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

Ira Visits Spain and the Basque Country - Hotels and Restos

Ira Visits Spain and the Basque Country - Hotels and Restos

Dec 1st, 2012, 09:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Ira Visits Spain and the Basque Country - Hotels and Restos

Hi all,

Unfortunately, whatever I caught coming back from Spain is still with me, although I am improving.

Here is a shortened version of my trip report.

Marina View B&B
(www.marinaviewbcn.com/ ): Highly recommended. The location is convenient. The facilites are very nice. Breakfast is more than good. Most of all, Paddy McAree is a consummate host, a reliable guide and a most accommodating and helpful concierge.

Gelonch (http://www.gelonch.es ) is done in a minimalist style (all white with bits of color here and there), which we later found to be not unusual, but was relaxing and pleasant. Service was amiable, without being over friendly, and professional. (I give extra points when the wine is poured with one hand behind the back.)

Menus are available at the website. A few items that we particularly enjoyed:

Shitake broth with spider crab ravioli and iberian ham D.O. Extremadura
Black turnip with veal marrow, egg yolk and black truffle
Beetroot gnocchi, veal sweetbreads, codfish tripe, padrón pepper cream and carrot - passion fruit drops

All three were very imaginative combinations of flavors and textures that we both felt we would be happy to have more of.

The wine chosen for us was a Jean Leon Penedes – Good body, full flavor with nice minerals.
With coffee and tip – and some little goodies - 200E.

Gilda (http://www.gildabybelgious.com/en_home.html ) is a pleasant, local restaurant with an interesting menu, a friendly staff, very nice service and good food. The grilled salmon with a “contorno” of horseradish ice cream was enticing. The hake was also quite tasty. We had a bottle of Clos Montblanc Xipella White which was dry, with good minerals, and lent a sensation of being at the seaside. 85E with tip.

However, what makes “Gilda by Belgious” outstanding is that they make the best Perfect Manhattan in Barcelona. (I taught them.)

For Tapas

O'Pescador, C/ de la Mercè 7. A clean, well-lighted place with blues and R&B on the pa. Cuttle fish (VVG) and prawns (VG), with wine for 2 - 29E

La Plata, C/ de la Mercè, 28. A small, popular place, but not very crowded that night. You can have sardines with white wine or with red wine, or you can have either red or white wine with your sardines.
I think that if you are a regular, you can get a "racione" of sausage and a "bota" of wine.

A 2/0z glass of house wine was 1E. The sardines are VVG, the wine is not unpleasant, the atmosphere is "acogedor". (My machine translator says that is Spanish for "gemutlich".) - 10E

Tasca El Corral, C/ de la Mercè, 17. Old style place, 50's Spanish music, 8 gentlemen of a certain age sitting at 2 tables, smoking, drinking and playing cards. The owner speaks no English, his son translates.

Hand carved Iberico ham, several types of Chorizo sausage, about 6 cheeses, tomato with olive oil, olives, bread - good beer. A shot of "pink panther milk" before we left. Very pleasant. 35E.

Xampanyet: Crowded and lively. Pintxos of white anchovy (this became my favorite), ham, breadsticks with lardo, 3 Estrella beers (very good) – 15E.

Roda de Isábena is a teensy hill town on the road to Santiago de Campostela. Its Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Roda d'Isàvena was consecrated in 1067, but dates to before 984. Roda msy be the smallest town in the world with a Cathedral.

I can highly recommend La Hospedería de Roda de Isábena (www.hospederia-rdi.com/ ), which is a very nice, well-kept, comfortable lodging, sharing the plaza with the Cathedral. Our good-sized, comfortable room on the first floor (US second), with French doors onto a little balcony overlooked the valley and the Isavena river. (The bare stone wall behind the twin beds was a nice touch.)

The hotel’s restaurant is in the old refectory. The 16E menu provided an appetizer of duck liver pate, “fish brochette” – 3 charcoal-grilled skewers of fish, shrimp and scallops with roe over rice – and flan for one of us. Roberta had the spinach salad with pine nuts and raisins, grilled breast of chicken and ice cream.

The food was good, the portions were generous, the service was pleasant and competent, the ambience was enjoyable. 7E for a bottle of Vinas del Vero Rosada. 3E for a liter of water. 2E for a bottle of beer.

After a breakfast fit for a bishop the following morning, we packed up and checked out of the hotel – 127 E for all that I have described.

Pau (Pronounced “Po” as in po boy sandwich)
At the very highly recommended Hotel Bristol (www.hotelbristol-pau.com ) we were met by M. Charles who took charge of our luggage and car, checked us in, deposited us in the room and made sure we were completely comfortable – all in a very pleasant, charming, manner.

We stayed in Rm 403, which has a small balcony equipped with table and chairs, a very nice view toward the mountains from both t he bedroom and the bath room, and was pleasantly furnished in “traditional” style, ie, it was not too modern for us. The bed was comfortable. The shutters kept out the morning sun. Wine with bread, cheese and fruit on the balcony was enjoyable.

