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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 Jan 14th, 2009, 11:48 AM
  #1  
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Help with Northern Spain/France Basque Country or Roses/Barcelona to Basque Country/Rioja Valley

I posted this back before, but am starting over because I can get FF tix now.

I can either do both flights through Madrid and backtrack or Madrid/Bordeaux--doesn't matter, I can either start in either city, though it may make more sense to leave through Madrid as it is a direct flight back rather than a stop in Paris and we will be checking a case of wine back. opinions as to where to start/end would be helpful.

So this is what I am thinking and what am I leaving out, here I am making the assumption that I am starting from Madrid for ease. This is for 2 weeks, end of May.

starting in Madrid, driving to Logroño. It is a 4 hour drive and I'd prefer to make a stop and was looking at Burgos (feedback here appreciated), then to Bilbao, San Sebastian and Bayonne and end in Bordeaux to leave.

I can also reverse this and start in Bordeaux.

Please, feedback is appreciated. I can add in more, this is starting point and the "bones" of the trip. were are interested in wine and food, in our 30s, I don't do hiking and stuff like that - I like to wander, people-watch, drink and eat, we would want to go out at night. oh and it's a 10th anniversary trip.

Help appreciated - thanks!

(I'm also going through julievik's trip planning posts on here)
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:32 PM
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The first thing you need to note that if you're driving from Madrid to Bordeaux, or vice versa, you will either have to change rental cars before crossing from one country into the other unless you don't mind paying the stiff drop-off fees when picking up a rental in one country and dropping it off in a second.

If you are driving up from Madrid, then you can drop the car off in San Sebastian-Donostia and take the train or bus from there, or pick up another rental car in Hendaye.

As far as stopping for the night on the way to Logroño, the Parador de Lirma is one of our favorite stops when heading north on the A-1/E-5, but there are a few nice hotels in Burgos, including the AC Burgos and the NH Palacio de la Merced. if you want to go that far on your first day.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:36 PM
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Oops, a bit incoherent on some sentences, it should read:

I posted this back before, but am starting over because I can get FF tix now and know that i have to go through Madrid on one of the flights.

I can either do both flights through Madrid and backtrack or Madrid/Bordeaux--doesn't matter, I can either start in either city, though it may make more sense to leave through Madrid as it is a direct flight back rather than a stop in Paris as we will be checking a case of wine back. opinions as to where to start/end would be helpful.

So this is what I am thinking and obviously I've left stuff out, suggestions again are appreciated. Here I am making the assumption that I am starting from Madrid for ease. This is for 2 weeks, end of May.

Starting in Madrid, driving to Logroño. It is a 4 hour drive and I'd prefer to make a stop and was looking at Burgos (feedback here appreciated), then to Bilbao, San Sebastian and Bayonne and end in Bordeaux to leave.

I can also reverse this and start in Bordeaux.

Please, feedback is appreciated. I can add in more, this is starting point and the "bones" of the trip. were are interested in wine and food, in our 30s, I don't do hiking and stuff like that - I like to wander, people-watch, drink and eat, we would want to go out at night. oh and it's a 10th anniversary trip.

Help appreciated - thanks!

(I'm also going through julievik's trip planning posts on here)
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:40 PM
  #4  
rex
 
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If you have not already done so, make sure you check out the phenomenally good FREE guides at http://www.maribelsguides.com

(though, I have to note that I have not compared them to my actual experiences since our trip to the Pais Vasco and the Dordogne in 2005).

Best wishes,

Rex
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Can do get FF tix into Madrid and out of Biarritz or vice versa?
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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Make that "Can you get..."
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:42 PM
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>>As far as stopping for the night on the way to Logroño, the Parador de Lirma is one of our favorite stops when heading north on the A-1/E-5, but there are a few nice hotels in Burgos, including the AC Burgos and the NH Palacio de la Merced. if you want to go that far on your first day.
<<

Thanks, I will look. Also, if we started in Madrid, we'd stay there 2 nights before starting the driving trek (One night if Bordeaux. ) Anything of note that you have about Burgos is welcome. Husband is into cathedrals and such so I am basing choice of city on that - aware it is far flung.

I assumed we would do a drop then pick up of the car between countries to avoid fees.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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>Can do get FF tix into Madrid and out of Biarritz or vice versa?<

I can't--It's all Madrid or Bordeaux/Madrid. I suppose I could start and end in Bordeaux? Less driving? thoughts?

I downloaded the guide--thanks!
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 01:56 PM
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No, don't start and end in Bordeaux. In your case, I'd do Madrid-Bordeaux if you plan to include nights in the Pays Basque. I'd take the TGV from Bayonne to Bordeaux unless you want to stop along the way.

