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Pays Basque, attention SPAIN afficianados:

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Pays Basque, attention SPAIN afficianados:

Old Mar 13th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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Pays Basque, attention SPAIN afficianados:

Hi all,
My husband and I are planning a 8-9 day trip through French and Spanish basque country. We appreciate natural beauty, all things that are old and rustic, and food and wine. We would greatly appreciate any suggestions and advice! I am 27 and he is 40.

We will rent a car in Bordeaux and drive south....here are some ideas.

Drive from Bordeaux to Saint pee sur nivelle. Visit Sare and/or Ascain whilst there. Is it possible to visit these towns in one day? Where of the three should we sleep? Keep in mind we are interested in places where we can eat and drink at nite-

Next day- Drive to Ainhoa and visit. Sleep in St. Pied du port. Maybe visit Saint palais? Where should we sleep?

Next- Drive to Hondarribia. Sleep in San sebastian.

Next- Drive to Bilbao and spend the nite.

Next- day trip from Bilbao to Bermeo. Spend the nite again in Bilbao

Should we edit our trip to incorporate Bayonne? Laguardia? Briones? Santillane del Mar? Barcene Mayor?

Our plan is to return our car in Bilbao and fly back to the city we flew into from the US (London)

Thank you
laneharlan is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2014, 03:13 PM
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Sleep in San sebastian.>

Basques prefer it to be called Donostia and not the Spanish colonizers San Sebastian - you will note road signs in Donostia where the San Sebastian part has been blacked out!
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 03:25 PM
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Oh that's good to know! Thank you. Also, I was leaning towards sleeping in San sebastian so thats a nice confirmation
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 04:51 PM
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Please go to Biarritz and walk through "Rue du Port Vieux" and sit in a restaurant to eat "Mouletes avec frites" mmmmmmmm great experience!
Good luck!
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 04:59 PM
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Thank you Krisjan- it's a possibility!

EDIT: two nites in san sebastian or bilbao? researching is leading me to san sebastian...

Also- maybe instead of santillana we could go from bilbao to oviedo. I went to oviedo when I was a teenager- found memories. Any other places near there?
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 06:02 PM
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I wouldn't add any more destinations. You've already got alot of overnight stops. I'd spend at least 3-4 days in San Sebastian and use as a base for exploring and 2 days in Bilbao. There's so much to see the Basque Country I'd save Cantabria and Asturius for another trip - especially since you want to visit both the Spanish and French sides and only have 8-9 days. I'd use base cities versus so many overnight stops. The area is somewhat compact so you could divide up.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 06:26 PM
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About 18 months ago we spent 2 nights in St-Pée-sur-Nivelle, staying at the Auberge Basque. The towns in the area are so close that we were able to visit virtually all of them in the 2 days, Ainhoa, Ascain, Sare, St-Jean Pied du Port, Espelette and return to St-Pée for dinner and the night. The Auberge Basque, by the way, is rather upscale, not in the least rustic, nor is the cuisine. It was a birthday celebration for us.

We also drove to St-Jean de Luz during that stay, wandered a bit, had dinner and drove back to the Auberge. All these places were within less than 1 hour driving distance. Biarritz is also nearby and was where we flew into. Lunched there, did some minor sightseeing, then on to St-Pée.

Leaving the French side, we drove to San Sebastian/Donostia and stayed 1 night at the Hotel de Londres, right on the seafront and worth the cost for the view from the room. I wish we'd stayed a bit longer for the the chance to sample more wonderful pinxos.

The next day to Bilbao (1.5 hours+/-) for the museum and from there to the lovely little hotel Iriarte Jauregia in the mountains south of San Sebastian. A long winding rather scary mountain drive from Bilbao, but if you return to San Sebastian first and take the highway south it's only about 25 minutes drive.

The Pays Basque/Pais Vasco is not very big and it's easy and preferable to my mind to park yourself somewhere for a few days and make daytrips rather than moving every night.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 07:19 PM
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San Sebastian/Donostia has the best food in Spain and with its Belle Epoque architecture and beaches deserves more time.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 07:52 PM
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Thanks Cathy and Shellio. I feel that Instead of staying in small french towns we could use SS Donostia as a base.