Breakfast, downstairs, was the usual selection of meats cheese, breads, croissants, cereals, fruits, juices, yogurts, coffee and tea, all of which were fresh and tasty. There were trays available for bringing a breakfast up to the room if one wished to do so.

Items to note: The room was “cozy”, but the bathroom was large. One needs to speak some French or have a phrase book handy as M. Charles and Mme. Michelle’s English was only a bit better than my French.

A very, very nice stay.

Le Ferme aux Grives (http://www.michelguerard.com/#/Les-T...me-aux-Grives/ )
Is situated in the spa town of Eugenie les Bains, about 1 hr north of Pau. where, Michel Guerard, author of “Cuisine Minceur” and one of the founders of “Nouvelle Cuisine” has built a hotel/spa complex.

More casual than it’s big sister, the Les Prés d'Eugénie, The Farm is highly recommended as a destination for an outstanding lunch.

After an aperitif in the garden, accompanied by several amuse-bouche, we were escorted into the farmhouse. The décor is rustic, in the way that the Rockefeller home on Jekyll Island, GA is a cottage. The cooking is not inferior to that of the main restaurant.

Tomato soup with basil and a quenelle of mustard ice cream, roast suckling pig.
Lunch for two with aperitifs, wine, water, coffee, tip – 150E

Le Majestic
(See reviews at http://www.lafourchette.com/2_restau...Majestic/8712/ )
Highly recommended.
A very pleasant room giving the feel of being in a garden. Professional and discreet service. Creative presentation of very well-prepared, traditional menu.

Highlights of our dinner were:
Tartlet of fois gras for an amuse-bouche, fruit soup, filet of rabbit stuffed with fois gras and apricots in a strudel dough. Menus at 29 and 39E

At Le Berry, a popular brasserie a few blocks from the hotel, Roberta had onion soup and escargots, both of which she declared to be very good, while I had herring (very very good) followed by “ris de veau”, which was the best I have had in a very long time.

Wine was a dry white from the Jurançon AOC – soft and fruity on the front of the palate with a salt, sharp finish – very good with both the seafood and the meat. With coffee, 57E.

L’amateur de Thés (www.lamateurdethes.com/ )
A serendipitous conversation with another guest at the hotel led us to this tiny Japanese-style restaurant. In addition to the main dining room, there is a tiny tea house available for private parties. Choice of two set menus, assorted teas and wines. Very, very good. Moderate price.

San Sebastian (Donostia)
We stayed at the Zaragoza Plaza (www.hotelzaragozaplaza.com/en/ ), a 1* hotel facing a pleasant park about a 3 min walk from the beach. As far as we could tell, the hotel has all of the amenities of a 3*. The concierge couldn’t tell us why it wasn’t at least a 2*. We found it to be very pleasant, clean and well-run. The only caveats are: a) the rooms are a bit small and b) there is a disco around the corner, which could be a problem on weekends.

More to come.

ira is online now  
Dec 1st, 2012, 02:53 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,602
I'm interested to hear more, especially about the drive. We tend to do big cities and take day trips by train, as I am a terrible back seat driver and any trip we've taken that involved a car didn't end well.
opaldog is offline  
Dec 1st, 2012, 03:33 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 16,579
Ira; Will be watching with interest. I have already booked our hotel in San Sebastion for next September.

opaldog; It;s simple. We drive ever where in Europe. What I do with BSD is to make them the co-pilot in the front seat.

We all need help with directions, but not from the back seat.

Sit up front.
iris1745 is online now  
Dec 1st, 2012, 04:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,602
I do sit up front so I guess I'm a FSBSD, that's the problem with us. I think I'd be better off in the back with the chauffeur up front.
opaldog is offline  
Dec 1st, 2012, 04:46 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 497
Wonderful info Ira. Thanks.
SuQue is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2012, 09:53 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 219
Thank you for taking the time to report! I'm following with interest and so sorry to hear you're unwell.
Vonse is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2012, 10:29 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,496
I too am sorry to read that you're not feeling well. I was following your other Spain report; I know it takes a lot of energy to write a full description of a trip. Thank you so much for sharing your hotel and restaurant info in the interim.
Leely2 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2012, 07:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Hi all,

Thanks for the kind words.

San Sebastian Restaurants:

A Fuego y Negro (http://afuegonegro.com/lang_english/index.html ) is highly recommended. Although crowded at the bar, the dining area was much quieter. We each had the 9-item menu. Highlights: Pork terrine w/smoked paprika and ginger ice cream; Bocalao; with coffee and drinks – 88E.

Bodegon Alejandro (http://www.bodegonalejandro.com/en/home ) is a very pleasant room in the Old Town. We each had the 39E menu. The gazpacho amuse-bouche was very good. Risotto and hake were quite good and the lamb was excellent. The wine, a verdejo, took a while to blossom, but was very, very good. The desserts (all three of them) were delightful. 115E Highly recommended.

