Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

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 15th, 2009, 10:38 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi cherrybomb,
Yes, I would make that call and see if you can do an open jaw with Madrid and Bilbao. It would be much easier for you than Bordeaux, since you plan to concentrate on Rioja and the Basque Country, which you should in your two weeks. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

And if it's possible, then flying in to Bilbao and out of Madrid would be the best option for you. The only reason we do it in reverse- we travel that itinerary in June-July and prefer to avoid the intense late July heat in Madrid at the end. It's much more pleasant late July up north. But you'll be ending your trip in late May, so that's not a factor.
Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 10:44 AM
  #22  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I was looking and I can get in to Bilbao and out through Madrid on FF tix.

So I was thinking of doing a reverse and Starting in Bilbao for 2 nights
then overshooting San Sebastian to French basque area and tool around for 3 days, then to San Sebastian for 5 nights as a "rest' from driving/moving around, the to Logrono for 2 nights, and then to Madrid for 2 nights and leave.

Does this make sense?
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 10:45 AM
  #23  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
oh--we were posting at the same time!
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 10:53 AM
  #24  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi cherrybomb,
Our posts did cross! Your plan does make good sense.

Another question-how much wine touring do you want to do in the Rioja?
If you want to hit a number of wineries (bodegas), you might (?) want an extra day in Logroño, since it's impractical logistically to do more than 2 winery visits per day, especially since you'd be driving to most of them, to the west of the city, around Laguardia-Elciego-Briones-as far as Haro. And in Julie's thread (her trip report), you'll see that the Vivanco wine museum in Briones takes a couple of hours plus to see it all with audio guide. It's fantastic.
And it takes a while to find your way out of Logroño and on to the main winery road, Laguardia-Haro.

But if you want to hit just a few for the full visit, just keep the 2 days in Logroño.

I address the logistics issue in the "Winery do's and don't's in the Rioja file.
Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 11:07 AM
  #25  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Forgot-when you decide on a specific apartment or when you've come up with a choice of several, just give me the address(es), and I'll give you some description of the surroundings. Yes, Centro is best.
Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 11:29 AM
  #26  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks maribel--I already found several apts, I am so not getting any work done today!

I think we would want the extra day in Lograno, I'd like to at spend more than a day on the wineries, though don't need a whole tour--would be happy with tastings and buying. Where would you cut a day on what I have so far.

(I have not read your winery guide yet, I'll get there.)
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 12:16 PM
  #27  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You're doing your homework very diligently! (I'm a former teacher)

The HARD part is where to cut a night to add to Logroño. Ouch!
The first 2 days in Bilbao I wouldn't touch, and I think you'll want 2 days at the end in Madrid, particularly if you haven't visited it already-which leaves the cut to your stay in the Pays Basque (French side) or the apartment rental in San Sebastián, neither of which is "perfect". A dilemma I don't like!! Can you add an extra day to your trip (to make it "perfect&quot?

As a couple, we really don't reap any great savings in an apartment unless we rent for 5 days. So...I guess I would get an early start from Bilbao on your 3rd day, just as soon as the car rental office opens, zip up to the French side, stay 2 nights, then leave the French side after lunch and a last stroll around, zip back to San Sebastián and take the keys to your apartment in the late afternoon. Usually you can't take possession of an apartment until then anyway. Or arrive in the early evening before the "txikiteo" (pintxos hopping) time.
But in a perfect world, I would sure prefer having those 3 days in the Pays Basque to get up to Bayonne, soak up the scenery in Biarritz and zip around the 3 flower villages.

I haven't checked the parking options on the Friendly Rentals page, but that would be an issue for me-to find an apartment with on site garage or garage parking close by that's not excessively expensive. Or do you plan to turn in the car and rent one again for your trip down to Logroño and Madrid?

After going through the first part of the Rioja guide about winery visits, I think you'll know whether you want to add that extra day or not.

Now back to your planning!
Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 01:02 PM
  #28  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The husband says yes on the extra day, I only have so much vacation though and have 4 trips this year planned!

Parking on those rentals is at most 16euro a day, so we will keep the car.

Bayonne looks so pretty, but I was looking at planting down for the 3 days around Hondarribia for ease of moving around...that is just a thought though--it is close enough to drive over the french side. still looking though.

I want a balloon ride (don't ask), where would you suggest it being best, I am thinking in the basque interior rather than along the coast.

cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 02:40 PM
  #29  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
cherrybomb,
Now that's perfect! Thanks to your hubby.