Then onto Bilbao- although I am still leaning towards a day in Ovideo since I have such fond memories
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 11:50 PM
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Have you read Maribel's Guides to the Pays Basque and País Vasco?
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 03:03 AM
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Bilbao is a much unknown destination, apart from the Guggenheim museum, and a surprisingly beautiful city for visitors. Worth a stay of at least a couple of days to visit the city and the surroundings.
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 07:23 AM
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Hi, I got your request on another post and will comb my information from our trips in that area and get back to you tomorrow after a big day of cooking for my cooking club today. Off the top of my head, I have to agree with folks who say that for 8 or 9 days you probably want to just settle in to Basque country and do Asturia and Cantabria as a second trip sometime--but for sure do it, it's fantastic country. Also agree that you can do a lot of day travel in the area saving yourself multiple one night stands. More to follow.
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 11:14 AM
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Do you have a big penalty for dropping your car in another country? If so, when you get done touring, drive back to St. Pied de Port and drop your car there and then bus/train back to Bilbao.
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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We used Maribel's Guides to Pais Vasco and Pays Basque extensively on our trip and found them much more useful than other fuides. Print them off of her website.
Also I highly recommend that you read Mark Kurlansky's, "Basque History of the World" before you leave on your trip to have an understanding of fne Basque culutre and history. Very readable.
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 11:41 AM
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<Basques prefer it to be called Donostia and not the Spanish colonizers San Sebastian>

Following this logic, you can say that most of what today is Spain has been colonized by the Spanish colonizers. Strong local cultural identity in the region, that's true, but the cultural identity of the Basques is historically also very much linked to being a part of Spain since the early 16th century (as a part of the process when Spain became the Spain we know today).

Donostia is simply Basque for San Sebastián, not in any way a different Basque name. The dona/dono/doni element in Basque place-names signifies "saint" and is derived from Latin domine. The second part of Donostia is a shortened form of Sebastián.

Basque nationalism and the use of Basque versions of the city names is very much a product of the late 19th century, as so many other European nationalisms, and it was of course boosted after decades of repression under Franco.

And it's by no means so easy as "they prefer" Donostia over San Sebastián. For most of the post-Franco period the majority of people in the Basque country have been perfectly happy voting for pro-Spanish parties (PP/PSOE), and I've never heard any of my Basque friends have anything against San Sebastián, although they might frequently use Donostia as well (and they all call themself Donostiarras). There are nevertheless some true militants on this issue who do a lot of painting on road signs etc.

Anyhow, a fabulous city. Recently voted #5 destination in the world by Condé Nast Traveler and European capital of culture 2016: http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 02:22 PM
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Thanks for the history Kimhe, very important to know.

Happytrvlr, thanks for the reading tip- I will absolutely check it out.

Julie- looking forward to hearing about your trip details

I will read Maribel's guide. Many people recommend her travel writing!

Larrya- I will have to return the car and pay the fee for another country since I will be starting in Bordeaux...I only have 8-9 days and have to fly straight back to London from whatever city in Spain I end in...probably bilbao
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 02:52 PM
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I do not know whether to spend the first nite in Bayonne and do day trips or to visit Bayonne then head straight to Ainhoa, sare...potentially sleep in one of the small villages?

Is there much to see and do in Bayonne even at nite?
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 03:12 PM
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Here is how I've edited my trip after reading much of Maribel's guides and your input on this message board:

Drive Bordeaux to Bayonne- hotel in Bayonne.
visit Ascain, Sare, St. pee sur nivelle, and Ainhoa. Sleep in Bayonne.

Next day- Espelette, Itxassou, St. Jean pied de port and st. Etienne de Baigorry- sleep in St. Jean pied de port?

Next day- Hondarribia. San sebastian. Sleep in San Sebastian

Next day- day trip from San Sebastian. Possibly a winery? Sleep in SS again...

Next day- Bilbao. Stay for two nites- day trips to Bermeo and possibly Laguardia for wine...

Looking better?
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 03:25 PM
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You should add 2-3 days in San Sebastian IMHO. There's no way you will be bored and you currently don't have any time in San Sebastian. You're arriving one day and then the next day want to do a daytrip. I'd skip daytrips from Bilbao and instead explore coastal cities on the drive between San Sebastian and Bilbao arriving in the evening in Bilbao. Then you'd have one full day in Bilbao if you spend 2 nights. I wouldn't try to do many more overnight spots in 8-9 nights.
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Old Mar 14th, 2014, 04:56 PM
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There is a terrific parador in Hondarribia.

http://www.parador.es/es/paradores/p...de-hondarribia
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