, beaches and motorways with low level towns along the way, the scenery gets better intowards the montains and then suddenly you are on mile high motorways curving into Spain. Bibao (the source of the name bilbo no less and home of bilbobus) is an interesting ex industrial town. Certainly it is possible to stay in some criminal infested barrio but also in some lovely area. The city Fine Art Museum is a fair bit better than the Guggenheim IMHO, the whole area between the two is a nice area to chill out.

Rioja; I like Haro, a bit gritty (often literally) again it comes into its own first thing in the morning and last thing at night, visits to the bodegas (nearly all down at the rail head) have to be booked (by tourist info) and are worth while, but the high point for me is to drink 10 year old grand reserva in a bar for E2 a glass.
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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 02:12 PM
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Rioja; I like Haro, a bit gritty (often literally) again it comes into its own first thing in the morning and last thing at night, visits to the bodegas (nearly all down at the rail head) have to be booked (by tourist info) and are worth while, but the high point for me is to drink 10 year old grand reserva in a bar for E2 a glass.[/QUOTE]
[QUOTE]


Haro is quite a nice town, I would not call it gritty. Its the capital of the Rioja Alta wine region, one of the three regions of Rioja wine area. The other two are Rioja Alavesa (belonging to the Basque Country) and the other one is Rioja Oriental (Eastern Rioja, formerly known as Rioja Baja). The most beautiful town, no doubt, is medieval, walled, Laguardia, where you can also visit some underground cellars. IMO, the most interesting visits are those to family owned wineries, where theyve been making wine in an honest way for generations.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 10:24 AM
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Regarding the Bordeaux area, there are two sites that I love: one is St Emilion, a short ride from the city, with its spectacular huge cave (monolithic) church. A must, apart from the town, which is quaint enough considering that its very touristy. Beautiful, in any case. And I also love the Eco space DARWIN, opened in 2013 on the other side of the river, formerly military barracks turned into a huge eco-complex with shows, activities, bio food, workshops...A bit off the beaten path.

In Rioja Alavesa there are also two places that I love to show: the 5000 year old dolmens and 10th century open air tombs (several in the area, but concentrated in a few points), and also the Atheist Cemetery, a mix of funny statues, memorial graves with non religious symbols of all kinds, poems...all in an open space, free to visit...but quite complicated to find (not indicated anywhere). If tired after wine tasting and cellar visits, a good place to relax, surrounded by vines and lovely mountains.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 11:06 AM
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I was in Bordeaux in July. It was hot.

https://anyportinastorm.proboards.co...ly-2020?page=1

But this was cool.

https://anyportinastorm.proboards.co...i-res-bordeaux
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Old Oct 28th, 2020, 09:49 AM
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We did a Paris/Bordeaux/Barcelona/Madrid itinerary several years ago that worked out very well. I understand the TGV service from Paris to Bordeaux has been upgraded (faster, more trains), there are cheap flights for the short hop from Bordeaux to Barcelona and the Spanish AVA train service from BCN to MAD is really efficient. I've posted the whole trip, here is a link to the Bordeaux page.
https://travelfam.wordpress.com/2016...s-to-bordeaux/
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Old Oct 28th, 2020, 09:53 AM
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JulieVikmanis
Second your recommendation for Bayonne Betcha Ona. Nice hotel in Bordeaux, and it's part of the Best Western chain.
https://travelfam.wordpress.com/2016...s-to-bordeaux/

Last edited by mjperry; Oct 28th, 2020 at 10:06 AM.
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