I would certainly take that hot air balloon ride on the French side-much prettier landscapes because they're not tarnished by the industrial blight that surrounds Bilbao and San Sebastián. I think there are rides from Hendaye (coastal) or St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, deep inland (there may be others). Either would be nice. The coastal area from Ciboure up to Biarritz would be very scenic but so would the interior in Basse Navarre. Another dilemma.

About plopping down in Hondarribia before-

That's certainly a nice option but it does require driving back and forth across the border, which can be a bottle neck with the truck traffic, but we do it every summer. But you have to like a small town vibe.

There isn't any great lodging in Bayonne proper because it doesn't attract many tourists. It flies completely under the usual international tourist's radar. Completely unassuming, unpretentious but with arguably one of the best ethnographic museums in all of Europe, the Museum of Basque Culture.

Biarritz would be a much better French side option for a plop-
classy but casual-the new wave of international surfers has changed forever the city's former "staid and stuffy" image yet it's kept its slightly aristocratic "air"- it's sophisticated with fine dining, great indoor market, some night life (but a friend who lives there laments that it's not nearly as lively as San Sebastián, and there's no tapas/pintxos culture), high end shopping (lots of Basque linens, espadrilles, pottery-take a look at the web links for the tony shops-Jean Vier, Helena, Euskal Linge, Artiga), has attractive lodgings, some incredibly beautiful late 18th century architecture, manicured gardens, exquisite beach front, casino, pelota (jai alai) games.

Both Bayonne and Biarritz produce chocolates to die for.

We sometimes alternate-one summer, a Hondarribia plop, the next summer, a Biarritz one. Hard to choose. Our choice is made easier, though, due to the pull of our Hondarribia friends, and my French is dreadful!

Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 03:07 PM
  #30  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I know--I can't find any hotels in Bayonne! I'm leaning away from more of the ocean though, i.e. Barritz. I don't know, will figure out.


On another front, am I nuts to consider a stay here: Hotel Marqués de Riscal, it's awful expensive, but cool looking, and comes with the Riscal tour without having to separate book...

Thanks on the balloon, it's what I was thinking!
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 03:15 PM
  #31  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
oh an the Riscal property is Starwood so I'd get addditional FF miles. Way to justify I know.
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 04:40 PM
  #32  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
cherrybomb,
We've toured the Riscal hotel, seen the various categories of rooms (including the Gehry suite), dined at its restaurant, Paniego, taken the winery tour, and we've had friends who have stayed there.
Would I pay the extremely high tariffs that Riscal charges to get my Starwood points? No. Would I stay there for free using points, yes. But that's me, not you and your husband. You can see the Gehry structure up close and personal by taking the winery tour, having lunch/dinner at the restaurant or just buying wine and or having a snack in the new Visitors' Center/Tasting Pavilion.

I can understand your thinking in getting away from a double, back-to-back city-with-a-beach stay, Biarritz then San Sebastián. Hondarribia's beach is a kilometer away from the town, so life doesn't revolve around the beach at all. Hondarribia is a very authentic, pretty, prosperous seaside town (population is 14,000), with an extremely picturesque fishermen's quarter, la Marina, and equally atmospheric Old Quarter buttressed by medieval walls. A different style of pretty from its equivalent on the French side, St.-jean-de-Luz, (same population) which attracts far more tourists.

I've stayed in the Parador, have sent people to the Hotel Obispo in the Old Quarter, the contemporary Jaizkibel and to B&B type accommodations and we've rented a farmhouse in the countryside, 10 min. from town-been staying here for a decade. I think Friendly Rentals has an apt. here as well. If you like a laid back, totally "real" smaller town vibe, it's a great place, although its "sights" can be seen in half a day. For us it's more about relaxing and having a strategic location for day trips.

You can read more about the area here at Bidasoa Tourism:
http://tinyurl.com/7rq9nc

Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 05:33 PM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
and
www.hondarribiaturismo.org/index.php?L=2

Google Images has some nice photos of the town as well, especially of the colorful La Marina district, and nice pics of Bayonne split into 3 districts by the Rivers Adour and Nive. Now if only Bayonne had some distinctive, charming hotels or inns...

I'm so happy you can do an open jaw Bilbao-Madrid. That's a great fit for this journey.
Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 05:51 PM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,660
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
just want to say thanks for all the info -- i've been following this thread and have gotten lots of great info for my trip planning!!

dina4 is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 07:26 PM
  #35  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm actually looking at the Jaizkibel which it what appeals, there is a very nice property that is similar in St.-jean-de-Luz that I was looking at but no availability. Why are there no hotels in Bayonne??

