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Itinerary set for my grand Basque adventure

Itinerary set for my grand Basque adventure

Jun 25th, 2016, 09:24 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 55
Itinerary set for my grand Basque adventure

Finally have my Sept trip locked down. A million thanks for all the fantastic advice so far. Feel free to point out "don't miss" spots in any of the places I have listed below (there are so many). My Toulouse, Bilbao and Bayonne to-do lists need fleshing out but I have plenty of time to add to my research. There's already way more then I will be able to see in Donostia in one day. Every direction from my spot in Bakio is tempting, but there are only two full days after I give one day over to Bilbao. Yes, I'm pretty focused on the coast (that's what I love more than anything) but will be trying to catch inland sites by varying my routes betwixt and between.
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Fri/Sat Sept 16 - 17 arrive TOULOUSE,
Rest and explore Toulouse Friday afternoon and all day Sat.

Sun Sept 18
morning in Toulouse, then pick up rental car at airport 2pm and drive to GRAMONT for Cookery School

Mon/Tue/Wed Sept 19-20-21
mornings and afternoons are cooking sessions, then evening meals and/or tasting outings.
After the evening meal on Wed drive to Les Trois Lys in CONDOM (40 minutes)

2) Ten days in BASQUELAND
Thurs Sept 22 arrive ST-JEAN-DE-LUZ, 3 nights
Easy morning in Condom, then drive to Maison Tamarin (2.5hr) . Spend the afternoon/evening in Bayonne (20min drive)

Fri Sept 23
All day in DONOSTIA (via HONDARRIBIA, leave car there?)

Sat Sept 24
Morning thru late lunch in BIARRITZ, then to St -Jean-de-Luz for afternoon and evening

Sun Sept 25 Depart St -Jean-de-Luz for 1 night in VITORIA-GASZEIZ
[Actual route will depend on weather/what I feel like that day] One option is to drive from Maison Tamarin to Baquedano in Navarra to day hike Nacedero de Urederra, then to Vitoria-Gasteiz by late afternoon leaving time to explore. Alternate is to skip the hike and drive straight to Monasterio de Suso (3hr) spend afternoon there, then drive to Vitoria-Gaszeiz (1.5 hr) leaving time to explore.

Mon Sept 26 Vitoria-Gaszeiz to BIZKAIA for 4 nights
Explore more of Vitoria-Gaszeiz in morning, likely drive up to Guardia, tour a winery, see what sites I can before driving to ADOS Basarte in BAKIO (2hrs). Walk out to Gastelugatxe if time that evening.

Tues Sept 27
drive to ZUMAIA (1.5hr) for a 10-1:30 flysch Geology walk/sail tour, then LEKEITIO for lunch and afternoon, GUERNIKA on the way back to ADOS

Wed Sept 28
Spend the morning in SOPELANA, then to GETXO, leave the car. Bus or walk toward the city, see the Vizcaya Bridge, spend all day in&around BILBAO, bus/tram back to car

Thurs Sept 29 Gipuzkoa coast
MUTRIKU / DEBA / ZARAUTZ / GETARIA. Which for dinner? How much can I do here in a day?

Fri Sept 30 depart Bizkaia
Be at Guggenheim @ 10am for Bacon show. Leave by 1pm. Try to save enough time to see Loyola on the way to lunch at Casa Julien in TOLOSA (1 hr20 from Gug). Then drive to LOURDES (2.5hr) for overnight

Sat Oct 1
From Lourdes drive to TOULOUSE (2hrs) check in. get from airport hotel into the city by 2pm for concert, explore Toulouse, possibly return car to airport

Sun Oct 2 Return the car (if I didn't do that yesterday) and spend the day in Toulouse.

Mon Oct 3 Last day. Savor the time in Toulouse. Get packed.

Tues Oct 4 To airport by 7:30am for long travel day. Land in Seattle 9:30pm
ilsabing is offline  
Jun 25th, 2016, 09:36 PM
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I would not pick up or drop the car at TLS airport. Pick up and drop at the train station.

Also, I wouldn't spend any time at the TLS airport hotel, book something in Toulouse and take a cab to the airport for your flight. The Crown Plaza is where I stayed and it is walking distance to the metro to go to the train station.

Loved Toulouse!
joannyc is offline  
Jun 25th, 2016, 10:19 PM
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Should be wonderful!

I think we already noted that many things in Toulouse and La Rioja will probably be closed on Mondays, so it might be to your advantage to think through your options in advance. (I hate when I find, on a Monday, that the places I visited on Sunday are the only ones that are open on Mondays. )

And I think I already mentioned that I loved the Fine Arts Museum in Bilbao -- a small, but IMO, very nice collection.