Here's the link to Burgos' beautiful Gothic cathedral:
www.catedraldeburgos.es

Also see www.turismocastillayleon.com

When I make the trip directly from Madrid's airport to the Rioja (Logroño or another town), I always, always spend the night along the way. I do this twice a year, either an overnight at the Lerma Parador (www.parador.es), which has palatial rooms with balconies overlooking either the square or the plains
(have a section on Lerma in my guide) or...

in Burgos, my favorite hotel now being the new AC, a renovated white mansion, right on the river, just a short walk from the cathedral. Again, the spacious rooms have balconies facing the river, are super comfortable with ultra modern furniture, a sofa, great baths, bathrobes, slippers and the signature free minibar (for juices, sodas, water, San Miguel beer). It does have a garage, but you can usually find street parking. You absolutely can not beat its weekend rates and rack rates aren't bad either.

Advantage to Lerma:
closer to Madrid, elegant, classic Parador rooms, GREAT wines to purchase (Lerma and Arzuaga from D.O. Ribera del Arlanza and Ribera del Duero, respectively) at the bar across the street, wonderful , memorable dining at Casa Brigante.
Disadvantage:
extremely quiet-walk around the town, peek into the churches, have roast lamb with a great bottle of wine and just rest. Don't know if the Parador has even gotten their indoor pool reopened or not (were working on it in the spring).

It will take you about 3 hrs. to reach Burgos, but you'll be flying into MAD directly from NY, correct?
I now come from the west coast and arrive with much more jet lag, so I don't mind reaching Lerma in 2 hrs. and just using the rest of the time for a great meal with great wine and rest. And on the road to Logroño you can make a stop in Burgos for the cathedral.


Dining in Burgos:
The classic for roast lamb is Casa Ojeda (with a branch in Lerma), but we like Casa Avellino, where the high end wine tour companies dine.

I have to add a hotel to my Logroño recos in the file-the newly renovated Portales, with a dead center location in the Old Quarter, similar in style to the Marqués de Vallejo. I stayed at the latter and also the AC (Portales is #1 and AC #2 on Trip Advisor)
I'm headed to Logroño in March so I'll check it out.

If you have my files to the Rioja, País Vasco and Pays Basque, then there's not much more for me to add other than to answer questions about specifics and logistics, which I'll be glad to do.


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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 02:10 PM
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sorry, forget the jet lag issues!!
didn't see your post that says you'll be spending a couple of days in Madrid before driving up. Duh.
You might still want to overnight in Burgos to see this charming city, or you could just stop to visit the cathedral then on to Logroño if you need to put your overnight elsewhere.. With just 2 weeks, and 2-3 nights already taken up in Madrid plus overnight in Bordeaux, I assume, before your flight thru Paris to NY, I would concentrate my remaining nights in the Rioja, País Vasco and French side.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 02:33 PM
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Thank you so much Maribel! Yes on the direct flight from NY, wish I could direct flight back!

Would you bother to plant yourself in San Sebastian for 3 days, or just make it a day trip/overnight given the 2 weeks? I looks gorgeous, but I'm not in need of a total seaside/beach trip and really want to get a chance to see some of the wineries, or am I starting to waiver and selling it short because of the fact that it is beach/seaside when there is more?

I am aware that is probably a stupid question.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 04:35 PM
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hi cherrybomb,
That's not a dumb question at all.

I love to plop myself down in San Sebastián and just walk the beach (everyone walks La Concha to Ondarreta and back-these 2 exquisite urban beaches get quite crowded with walkers of all ages), AND
have pintxos in the plethora of great bars in both the Old Quarter and in Gros, do a destination restaurant (like Kokotxa for lunch which has the Michelin star yet offers a bargain Tues-Fri 25 euro pre fixe), wander the indoor markets (La Bretxa and San Martín), shop for gourmet items (Solbes), take a drive (or bus) out to the wonderful open air sculpture park, Chillida Eku, on a late Sun. morning. I find it much more than just plopping down to sunbathe on the beach, which I don't do.

I was actually assuming that you would spend some nights in San Sebastián, my favorite city in northern Spain.

Because San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque) gets so crowded in late July during Jazz Festival, we usually base outside of town in the highly photogenic fishing village of Hondarribia (it's practically become our 2nd home), but for May I would base in the city. But I'd certainly make a stop in Hondarribia, a gem of a seaside town with truly extraordinary food as well, a pretty marina and atmospheric Old Quarter.

On the route San Sebastián-Bilbao:

To the east of Donostia, I'd take the lovely drive along the coast to Getaria and visit a txakolí vineyard there and have a great seafood lunch.

And the Urdaibai Biosphere reserve (above Gernika) has more vineyards, great food and stunning drives, from Busturia to Bakio.