It reminds me of a town that we drove throgh from Beaune to Avignon years ago but even cuter in the pictures! That one had no places to stay as well, oddly enough.

I see your point on the Riscal hotel, but feeling "special" and looking for a place to splurge, it seemed of interest--this is a vacay for our 10th anniversary, but also during my 35th b-day, so I can get carried away.

Am still looking and will keep bothering you with questions--you are why fodors is so great! Seriously, it's the "off the standard" Paris-London_Rome track where there is real info. I only found fodors while trying to plan for Portugal a couple years ago, and for some reason there is so little info.

Thanks again!!!
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2009, 09:39 AM
  #36  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi cherrybomb,
Which hotel appeals to you in St-Jean-de-Luz? Might it have been the Zazpi?
I'm really surprised that there wouldn't be availability in late May but it is quite small. It *might* be that it's just too early to book there?

I don't know exactly why there aren't any really distinctive places to stay in Bayonne. It's just a city not well known at all to tourists, who all flock to its richer, more cosmopolitan sister, Biarritz, which is only 10-15 min. away.
And Bayonne isn't surrounded by surfing beaches, has no casino and the fabled golf courses lie in and around Biarritz. My friends really enjoyed Bayonne when I introduced it to them, calling it totally genuine and authentically Basque. It doesn't pretty itself up for international tourism.

Bayonne is at its liveliest (and most photogenic) during their August fêtes, a replica of sorts of Pamplona's fiesta de San Fermín, when the city becomes a sea of red and white. Even then, this celebration draws few international tourists, hence the dearth of first class hotels.

If you do want a birthday/anniversary splurge, then Marqués de Riscal would be your place because it would put you in the middle of the vineyards with easier access to all the other wineries. And you could treat yourself to some wine therapy in the spa, (did you see Mario Batali and G. Paltrow's "Spain-On the Road Again" on PBS? ). And you get your own personal Nespresso machine. We did really enjoy our dinner at their gourmet restaurant a soaring space with enormous picture windows overlooking the town and vineyards. It's supervised by the Michelin starred chef Francis Paniego of Portal de Echaurren in the pretty mountain town of Ezcaray.

The little town of Elciego is quite sleepy, still quite untouched by all the Gehry fuss, but just minutes away from the medieval fortress town of Laguardia and mid-way between the Rioja capital, Logroño, and the town of Haro with its dozen wineries.

Have fun planning!

Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2009, 10:13 AM
  #37  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,851
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It was the Zazpi--you seem to have me down to a tee. No availability, might not be reserving yet, but I think I am pretty set on Hondarribia at this point, though that other hotel seems kinda far, I'm now looking at the Parador, where I qualify for the "youth rate" (HA!) or better, Hotel Río Bidasoa, because looking at the restaurant link is making me so want to die!

I have not watched Gwennie and the fat man in Spain, so I missed that, but all our other accommodations that I am looking at are so reasonable, I didn't seem to get much fight from the husband when I mentioned the Riscal--he loves Gehry's designs, so I think we will splash out on that!.

what do you think of Hotel Río Bidasoa?
cherrybomb is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2009, 12:28 PM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,244
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
cherrybomb,
Intersting...the Río Bidasoa must have done some major remodeling or upgrading to get that 4th star. We completely missed the Sugarri restaurant last year, and new restaurants in Hondarribia are usually way up front on my radar screen. I see it's the same chef and owner as the *killer* pintxos bar, Gran Sol, which is just amazing and every bite as good as the famed La cuchara de San Telmo in Donostia's Old Quarter. This new venue has gotten very good reviews on gourmet web sites.

Hmmm,
a couple of year's ago, I wouldn't have recommended that hotel, but it seems to have a fresh new look, and the location is great plus it sports that pool. Every thing that chef Bixente Muñoz touches just turns to gold. He regularly wins the top prize in the annual pintxos competition, and hes written a new cookbook, Mundo de sabores. So his new venue will be our first stop when we reach Hondarribia this summer. Now you've taught me something! Thanks!

Maribel is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2009, 06:43 PM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,115
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Le Grand Hotel *** is a Best Western in Bayonne. www.bw-legrandehotel.com. with a garage. That's in the Grand Bayonne section of town near the Pont Saint-Esprit bridge over the Adour river. Le Musee Bonnat is a short walk away as is the walled park (go through the stone archway). I visited Bayonne on a day trip from San Sebastian on a chocolate hunt!
johnthedorf is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2009, 06:46 PM
  #40  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,115
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
http://www.paries.fr/ Heehee! To die for!
johnthedorf is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -