Starting to plan--Northern Spain

Apr 14th, 2008, 11:03 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Just back from a weekend at Hondarribia, stayed at, an underrated town for no reason at all. Every time I go there I find another new reason to love it...Basque mediaeval streets, dozens of cozy corners, a Parador in a fortress, great pintxos and great food, friendly atmosphere everywhere...and close to SS and the French Basque Country. A must.
mikelg is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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Hi mikel,
Sure glad you enjoyed your stay, and thanks for giving highly underrated Hondarribia a vote of confidence. We've rented a farmhouse for two weeks outside of town and love the area-this July we'll be back for another week again to hop into Donostia regularly and to tour the Pays Basque and Navarra Pyrenees.

Again, really glad you enjoyed your weekend in this charming town (with great pintxos to boot!)
Maribel is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 12:51 PM
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Julie: If you need any further inducement to add Cangas del Onis, try to catch the Public TV show with Jose Andres in which he discusses the cuisine of his native Asturias and pays a visit to Cangas..

ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 12:53 PM
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Here is a more direct link to the show:
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 01:13 PM
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A pity it´s rained so much...on the way back to Bilbao I have driven on secondary roads in order to revisit Orio, Zarautz, Zumaia, Deba and Elorrio. At Hondarribia we had lunch at Uralde Jatetxea, on the street behind San Pedro, very good for a very fair price (it reminded me of a French bistrot, cozy, no bar, not many tables and friendly owner).
mikelg is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 02:13 PM
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There's a cover story on José Andrés, "Nuestro hombre en América" in this month's Club de Gourmets magazine (in Spanish). The interview was conducted at one of his last stops, Bodegas Pesquera in the Ribera del Duero.

Any hardcore foodie who puts Cangas de Onís in Picos on his or her itinerary should also put the Sunday market and wonderful gourmet food store La Barata (Avenida Covadonga 15) on the shopping list.

La Barata sells a fantastic assortment of cheeses, patés, sausages, beans (fabes), kits for making fabada, honey, cider (including a bubbly), orujos and even Corias red wines.

Ditto to another gourmet emporium, La Viuda de Aquilino Sánchez.

A great place for a splurge meal-Casa Marcial in La Salgar, up in the hills above neighboring Arriondas. Chef owner, Nacho Manzano, a buddy of José Andrés. It's a family affair, his sisters take care of the dining room and wine cellar.

His 6 course classic menu goes for €40 which includes his delicious take on fabada plus croquettes, free range chicken with rice and of course, the classic dessert of rice pudding. 1 Michelin star.

Classy little place tucked away but well worth seeking out-just follow the signs-right hand turn from the main drag through Arriondas.
Maribel is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 12:42 PM
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I'm so glad you're all so well informed on Northern Spain. It's the one part of Spain I've never been to. If I can get some input on my itinerary I would be grateful. We will be there in the middle of October and have about 14 or 15 nights in Spain. We are flying into Madrid and picking up a car, driving to Salamanca, stopping in Avila for lunch. I figure 2NTS in Salamanca. Then we'll cross over the border to northern Portugal and there I'm thinking Oporto unless you have another suggestion, and spend a couple of nights there. From there continuing on to Santiago for 2NTS. After Santiago we want to go to Bilbao and San Sebastian but I'm thinking it would be nice to stop in Asturias or Cantabria for a few days enroute. I don't know anything about the area and need a specific suggestion as to which town we should go. When we leave this area should we base ourselves in Bilbao or San Sebastian? We also are big foodies but we want to make sure that we don't miss the Guggenheim. From there we want to end up in Barcelona for at least 3 or 4 NTS. At first I was thinking we should drive to Barcelona but with our time limits I'm thinking it will be better to fly and pick up another car when we get to Barcelona.

Please be honest with your opinions of this itinerary. I really need to be educated about this region.

