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Help with Northern Spain/France Basque Country or Roses/Barcelona to Basque Country/Rioja Valley

Help with Northern Spain/France Basque Country or Roses/Barcelona to Basque Country/Rioja Valley

Old Oct 8th, 2008, 11:02 AM
  #1  
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Help with Northern Spain/France Basque Country or Roses/Barcelona to Basque Country/Rioja Valley

Help please!

It is the husband and my 10th wedding anniversary this February. Since that's event season for me, we are going to vacay in mid-May, per our usual birthday holiday jaunt.

So it's my birthday and our 10th anniversary trip rolled into one. I better really get my hot air balloon ride this time!

Anyhoo, need some help. The plan is to go northern Spain Basque country/rioja valley. we could spend the entire time on this or start in Bilbao end in Bordeaux--we'd drive and book open jaw into Bilbao/home from Bordeaux.

the other option would be dependent on if we can get reservations to el Bulli, if we can swing that we could either fly into Barcelona and still go north to Basque country/rioja valley fly out of Bilbao or Madrid (or vise versa depending on the el Bulli res. day) or we could skip the whole northern Spain thing all together and continue on to Marseille.

So my question is threefold:
if no el Bulli then it would be the northern Spain/France scenario

if el Bulli, the which of the two trips would make the most sense and be your choice? We both really want to co to northern Spain, but it appears to be quite a drive and all through the mountains and would it be best to just go to northern Spain/France another time?

If we do all northern Spain because we can't get into el Bulli, would you add on the France portion?

Second, I am looking for some decent travel guides for this area, I have looked at Maribel's guides, but am looking for books, any suggestions of good, comprehensive ones, please?

Which leads into third, The husband, Mr. I don't plan anything is insisting on planning this trip and I am not allowed to, but he won't go onto this forum because he is a dumb and this is seriously his 6th year to get me my birthday balloon ride which he hasn't been able to produce and it is our anniversary trip too so he has to get it right!

So anyway, that is why I am in search of books and any advice on this itinerary because we all know that I am going to plan it for the most part and make it look like he is making the decisions without me planning when all I really want him to do is book and execute my balloon ride.

Also, to clarify, we are not really on a budget, though not billionaires or money throwers--it is a special trip for us--we never had a honeymoon. Our background? we are mid- 30s, I'll be 35, yuppie faux-hipster DINKS from NYC. I work on non-profit events, he works in interweb publishing-production. we like food and collect wine to the amusement of our coors light drinking friends, like to go out to bars and such. Been to Barcelona/Madrid, but not northern Spain or Marseille.

So, after all that, help please? kthnxbi!
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Oct 8th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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I am willing to bet that El Bulli is booked out for 2009.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Oct 8th, 2008, 11:39 AM
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..ooops, sorry, I think you have until the middle of this month to try to reserve for 2009.
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 11:46 AM
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Sorry, but I'm a little confused with the rambling nature of your request outside of wanting to go on a balloon ride and dinner at El Bulli, which, as already mentioned, is probably out of the question until sometime in 2010, if you're lucky.

www.balloonflightsspain.com/
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 11:52 AM
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I can start emailing for res. next week! the husband is going to email as well.

They are supposedly closing within the next 2 years so they may be slammed more than usual with requests, but supposedly you have more of a chance of getting in if you have never dined there before--we'll see. It's not as big a deal as the balloon ride--though I am being irrational on that call.
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 11:54 AM
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the balloon ride has nothing to do with my request for help--it is the style of which I write which is supposed to be a joke, if you have read any of my prior posts it would make more sense.

el Bulli hasn't started taking res. yet.
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 12:15 PM
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Hi Cherry,


What a FANTASTIC situation. DH wants to have it all planned and surprise you and to a great location? What could be better?

I hope to do the same trip maybe 2010 after Andalucia 2009.