You enjoy both art and a bit of walking, right? If so, you might want to consider visiting the Painted Forest of Oma.

kja is offline  
Jun 25th, 2016, 11:55 PM
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Just some thoughts-

Fri. Sept 23
You don't need to leave the car in Hondarribia. There's bus service to Donostia but the direct bus doesn't run that often. You can park in an underground garage in Donostia. We use the garage at the Kursaal performing arts center, since everything is walkable from there.

Sun Sept 25
You'll need to spend time in Yuso (the monastery below) on the required guided tour, then you must take the shuttle bus up to a Suso (the tiny monastery above). If you have time, you might add Cañas, 11-1:30 and from 4-7.

Mon Sept 26
2 wineries inside Laguardia that will give you an insight into the fascinating warren of subterranean cellars that make up underground Laguardia (and with short visits)-
You should book ahead if possible

Carlos San Pedro Perez de Viñaspre
Open Mon 11:30-2 and 5-6:30

Bodegas El Fabulista
Open Mon 11:30-1 and 5:30-7

Casa Primicia is closed Monday.

There's also the Flintstones looking Bodegas Eguren Ugarte right on the highway just to the west of Laguardia that's open Mon.

Thurs. Sept 29
Since you're overnighting in Bakio on the western coast of the Urdaibai, it makes sense to have dinner closer to there.
Several great options, the first one being extremely easy to find:

Eneperi, just to the east of Bakio, with gorgeous views of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (our favorite)-closed on Mondays

Baserri Maitea, up in the hills of Forua, just north of Gernika, charming centuries old, Basque farmhouse, surrounded by a garden (friend had her wedding reception there)

Asador (Erretegia) Almiketxu, up in the hills in the Barrio de Almike, above the former whaling town of Bermeo; great grilled meats

Fri. Sept. 30
Agreed about the Museo de Bellas Artes in Bilbao; it's really an unsung, fine little museum and only a short walk away from the Guggenheim, but.... the museum is currently closed due to a strike: From the web site-


But with good luck, it will be reopened soon. There's a joint ticket with the Guggen, the Bono Artean (can't purchase online) that's a slight money saver.

Have fun!
Robert2016 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 12:57 AM
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You are in Donostia/San Sebastián during the film festival, but should be no problem finding parking in one of the 10 large underground parking houses in the center of town (15 parking houses including the cheaper ones a little out of the center). Easy to drive here, and signs to the parking houses with updates on available spaces all around. And San Sebastián is very walkable. https://www.donostia.eus/info/ciudad...8#mapa_camaras

About the film festival: http://www.sansebastianfestival.com/in/

Would very much recommend to have dinner in Getaria, this little fishing village is unique when it comes to fish and seafood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6B-TRoM7OY

Michelin star restaurant Elkano sets the standard for all the rest in small Getaria: http://www.elizabethonfood.com/conte...elin_star.html

Getaria is also home to some of the best txakoli wine houses: http://www.getariakotxakolina.com/pr...nment/?lang=en
kimhe is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 01:07 AM
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...and Txomin Etxaniz is the most famous txakoli house/ vineyards in Getaria: http://www.txominetxaniz.com/en/
kimhe is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 08:34 AM
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We will be in Donostia for about 5 days mid-September, so thanks for all the suggestions here. I also trust that you know that Donostia has been named European Capital of Culture for 2016 and that there are numerous special exhibits and events in connection with that (all detailed on the official city website). September is also the month for the international film festival and classical music festival.
StCirq is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 09:22 AM
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Robert2016, you have set my mind at ease for something that has been a source of concern for my day in Donostia. I’m happy to discover that bringing the car into town won’t be a terrible idea. I live in Seattle and parking for a full day in the city can truly be worth rethinking, both for cost and for frustration factor. Your restaurant recommendations near Bakia had me clapping my hands with delight. So curious about the work stoppage at Museo de Bellas Artes!

kja, if only there was a way to avoid that Sun/Mon issue without breaking the space time continuum . My first Sun is covered by the transition to the cookery school. The second does add limitations to the day trip to La Rioja but I have a fairly good list of things I *can* do that all sound pretty good. I considered staying in Logrono but the more I read about Vitoria-Gaszeiz the more convinced I am to dedicate some time to being there.

