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Last minute to the Basque country – please help with some final questions

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Last minute to the Basque country – please help with some final questions

Old Jul 18th, 2006, 08:11 PM
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Last minute to the Basque country – please help with some final questions

Hi all,

Hubby and I had a trip planned to Santorini and sailing in Turkey, but then due to work travel/schedules, plus change in the sailing route, we have now decided at the last minute to go the San Sebastian/Basque country. I was at first bummed out but friends said it's a great move since they think it'll be too hot in Greece.

So now we have about 3 weeks to plan a SS/BC trip and would love your input. Here are what we have booked, and some questions:

- Flight from NYC to LON, then to Bilbao on 8/5.

- Villa Soro in SS first 4 nights
They only have standard rooms left, we can have a choice to be in the main building or the carriage house. If you have stayed in VS, which is better?

How much is taxi from Bilbao airport to SS? Villa Soro offered transfer for 130 euro, is that good?

- 8/9-13 at Villa de Abalos in La Rioja
We want to hit some wineries, and have dinner reservation at Echurran. Is 5 nights too long? Thinking about spending 3 of those nights in Santander instead for more beach time and day-tripping to Bilbao. Any hotel reco in Santander? We like small, "relaxed luxury" type hotels. What should we not miss seeing, doing or eating in Santander, Bilbao or in between?

- 8/14-19 5 nights back to Villa Soro
Semana Grande Festival, day trip to St Jean de Luc, Biarritz, some more sailing, hiking and fishing. Have dinner reservations at Arzak and Akelarre. Anything else we shouldn't miss? Any good sailing spot or company recommendation?

So total 15 days in the SS area. We want this trip to be relaxing, enjoy out-of-this-world cuisine, sail, hike and see some good art. Anything else the Basque pros here would recommend to the itinerary above? If 15 days is too long, should we fit in a few days of Madrid?

Thanks so much! FF
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 01:37 AM
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Taxi from Bilbao to SS: it seems money is not a problem for you, so 130€ may be fine. There are 100kms from Bilbao to SS, linked by a very good bus system (it takes an hour and costs 8€ per person).

Villa de Abalos, good place to visit all the wineries, you´ll love it. Echaurren, in Ezcaray, is an excellent restaurant. If you have a car or have hired a tour, 5 days is fine, although 3 days would be enough.

Arzak and Akelarre are two of the best restaurants in the world, a sure hit.

The Basque coast is full of small ports where you may be able to rent a sailing boat.

And the scenery is beautiful, full of green valleys and Basque farmhouses, hiking is a national sport over here.

You can check the Basque discussion at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum...16-Basque.html for more advice, or type San Sebastian or Basque at Fodor´s.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 10:00 AM
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Thanks Mike, have done searches here on Basque and SS but never thought to try tripadvisor's board. The link was very helpful thanks.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 11:32 AM
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I am Basque and live near Bilbao, some of the topics are mine, I hope you find them helpful. In doubt, don´t hesitate to ask.

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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 12:29 PM
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I agree it's a great move, and I think Greece and Turkey are terrific -- just not when it is boiling hot.

I flew into San Sebastian/Hondarribia on Iberia from Madrid, but I seem to recall being able to find prices for transfers from Bilbao on the Bilbao airport website when I was considering that instead. From Hondarribia, a taxi was about 30 euros.

I took the bus that runs between SS and Bilbao, and while it is a perfectly nice 70 minute trip, I'm not sure I would want to schlepp from the Bilbao airport to the Bilbao bus station, and then from the San Sebastian bus depot to my hotel -- especially after such a long transatlantic flight. I'd just bite the bullet on Villa Soro's offer.

I wouldn't plan an itinerary that included a lot of time in Bilbao. I found the Guggenheim of marginal interest (and I am a big fan of modern art museums and modern architecture) and I thought it was just a fancy tourist magnet in many ways.

I'd sooner visit Hondarribia -- and I'm assuming you'll be renting a car. I'd use it to explore into the Spanish Pyrenees and up and down the coast.

While I thought driving along the Cote Basque between Hendaye and St Jean de Luz was extremely beautiful, I found St Jean de Luz touristy and uninteresting after the glories of San Sebastian. I preferred the adjacent port town of Ciboure for pure charm, and good food.

As for Madrid, I love the city and think its museums are among the finest in Europe. But if it is hot in Greece, it will be very hot in Madrid. I'd stick to the adventure of exploring the Basque country and making forays into the Pyrenees.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 01:49 PM
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This is not exactly an answer that you ask directly - - but let me recommend Museo Eduardo Chillida, outside San Sebastian. Two thumbs way up!

Best wishes,

Rex
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 03:57 PM
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Yes, and there are Chillida's sculptures on the waterfront, which I found more impressive than the Guggenheim!
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 04:01 PM
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Thanks so much for the great suggestions, getting me really excited about this trip. I'm definitely looking for less busy/more relaxing locales, and wouldn't have thought of places like Ciboure on my own. Have now decided to definitely spend the whole 15 days in the area.

Mike, Wow you live there?! From what I'm readin/seeing in guidebooks, you're really lucky!

I've heard the Eduardo Chillida is even better than the Guggenheim. Is it true the collection is a yawn compared to the exterior? Was wondering about spending one night in Bilbao but if it's just a modern city then I'm not as interested.

Based on some of the suggestions, think we will rent a car. If we don't get one from the airport, is it easy to pick up/drop off a rental car in town in SS just for select days?
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 08:33 PM
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I´d definitely visit Bilbao, everybody that has come was genuinely surprised in a positive way. Apart from the museum (which is really ashtonishing), the city is worth seeing (there is an interesting Old Part and the Museum of Fine Arts if second to El Prado in Spain). The outskirts (Getxo, where I live) are on the beach and offer great views for a tourist (www.puente-colgante.com, declared by the UNESCO World Heritage, 15´ drive from Bilbao). The food in all of the Basque Country is spectacular, anywhere, and while San Sebastian is most known for it, Bilbao is second to none.

Take into account that, while Spanish is widely spoken, there is another language spoken, Basque, completely different from any other in the world.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 08:57 PM
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Mikelg, bless the internet! I just saw your post and thought, "Getxo...interesting". So grabbed my guidebook and googled some images online, looks really nice...think I will be stopping by Getxo!
About the Basque language...I'm trying to find a book with translation so we can read the street/stores signs and not embarrass ourselves in front of the locals when we're in your neck of the woods!
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 08:57 PM
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I rented a car from Hertz in San Sebastian/Donostia, whose offices are in a large shopping mall on a hill above the city. It was quite easy to rent the car, but I did have to take a taxi there -- about a 15 minute drive and it cost me 8 euros, I think.

Apart from Richard Serra's site specific work, I don't think there is much of a permanent collection at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I saw a survey exhibit of art from Russia that I had missed while it was in New York. Another temporary exhibit didn't interest me in the slightest. I'm actually a fan of Serra's work, but I didn't much care for it what felt like an airplane hanger setting.

Bilbao does have a historic quarter, but I didn't spend any time in it. It also has some of the most highly regarded restaurants in Spain -- but I just buzzed in to see the Guggy. I didn't mind Bilbao. I just think the museum is a stunt.

Sooner or later somebody on this thread is going to give you a link to "Maribel's Guides" or do a search to find them. They contain a real wealth of information.

In fact, you should do some Fodor searches for "Maribel" because I think she is on vacation, but she knows every inch of the area you are going to, and she has posted a lot of info on Fodor's that is golden.

None of this is to dispute or diminish what mike is saying to you. He's an invaluable resource too -- even if I can't quite get it out of him whether it constantly drizzles during winter in San Sebastian or just intermittently pours in between bouts of sunshine.

I didn't have much trouble language-wise, didn't that I don't speak any Basque -- although it did seem quite evident to me that the Basques preferred to talk either in French or English to non-Basque speakers, NOT Spanish.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 09:09 PM
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I love Richard Serra's work at the dia beacon in upstate NY. Thanks for all the tips, you and Mike are great sounding boards, will search for Maribel.

I'm curious about the Guggenheim, have never been a fan of genhry architecture (my husband's a huge fan) although I like his furniture. But there has been such mystique of Bilbao especially since the museum I'm looking forward to finally seeing it in person and possible launching into a debate with the hubby
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 09:09 PM
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You might find this useful:

http://france-for-visitors.com/pyren...e/ciboure.html

In Ciboure, I enjoyed eating at Chez Ciboure on the port's waterfront, but the food does not compare to what I found in Spain.

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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 03:55 AM
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About the weather in SS...lol...sorry I couldn´t be more specific, but it´s the plain truth: drizzling is disappearing (used to be very common) and we get very nice days on winter (as a matter of fact, everybody remembers here the unbelievable drought of ´89, with temperatures on the 90´s in December!!!). So expect not so much cold, bits of rain, sunny days with scattered clouds and heavy rain once in a while.

Hope it is clear
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 05:55 AM
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Thank you mike! I really appreciate that. My husband and I so love where you live that we are seriously thinking about spending a year there. We would be OK with days of heavy rain so long as the sun comes back in between, even if it is still cold. What we would find very hard is if, every day when you get up, it is grey with drizzle, drizzle, drizzle all day and all week for months. I need some bright sunshine every week, just to look at.
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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Well, I guess we do see the sun once in a while over here...I´ve just returned from the beach on a perfect lovely day (5th on a row), but then again, it´s summertime. I´ll see if I can do something about it, say, guarantee a sunny day out of 3, 4? in December? I´ll talk to the guys in charge...
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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Hi Mike, I expect to come into town soon and join others who are jeaolous of you

btw, I found out that there will be some sort of festival around the time we'll be in Ezcaray (august 9-11). But I can't find more details on what kind of festival it is. Mike do you know, would it be around the wineries or around "town"?
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 11:30 AM
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August is full of fiestas in most Spanish towns, that last usually a week. San Lorenzo is the patron saint of Ezcaray and the town will be celebrating for some days...you´ll love it!! Expect plenty of people in the street, noise and music until early morning, wine, food, all kind of shows, concerts...

Bilbao celebrates its fiestas from 19 to 27 August this year, the town is closed to traffic and everybody is out partying (in a very sane, safe and cheerful way). San Sebastian is just a week earlier.
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 11:32 AM
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I forgot, San Lorenzo is on August 10 (my birthday, by the way), that´s why the festivals take place that week. Other towns celebrate on the day of their respective patron saint.
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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Sounds fun, I'm so excited about this trip.

Happy birthday!!
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