In your shoes I would have him consult an specialist like Iberian Traveler and sit back knowing it would be awesome. It is my dream vacation honestly.
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 12:21 PM
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By the way if El Bulli can't happen don't let it ruin your trip there are so many great places in Spain to dine & so little time....
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 12:36 PM
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yes, amsdon, but he will not get it done--trust me! and the location is no surprise--he tried that with me from the get go and I was all no, I don't want to go to Italy and guess what--he was planning to surprise me with that as that is where he took me to propose (mind you, on that trip, I was in charge of the itinerary then too, he just picked Italy)--didn't want to recreate that trip, just because it would have been a let down.

we both want to do to northern Spain/basque country and agreed on that, though if we can get into el Bulli that changes some things.

so these are my questions without the snark:

any recommended books for travel in that area? I like the interwebs, but I like travel books--experts on the area, what have you found helpful as far as travel books?

Would you do both Basque Spain and France or keep it to just Spain? If France, does the plan of going all the way to Bordeaux to fly out seem reasonable for 2 week trip (we are not run around travellers--think slow)

If, and it's a big IF, we get the el Bulli res (they have not yet started taking reservations for 2009!!!!!), is it still doable to go to Basque country, or leave it to another trip and just go to Marseille (not as crazy about that idea personally, but, eh)

Ok--Those are my questions and any other advice about places of interest welcome. Don't need info on balloons or el Bulli.

Thanks!!!

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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 01:37 PM
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If you go through France, it is really not all that difficult or long to drive from the Basque Coast to Catalonia. If you barrel through, it takes 5 to 7 hours. You might prefer to overnight somewhere. You don't have to drive through the mountains. You drive through Toulouse and Pau, which has nice views of the mountains.

Were it me, however, I would take all the money you are going to spend on one night at El Bulli and spend it on five meals or more on the Basque coast. The food in the Basque country in fabulous. But if you do go to El Bulli, I would hang around Catalonia instead of going to Marseilles.

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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 02:13 PM
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Thank you zeppole, that was what I was thinking on the option of going to Marseille.

Back to the Basque itinerary, you would suggest ending in Toulouse rather than Bordeaux, I hadn't thought of that. I thought of Pau to Bordeaux, but that is why I am asking questions.

Would you think starting at Bilbao makes the most sense? Then driving to San Sebastian, then south to La Rioja (not sure where yet), then Pau through to Toulouse. Or are these all too obvious of destination cities?
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 02:30 PM
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You say you are not "run around travelers" but you are planning way too much. Forget about Pau and forget about Toulouse and Marseilles!

Think about flying into Bayonne, ambling around the Pays Basque..St. Jean Pied de Port, Espellette, Sare, etc, and then cross to San Sebastian. Then on to Bilbao, or do that as a day trip. And then either on to Cantabria (my choice; you can fly home from Santander) or to the Rioja wine region. (Which is not all contained within La Rioja, by the way)

If El Bulli comes through, you have another trip entirely.

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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Hi,

I wasn't suggesting making Toulouse or Pau a destination. What I was saying is that if you look at a map, you will see that there is a nice, wide road that runs from the Cote Basque (near Hendaye) to the Mediterranean, and then another nice, wide road that connects France (Perpignan) to Spain (Girona/Barcelona). It is possible to combine the Basque Coast and Catalonia in one trip without a lot of difficulty. Heavy duty drivers can wake up watching the sun rise over the Atlantic and watch it set on the Mediterranean in one day. I think it makes more sense to spend the night in Pau.

But my only reason for pointing out you can combine both areas is because you might get a reservation to El Bulli. Personally, I would stick to the Basque country -- especially for eating. Ekscrunchy's itinerary might work (although I didn't care for my peek at St Jean Pied Pont).

For me, I would fly to Bilbao from either London, Paris or Madrid, take the bus or drive to San Sebastian-Donostia, spend four nights in San Sebastian, and then I would do what I didn't do last time: head away from France into other parts of Spain, either continuing along the coast or driving back toward Madrid to fly home as a driving tour. If you want to go to the Med, drive through France (overnight in Pau) and eat your way around Catalonia.