That said, I have been considering whether it might help to have shift the day trip to Mon/Tue by taking 4 nights near St-Jean-de-Luz and 3 nights down in Bakio (and doing the Gipuzkoa day down from north instead of up from south). It’s a bit of a toss up as far as I can tell.

kimhe, I much appreciate your endorsement of planning to dine in Getaria on my day in that area. It had caught my eye and my imagination and I think it would be a lovely cap to that day. I look forward to being torn between the options you provided.

stCirq, yes! I have been watching the website of the Capital of Culture with delight. So far I have not found a concert though I hope as time gets closer there will be more performance listings. I chose Friday for my day in Donostia to maximize for that.

Oh, and joannyc my car is all set with autoeurope but I appreciate your thoughts on train vs airport. For my entry into Toulouse I have a lovely hotel in town and there is a shuttle to the airport so I will likely stay with that plan. I did a train station pick up in Paris once and swore... well, really just swore a lot.
ilsabing is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 09:25 AM
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Not far from St.Jean de Luz,a short ride in the foothills of the Pyrenees, are the beautiful Basque villages such as Ascain, Sare, Ascain, Espelette. I highly recommend a ride to see them.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 10:01 AM
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Kasia Kaipe is the second most known restaurant in Getaria. http://www.kaia-kaipe.com/

But several fine options down in the small harbour: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaura...e_Country.html

And you get a good idea of the Getaria food scene from 7.40 mins in this excellent documentary (before that, Bakio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqdjeGqnVKc
kimhe is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 10:02 AM
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... Kaia Kaipe that is...
kimhe is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 11:07 AM
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About your Getaria day,
I recommended above that you have dinner closer to Bakio rather than in Getaria for practical reasons.
The Getaria restaurants won't open until 8:30 pm, and if you choose Michelin-starred Elkano or its sister Kaia-Kaipe (yes, they are the same family) or even the more rustic Asador Astillero at the pier, these will be leisurely dinners.
And the drive back to Bakio on the quickest route, taking the A8 then up to Bakio through Mungía, will take at least 1 hr. 15 min.

Better to have lunch in Getaria at one of the above. Elkano must be reserved far in advance. We've eaten at all 3, with Elkano being the most famous with its Michelin star, as well as at Iribar (same family as Asador Astillero).
But you won't want a big dinner afterwards. As you can see from the Munchies video, the turbot (Elkano's specialty) is huge.

I don't think you'll want to spend much time (if any) in Mutriku or Deba (they just aren't very attractive at all compared to Leikeito and Getaria).
Better to concentrate on Getaria with a visit to the Cristóbal Balenciaga costume museum and perhaps a tour of the Txomín Etxaniz bodega, then lunch.

We've sent folks to Txomín Etxaniz but they don't give tours every day.
But since your casa rural in Bakio, the ADOS, is also a txakolí vineyard (great txakolí produced by your two hostesses), you won't be missing anything if Txomín Etxaniz doesn't give a tour that day. We're actually sending friends to Ados in a few weeks.

We were in Donostia for the inauguration in Jan. of the European Capital of Culture, and it was a bit disorganized due to the recent change of government of city hall and hasn't been hugely publicized. We expected a bit more fanfare and more special events, especially music. But check the web site for events on your date under "Agenda". There are a couple of exhibits scheduled for 9/23.

I imagine your day in Bayonne will include a visit to the wonderful Basque Museum. It's one of the finest ethnographic museums in Europe. We usually spend about 2+ hours there. And nearby there's the lovely fine arts museum, the Musée Bonnat. (But it's currently closed for renovation). Both are across the river in Petit Bayonne, but there's easy and plentiful parking on the other side.



For something new in Bayonne riverside dining, we have reservations next week at La Table de Pottoka at 1 quai amiral Dubourdieu. It's a creation of the chef, Sébastien Gravé, of Restaurant Pottoka in the 7th in Paris, which is a favorite of ours.
He offers a €20 formule or €25 menu for weekday lunches. Michelin and Sudouest-Gourmand recommended. Closed Wed. and Sun.

As much as we love a txuleta lunch at Casa Julián in Tolosa, I wouldn't want to follow that with a 2.5 hour drive to Lourdes.
Casa Julián offers a very limited menu: the 1 kilo txuleta (rib steak) to be shared by two and side dishes (red peppers, asparagus, lettuce hearts) plus Iberian ham, and lunch there is very filling and soporific.
See the short menu here:

And just a plug for the very moving Peace Museum in Gernika--it will put the bombardment of the city in April, 1937 in perspective for you.