Thanks everyone. I appreciate all advice!
pgoody is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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We are doing similar trip in May but in reverse and minus Barcelona. I suggest Viano do Castelo in Portugal rather than Oporto, and look at the Picos de Europa region in Asturias. Maribel may have other comments.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 01:45 PM
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I wouldn´t miss Oporto, it´s a great city to visit and full of beautiful, untouched places. The visit to the Porto wine cellars is a must, and also a Douro river cruise. They have a wonderful dish, lamprea, a fish that only eats other fishes´ blood, so tasty...It´s not crowded by tourists and still keeps its original, decading, full of personality flavor. I like it better than Lisbon.
mikelg is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 01:46 PM
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I echo bob's suggestion of Viana do Castelo, which you can actually do as a full day trip from Santiago, if you drive directly from Salamanca to Santiago. That will save you time.

My honest opinion:
Your itinerary is extremely ambitious for 14-15 nights if you drive. Northern Spain is just a huge area, something that first time visitors don't realize.

You really, really need to fly to Barcelona.

You don't need or ever want!! a car in Barcelona. Day trips can be taken by train or bus, but I would concentrate most of my time in the city itself.
Maribel is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 09:13 PM
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Maribel, thanks for your suggestions. I will definitely look into Viana do Costelo. But what about my other questions....which town to base ourselves in, in either Asturias or Cantabria....and do we base ourelves in Bilbao or San Sebastian?

Thanks...I need all the help I can get!
pgoody is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 09:26 PM
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Do you prefer the mountains or the coast?

For the mountains, Cangas de Onís in the Picos de Europa area of Asturias makes a great stop or for a seaside base, Santander on the coast (El Sardinero beach) in Cantabria.
Maribel is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 01:48 AM
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Living in Galicia, I would personally not worry about SdC. Whilst it is the place to visit in Galicia as far as one of the must do’s there are much better things to see and do in this area. If you like mountains, and it seems to me you do as you want to visit the Picos, then you should go to O Coural in Galicia. It is a true wilderness. It is not far away from where I live and is one of my favourite locations in Galicia. And as a pointer Lugo is my fav. city.
For the Pico then why stay in a town or a city? Look for casa rurals they are ‘our’ equivalent of B&Bs. One place to look is
Like others have said you could be trying to fit in too much, we live near the Portuguese border and like the region too, but on this occasion maybe you should miss out the country. Oporto is not so nice to drive around anyway, so you should leave your car outside and take a train into the centre.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 04:31 PM
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For all fellow San Sebastián/Donostia lovers:

This May's Travel & Leisure has a food-related article about this beguiling city, "Heaven and a Beach, Enjoying Traditional San Sebastián".
Maribel is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 06:21 PM
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Great article Maribel. Lucky me to be able to be able to taste the fresh fish in Geteria. Ten days in the San Sebastian area was not enough. Unforgetable. Thanks for your tips. Maybe I'll bump into you in Seattle this Summer. Txori?
johnthedorf is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 06:42 PM
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Hi john,
Thought you'd like that article...

Yep, Txori, and also The Harvest Vine. Same owner, Eurotoque Basque chef from San Sebastián, who trained with Arzak and has been a James Beard award multiple nominee. Great all Spanish/Basque wine list. Fantastic small plates. The "Ventreska a la Vainilla", pan seared tuna belly finished with vanilla bean infused olive oil, is to die for!
Maribel is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 11:31 PM
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I have to say that I was surprised to see that not many people mentioned Hondarribia. I can't say I have much experience with European travel but we stayed at the Parador de Hondarribia for four nights and found it wonderful. It was a quite respite from all the day trips we took from there and so much was easily within reach. Thanks to Maribel, I felt very comfortable with choosing this destination when planning our trip last summer. Without any other trips to contrast to, I felt we did very well where we ended up.

btw, there is wonderful tapas and seafood in Hondarribia. Can I say that one more time? Nah!

thereyet is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 04:04 AM
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Thanks for your photos johnthedorf - we have booked three days in the Hotel Niza in Donostia/San Sebastian in June as part of our tour of the Basque region so it was lovely to see a couple of photos.

The hotel would not guarantee us a room with a sea view but here's hoping!
ter2000 is offline  
Apr 18th, 2008, 01:25 PM
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ter2000: Try for room #61. Jone is probably who you are talking to. It has two separate beds (I wasn't married to the lady I was with!). Very clean room and a nice Hotel with very helpful girls at the desk. Niza is pronounced NeeTha! Those Z's and X's threw me the first day!! Tx is Chaa.
johnthedorf is offline  
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