For what it is worth, May is a fantastic time to visit the Pyrenees (which is what I did last time and loved) -- towns like Cauterets, Aix-en-Thermes, Pont d'Espagne, Cirque du Gavarnie and you can even check out the scenic bits of Andorra. However, the food and wine is not legendary (the water and cheese is, however) and it is really a vacation for people who love beautiful, pristine mountain places with few tourists -- hiking, waterfalls and the like. Otherwise, just admire the Pyrenees from afar.

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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 02:53 PM
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>>You say you are not "run around travelers" but you are planning way too much. Forget about Pau and forget about Toulouse and Marseilles!<<

No, I was forgetting Marseilles!!

That is why I was confused about Toulouse as a suggestion. I had google mapped a drive prior and it seemed that ending up in Bordeaux made the most sense time-wise while adding in Pau--I can't get a flight out of Pau and if we are going into France from northern Spain, it made sense.

This is why I ask for help here.

el Bulli will have to be a Fall/winter 09 trip at this point--I hadn't noticed until today that they changed their service dates and won't open until mid-June, but will stay open through December.

Now I don't have to focus on multiple scenarios.

help with:
Northern Spain Basque and La Rioja + possibly adding some french Basque country and leaving through Bordeaux (this can be modified). Two weeks, 4 cities max.

Specifically, would like some recommendations for travel books people like for this area.

Any other suggestions welcome.
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 02:59 PM
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Thanks for clarifying Zeppole.

you said you would go away from France and end in Madrid, why? I have no clue about the area because I, um, haven't been and am just trying to figure this whole thing out. Please suggest away...

Thanks!
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 03:18 PM
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You can fly back to NYC from Santander if you go that route. And as I said, I would fly into Bayonne, which you can also do from JFk with a connection in CDG.

One book I like a lot, since you are interested in food, is Penelope Casas "Discovering Spain." Also excellent is the "Collected Traveler Northern Spain." The Cadogan guide to Northern Spain includes the French Pays Basque.


I assume you are going to rent a car. One thing you need to keep in mind that there will be an issue with picking up the car in one country and returning it in another.

Not to confuse you too much, a few years ago during May, I did a lovely week-long Pays Basque/Bordeaux trip that included three nights in Sarlat...flying into Bayonne and home from Bordeaux. My trip was admittedly rushed, but with two weeks you could include the Dordogne..talk about great food!


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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 03:29 PM
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Thanks you for all your suggestions! I will pick up those books. I ordered Cadogan Guides Bilbao & the Basque Lands from BN with the same day delivery, but it is still with my doorman, I haven't grabbed it yet. I wasn't sure about it, good to hear your rec. of it.

I am confused as to what to do--I had already had the Basque-Bordeaux running through my head so long, that maybe I'm too caught up in that plan. Then again, I'm afraid of being in too remote-country of locations, I need some city and such or I'll go nuts.

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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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Hi cherrybomb

The reason I said I'd go away from France is only because I already did that trip! I drove from San Sebastian up to St Jean de Luz, then crisscrossed the Pyrenees, back and forth from Spain to France, ending up on the Med, then wandering around in Catalonia, ending up in Barcelona. But hands down the best food I had was in the Spanish Basque country, and I love eating in Madrid, so I'd put together a trip that keeps me in Spain.

I've never been to the Dordogne or Bordeaux.
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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 03:44 PM
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Thanks zeppole and ekscrunchy!


I'm off to go home and look at the book I have and be back with more questions.




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Old Oct 8th, 2008, 03:53 PM
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"Then again, I'm afraid of being in too remote-country of locations, I need some city and such or I'll go nuts."

If that is the case, think twice about spending lots of time in Spain, especially northern Spain, and skip the Pyrenees, which is mainly for sheep in May.
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