Don't know if you'll have time for the Painted Forest of Oma (a great hike) or the prehistoric caves of Santimamiñe, but if you can squeeze one in...
The visit to Santimamiñe is a virtual, 3D one, a wild ride, and really well done.
Robert2016 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 12:05 PM
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Robert2016, I was coming to the same conclusion about lunch in Getaria instead of dinner for the very fine points you make. It does seem a town where I could have a delightful lunch wandering into any of the many listed. And -- advice on Casa Julián also well taken. I'll enjoy my quick stop in Tolosa more, and the rest of that day, if I don't overdo it in that way, as delicious as all the descriptions have been.

However, I read your links on La Table de Pottoka and it's exactly the kind of thing for me. Lunch there on my Bayonne day would absolutely be worth planning my day around. Are reservations only by phone? I see that I can pre-purchase a tasting menu but can't find a way to reserve the table. When you are there would you be willing to set a reservation for "a friend" for lunch on Thurs Sept 22? I can get you my particulars if that would help. Or I can try to do this by phone from here and test out my limited French.

The Guerkina museum is on my "must-do" list, and Oma has been on my "try-to-do" list but I think it perhaps needs to move up based on your and kja's urging. Santimamiñe wasn't on my radar at all until now though I had read of some cave art in the region.

Also glad to hear your endorsement of Ados. I am really looking forward to staying there. Seems we like the same kind of place
ilsabing is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 03:28 PM
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I chose to skip Santimamiñe because even it's staff advised me that it really isn't possible to see original prehistoric art there anymore -- or at least, it wasn't when I went last year. It's the same parking lot as for the Painted Forest, though, so you can decide once there. If you go, plan on 3 hours for the Painted Forest -- an hour hike to reach it (and even I would call the hike an easy one!), an hour to explore it, and an hour to hike back.

I'd also like to second the recommendations for the excellent museums of Basque culture in both Bilbao and Donostia -- but I think you already know about them?
kja is offline  
Jun 26th, 2016, 05:21 PM
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Oh yes, kja, absolutely yes on the museums of Basque culture. Both Bilbao and Donostia. I'm doing all the reading I can now and will be fascinated to fill in even more.

I looked up the Santimamiñe on youtube to see that it truly is a Virtual Reality tour and thus likely not something I would carve out time for when I'm trying to fit in so many other things. But, fascinating.

It's very helpful to know how much time I should set aside for the painted forest. Sounds like a lovely thing to do after experiencing the Gernika Peace museum.

I've reconsidered the stop over in Lourdes. I knew I wanted to break up that long drive, but it as a destination was still fairly vague in my mind. Having looked deeper it's not the experience I want so I booked a very nice hotel in Saint Etienne De Baigorri as an indulgence to help this part of the trip really imprint before closing out in Toulouse.

And Robert2016, I did find the online reservations for La Table de Pottoka and they only go to mid July so as a pop-up it may not be around in Sept, or they don't book that far in advance. I will continue to check there over the next few weeks.
ilsabing is offline  
Jun 27th, 2016, 08:21 AM
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kja is right, of course, about Santimamiñe, since it's a virtual visit.
Because of deterioration (like Altamira), they don't allow visitors into the actual cave, just a peak at the entrance. The visit with 3 D glasses is an up and down, roller coaster ride through the "virtual" caves.

If you need a place for a bite to eat before or after the Bosque de Oma hike, the restaurant Lezika is right there at the parking lot for the caves and it's actually very well regarded by the locals. The owner of our casa rural sent us there.


I'm glad you decided not to stop over in Lourdes but instead have a night in St-Etienne-de-Baigorry. Is it the Arcé? Fantastic food. We're headed there soon ourselves. So peaceful, right by the river.

Speaking of St-Etienne-de-Baigorry, there is a great cave cooperative, La Cave d'Irouleguy, right in the village where one can sample Irouleguy wines from all the area wineries. You don't have to venture to the wineries themselves but instead can sample them all right there at the cooperative.
Robert2016 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2016, 04:55 PM
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That 3D visit to Santimamiñe that Robert has noted sounds intriguing! Part of my decision was because I had just visited a number of caves where I was able to see the actual, original, art -- I should have mentioned that.
kja is offline  
Jun 27th, 2016, 08:32 PM
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Yes, it is the Arcé! Of course you would know if it too. I booked a room with a view of the river and mountains. Thank you for the great tip for La Cave d'Irouleguy. I will make a point of checking into that for sure. Also good to hear your positive review of the Lezika. I had it marked as a possibility.

