An Armchair Traveler’s Brief Overview of the Basque Country.
The art of traveling slowly offers the opportunity to experience a different way of life, so whenever someone asks me about the Basque Country, the Pays Basque, I always say, If you want to experience one of Europe’s oldest cultures without ever having been a formal country, then explore the unique blend of ancient and modern, French and Spanish provinces on a French Country Adventures tour.
The Basque Country, Euskadi, straddles both France and Spain in the western Pyrenees Mountains, meeting at the Atlantic coast’s Bay of Biscay. The Basque Country has its own mythology, customs, way of life, and even Its own language, Euskara, though French, Spanish and English are spoken.
The French Basque Country will be our first destination. The heart of our stay will be the charming village of St. Jean de Luz, an active fishing village at the mouth of the Nivelle River. It is without a doubt one of the most attractive seaside resorts nestled against the doorstep of the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll also visit the villages of Espelette, Cambo-les-Bains, Ainhoa, Urrugne, St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, Bayonne, and Biarritz.
We’ll also visit the Spanish Basque Country’s three most popular towns, San Sebastian, Hondarrabia, and Bilbao. The first thing we’ll do after arriving in San Sebastian by train is to head into the parte vieja, the old part, to some of the best “pintxos” bars in the city. Pintxos (pronounced pinchos) are mouth-watering small plates typically eaten in bars, best washed down with a glass of local wine or cider. The showstopper will be a piece of pure heaven, a slice of the famous Burnt Basque Cheesecake, which I’ll have to reserve before it’s sold out.
We’ll take a small, 15 minute harbor ferry from France to Spain to explore Hondarrabia’s history, and indulge in its gastronomy, and tour Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, a must see for those wanting to encounter the transformative power of art.
I have been leading 10-day tours in this region for 8 years, typically 2 or 3 tours a season. This year I will be leading 3 very small groups: one private group of friends, and two regularly scheduled groups of 6 in June, and September. Of these there are only 2 places available on the September 20-29, 2023 tour, so if you’re interested after reading this post, or joining a waiting list for one of next year’s tours, please contact me directly.
| Sue Aran lives in the Gers department of southwest France. She is the owner of French Country Adventures, which provides private, personally-guided, small-group, slow travel tours into Gascony, the Pays Basque, Provence and beyond. She writes a monthly blog about her life in France and is a contributor to Bonjour Paris and France Today magazines.|
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France, England and other European countries.