And I do also love Bilbao, for its museums (in addition to the Guggen, don't disregard the excellent Museum of Fine Arts, which hosts great temporary exhibits), for its friendly people (especially our 2 natives, cova and miguelg), for its atmospheric Old Quarter (& Mercado la Ribera), for its sophisticated and lively vibe in general.

We've chosen to spend our summer vacation each year in the Basque Country for the past decade and never tire of exploring its nooks and crannies, on both sides.

And we do Rioja wine and cultural touring each spring and fall, which you'll also find to be a treat-from the tiny, family run wineries (Merino), to the emblematic, highly traditional estates (López de Heredia) to the architecturally stunning new ones designed by Pritzker prize winners (Ysios).

The Basque lands and the Rioja are a great combo.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 05:03 PM
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I've been doing a great job today with my typos!

Chillida Leku
a beautiful, soothing, peaceful estate, the outdoor sculpture museum and farmhouse filled with the iron and stone works of Eduardo Chillida. On Sun. mornings you can listen to concerts of quartets playing under the giant sculptures. Makes a great outing.
www.eduardo-chillida.com

I think Rex visited it on his trip through the Basque Country.

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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 08:36 PM
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no worries: I couldn't do an initial post without missing words!!!

thank you for the reassurance on San Sebastian--I had planned for several days. I have some more reading/research and will be back...


What do you think of San Sebastian as a 5 day base? just looking for a place where we can rent an apt...
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 08:44 PM
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I adore San Sebastián (as do many of the veteran Spain posters here), so I could do 5 days there easily (with a day trip thrown in here and there), so for rentals look at

www.friendlyrentals.com

You can easily go to Bilbao from Donostia, as I have, by regular Pesa bus with plenty of daily departures.

There's regular bus service from Donostia to Hondarribia as well, which is right across the bay from Hendaye, France. Charming, highly picturesque place with some *killer* tapas bars (tapas called pintxos in the Basque Country) and gourmet restaurants.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 09:00 PM
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rex
 
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Yes, two thumbs way up for Chillida Leku, from me...
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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 09:43 AM
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Thank you for the san sebastian thumbs up, we have friends who have been and they thought it was the highlight of their trip, though they went in winter. The friendlyrentals.com link is perfect as I would much prefer to be an an apt than a hotel and would like to stay planted for a period of time--it's just much more relaxing. I was just getting paranoid about it being more seaside and resort-y than I/we are looking for.

I am seeing temperature averages of 65-70 F end of May, does that sound correct?

Also, the husband and I were talking yesterday, since the Madrid leg is direct, we were thinking of reversing the trip and starting in Bordeaux. We thought it would be easier to do the x-fer on the way in when we will have less stuff...


Any thoughts on this? good idea, bad, doesn't matter? Our goal is to spend the majority of out time in Spain, or at least in the Basque and Rioja areas, not that I mind a few days in the Dordogne....

Again, thank you for all your help everyone!
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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 10:03 AM
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Hi cherrybomb,
Just a quick question (but I think I already know the answer)-can you get the FF tickets Madrid/Bilbao? Probably not, right?

When we do your itinerary, we do it open jaw, Madrid/Bilbao, since we explore the French Basque Country from our base outside San Sebastán. Then we drive from there to Bilbao for a final night (or two).

If you can't, then I don't think it matters much whether it's Madrid/Bordeaux or vice versa. We go home at the end of the summer (5 weeks of travel) with suitcases filled with wines and olive oils, with our dirty clothes stuffed in a collapsable duffle. Since we pack the bottles very securely in containers for that purpose, we don't worry about the transfer.
Our Bilbao-Madrid, Madrid-Philadelphia tickets are on the same carrier, so we check our luggage all the way through, and it arrives just fine. (I've been reading the interesting wine in luggage thread).


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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 10:31 AM
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About the temps, that's about right, I think. You may have a rainy day or two though, since there's a reason it's called "Green Spain"...

But as far as weather and Spain goes, I've experienced enough surprises lately, so many variations to the historic weather pattern, that I've learned that all bets are off, and I just go with the flow.

San Sebastián is just the best!

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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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I wish I could get Bilbao tix and skip Madrid altogether, or at least skip Bordeaux, that is what I was hoping for and it isn't happening. I could call though and try that, I haven't booked anything yet.

I just hate the carrying more stuff and the checking luggage on a connection always freaks me out! That is the only reason for the straight through back.

I am going to call on the tix and see if we can go in via Bilbao and out via Madrid--that would seem to be a good option.

i am looking at apts, I am assuming the Centro area of San Sebastian would be best? We plan to walk and drink and eat and people-watch...

Thanks again for all your help--you are really helping us make this trip take some form and finally be real! I'm super excited!
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