I have a friend who works for one of the hot-shot VR companies here in Seattle. She's arranging a demo for me this month. I want to tell them about this tour in Santimamiñe and they are interested in a first-hand report then I will be having a go. The youtube gives a pretty good impression of what the experience will be like.
ilsabing is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 12:02 PM
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We drove yesterday from Hondarribia to Donostia. We got on the A-8 west, then took exit 7, marked "Loiola centro" to enter Donostia.
Instead of heading left to Loiola, we followed the sign "Amara centro" to downtown, along the river and the cycling trail.
Just before reaching the Silken Amara Plaza hotel, you'll see signs to parking garages on your left. You might take one of those due to the Film Festival and streets around the Kursaal center possibly being blocked off.
I wouldn't try to park in the Kursaal garage because it is the venue for the festival, and the garage will probably be full.

As mentioned above, each parking garage has updates on the number of spaces available, but in our case, the Kursaal garage sign had no updates. We assumed it was full, so chose to leave the car in the city's cheapest garage, the Txofre, in the Gros neighborhood, not a far walk from the Kursaal (turns out that the Kursaal had plenty of spots when we arrived). We also live in Seattle and know about the $$$ of downtown parking!

The Txofre garage has updates at each level advising how many available spaces there are in each row. Can't miss a parking spot here.
The Txofre has the lowest rates, and it's not a far walk from the Parte Vieja or La Concha beach, and along the walk to the Kursaal you can view the large Henry Moore sculptures from the Caixa Forum collection and the Zurriola beach.

Today we spent the day in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry, looked at the Arcé, had lunch, purchased wine at the cave (after sampling a half-dozen), and made that fabulous drive on the D948 through the Les Aldudes valley almost down to the Navarra border.

We stopped at the Pierre Oteiza farm/gourmet shop in Les Aldudes to see his black pigs, the Kintoa, (cousins to the ones at the Caserío Urdapilleta on the Munchies video). Tastings galore in this gourmet shop.

This D948 drive has to be the most spectacular in the entire Pays Basque, just awe inspiring (we've done it now 3 times).

Since you're going to St-Etienne-de-Baigorry via Tolosa, you won't take it through Navarra, but instead go down from the A-63 at Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne to the 932/918 through Cambo-les-Bains then southwest on the D948. (1 hr. 30 min.)
But perhaps, you can just do a bit of it from the Hotel Arcé, maybe St-Etienne-de Baigorry south to Les Aldudes. The drive from Baigorri to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port past the Irouleguy vineyards on the D15 is also gorgeous.

St-Etienne-de-Baigorry's organ in the village church is one of the finest in the Basque Country. They do have an organ festival here but the last performance is on 9/10. Nonetheless, this lovely church (undergoing refurbishment of the facade) is worth a look. It's of typical Basque style with 3 tiers of oak galleries (men sat up in the galleries to be nearer to God; women sat in the pews below on ground level).


In St-Etienne-de Baigorry, there's a wonderful chocolate maker, Laia, just a one- minute walk from the Arcé, in case you didn't get your fill of chocolates in Bayona.

We highly recommend the Michelin green zoom map 144 for the Pyrénées Atlantiques, that you can buy at any presse or bookshop in Toulouse. It serves the entire Basque Country, both sides, and is extremely detailed. It's a godsend. Also the Michelin yellow 342 Hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées Atlantiques, which got us quickly from Toulouse to Espelette.

In Vitoria we enjoy the following for pintxos:
Sagartoki at Calle Prado 13 (chef Senén González has won the national tortilla de patatas competition)
PerretixCo at San Antonio 3 (one of the finalists of the Basque Country Pintxos Competition)
Bar Toloño at Cuesta de San Francisco 3, near Plaza de la Virgen Blanca (pintxos with truffles and foie)

About La Table de Pottoka in Bayonne, it's not a pop up, just the second restaurant of the chef of Pottoka in Paris. We'd love to make a reservation for you under your screen name, but they would ask for a contact number, I think.

Have a great adventure. These Basque Lands are wonderful.
Robert2016 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Wonderful surprise to return from my 4th of July to this great post. Thank you for taking time of your trip to post here!!

The drive on D948 sounds perfect and I will do all I can to find a way to experience it. I have the Michelin 573 spread out on my dining room table now but without a navigator it's going to be challenging. I will watch for the 144 in Toulouse after I arrive.

Both parking and Vitoria recommendations very much appreciated and saved.

And my fantastic hosts at La Maison Tamarin have secured me a lunch reservation at Pottoka so I am all set!

Counting down 70days for me ... hoping your current adventure continues to unfold terrifically!
ilsabing is offline  

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