La Fabrica (http://www.restaurantelafabrica.com/es/ ) is highly recommended. We each had the 24E menu. Amuse-bouche of tomato soup with olive. Salads of shrimp w/avocado and sea urchin roe; white anchovies w/piemento and tuna. Hake; monkfish. Cheese platter. Cheesecake. Wine was a Monte Alina Verdejo Vivra 2011. 55E

Gandarias (http://www.restaurantegandarias.com/en/ ) We stopped here for a quick snack. 3 pintxos, I glass txakoli, 1 beer. All very good – under 10E. Recommended

La Cuchara de San Telmo (http://www.lacucharadesantelmo.com/l...rademadera.swf ) has very imaginative, well made pintxos. The art work on the walls is certainly different. The full menu was not available the afternoon we visited, but what they had - cod, beef cheeks, risotto - was very good and moderately priced.. Recommended.

Rojo y Negro (http://www.barrojoynegro.es/ ) Very good pintxos, beer and wine. Popular, but not overly noisy. Recommended

More to come.

ira is online now  
Dec 5th, 2012, 07:48 AM
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 3
Thank you Ira for the lovely suggestions!
I´ve been to San Sebastián as well. It´s a lovey town isn´t it?
I´m a vegetarian so I had quite some problems finding something without jamon or fish.. but it was still great!
J0an is offline  
Dec 6th, 2012, 12:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Hi J0an,

Yes, it is a great place to visit.

ira is online now  
Dec 6th, 2012, 12:59 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,278
I have stayed at the Hotel Zaragoza twice and don't understand the one star either.I always ask for a room in front and love to be able to sea a little bit of the ocean.The rooms are on the small side but immaculate.The A/C and internet work great.The breakfast is basic but good enough to get a start on the day!
Great location!
chapla is offline  
Dec 6th, 2012, 01:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
We left San Sebastian and headed for Bilbao via the really out-of-the-way town of Axpe and Asador Etxebarri.

The key experience of Etxebarri is, I think, how peaceful it is. Gentle breezes, quiet murmurs of animals and birds, calm and pleasant wait staff.

About 8 couples shared the outdoor terrace for lunch that afternoon and we all had the tasting menu of 12 items - 120E pp

Nothing on the menu was less than VVG, although not all was to our taste.

Yes, the smoked goat butter is exotic.
The prawns
From my notes: "This is what an oyster aspires to be. Thank you, oyster, for giving up your life".
The cod
The beef rib

The wine was an Ossian 2009. It started off, as my Lady Wife remarked, "like walking through a silk curtain", and kept getting better as it blossomed. A superb wine and only 39E.

Well worth a journey.

We stayed at the Sercotel Coliseo (http://en.hotelcoliseobilbao.com/ ). I can recommend the hotel for its location, staff, amenities and breakfast.

One enters the room at floor level, as one would expect. There is a nice-size bathroom to the left. There is a flight of stairs going down to the bed chamber. This works well for people who don't have luggage.

Very nice for younger folks, we think.

Zortziko (http://zortziko.es/ )
I had arranged online for Roberta to have the "Entre cepas" (65E) and for me to have the "Entre Contraste" (95E).

Both were "super good".

The lamb
The Turbot
Dessert (all of them).

Highly recommended

More to come.

ira is online now  
Dec 6th, 2012, 01:52 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,496
ira, this is making me very hungry. Thank you!
Leely2 is offline  
Dec 6th, 2012, 01:59 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 6,088
You always give such helpful details. We haven't been to Spain as yet, but after reading your report it may be on our agenda.
TPAYT is offline  
Dec 6th, 2012, 04:44 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,574
Ira, enjoying your report & your details. Are you a writer by profession? Hope you are feeling better.
Kwoo is offline  
Dec 6th, 2012, 05:29 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,189
Dreaming of those oysters!
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Dec 8th, 2012, 06:42 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Hi tpay,

>We haven't been to Spain as yet, but after reading your report it may be on our agenda.<

We were very pleasantly surprised with our visit. Don't put yours off , unless you haven't been to Paris yet,

ira is online now  
Dec 8th, 2012, 07:07 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Hi again.

Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.

La Tagliatella (http://www.latagliatella.es/eng/lata...bilbao-gardoki )
We stopped in on spec. It seemed nice, so we sat down and ordered: 1 salad and 1 linguine, 1 pizza and 1 focaccia. “Oh, no”, the waiter said, “That is too much”. So we got the salad and the linguini to share. It was enough for 4.

Very good Italian cooking. Moderate to inexpensive. Recommended.

Maison del Cid (http://www.hotelmesondelcid.com/ ) 117E per night with bkfst/pkng, Vat and Cathedral view. Very nice room, pleasant staff. Recommended.

We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant: I had the “Menu tipica” – tripe soup, black pudding, roast lamb, farmer’s cheese with honey. Roberta had the leek pancake (large puff pastry stuffed with leek), hake with potato in squid ink for Roberta, and the “variety of ice cream” for dessert.

When I asked what was available, I was told “only one”. So we took potluck. It turned out that the “only one” meant only “one varieties”. There were six scoops of different ice creams, each with its own condiment.

A bottle of Marques de Riscal 2010 was a pleasant accompaniment for the fish, yet assertive enough for the lamb. 97.50 E Recommended.

Did I mention that San Miguel beer is very good?

More to come.

ira is online now  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:17 AM.