FRIDAY, May 26TH
Our private coach picks us up for a full day in the bright green hills of the western Pyrenees, the picturesque Basque Country farms and the villages of Espelette, Ainhoa, Banka, Les Aldudes, and St Jean Pied de Port. This is the Pilgrim's route that people walk across the mountains and on to Western Spain along le chemin de Saint Jacques.
We'll visit some of the top food producers of the area: Truita de Banka for smoked trout, Pierre Oteiza's Basque Pig charcuterie, Arda Gasna farmstead sheep's milk cheese makers and Brana's Distillerie as well as the Iroulequy Vineyards. Picnic lunch on a mountain top and a wonderful dinner before returning to the coast.
SATURDAY, May 27TH
This morning we will have a private bus from our accommodation in St Jean de Luz to the 5 Star Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian. Welcome to San Sebastian and the Southern Basque Countries! Voted European Cultural Capital of the year, Donostia (San Sebastian's Basque name) is a beautiful small city wrapped around the shell shaped bay called La Concha. From our centrally located luxury hotel, you can explore on foot, by bike or taxi to all of the city's great shopping.
If food is the way to the heart, then the kitchen is the way to the soul. We will do it like the Basque. Our local guides from San Sebastian Food lead us on a morning tour of shopping the markets, which overflow with ripe, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and freshly caught fish. We will stop in on our favorite gourmet shops to taste and select the best San Sebastian has to offer. Then, with baskets full, enter the "holy grail," a private Basque Dining Society. Here we will share an aperitif with one of our Basque chefs, speak about the Basque food movement, before heading to a local restaurant to enjoy lunch.
Tonight we will enjoy a Pintxo tasting tour. Pintxos (Basque tapas) line every bar in San Sebastian's famed Old Town, but knowing where to find the best ones is an art. While it's hard to have a bad meal in town, knowing exactly where to go for the best, freshest, and most exciting pintxos takes local, insider knowledge. We dive straight into the culinary heart of the city for a night of eating and drinking unlike any you've ever experienced.
SUNDAY, May 28TH
Enjoy the quiet of a Sunday morning and a stroll along la Concha. We'll leave for a special lunch in Getaria, south along the coast and in the afternoon visit the Balenciaga Museum and one of the seaside vineyards that make Txacoli wine.
Our evening will be at the famous San Sabastian Food Kitchens with a Basque Cooking Class. The sea and the mountains surrounding the Basque capitals are rife with ancient traditions and the freshest of ingredients. In this culinary class journey, you will learn to prepare the famous Basque dishes from both the coastal fishing villages and the mountains. We will bring the history and traditions of Basque Country to life in this hands-on cooking class. Class ends with a delicious dinner and carefully chosen wine pairings.
MONDAY, May 29TH
A morning walking tour of San Sebastian's architectural highlights begins at our historic Maria Cristina Hotel and loops through the old town and ends back at the very contemporary Kursaal Center. Lunch along the way with Pintxos and Tapas.
You will have a bit of free time to shop and enjoy the town before we leave the next day.
Our evening will be filled with a Spanish Wine Tasting. In this tasting, the sommelier of SS Food fills your glasses with the eight most exciting wines on the Spanish scene today. He perfectly pairs this range of styles and types with several different local artisan products, from olive oil to baby peas and charcuterie. This relaxed yet informative tasting will satisfy the wine fan's thirst for extensive knowledge of contemporary Spanish winemaking as well as the novice interested in sampling some delicious drinks and well paired food, all without leaving San Sebastián. I enjoyed the depth of knowledge in this tasting last year.
TUESDAY, May 30TH
This will be the last full touring day and transfer to Bilbao We will depart and have a private driver taking us to Bilboa, through the mountains filled with picture perfect scenes. In Bilboa we will be treated to the Chillida Leku Museum for a private visit guided by Luis Chillida, the son of the artist. Our lunch will be a highlight at the famed three star Michelin Asador Etxebarri restaurant.
After a stellar and informative lunch we will arrive at our hotel the Gran Domine Hotel in Bilbao which overlooks the Guggenheim, the titanium-clad museum that is placed among green space, along the river. Our final evening will be "Cocktails with The Puppy" ( the famous live sculpture) - a farewell gathering on the roof top view terrace of the Gran Domine Hotel.
WEDNESDAY MAY 31st
Departure at your leisure before checkout. Those wishing to visit the Museu Guggenheim Bilbao will want to stay and make arrangements for Wednesday 31st May. The hotel will make visiting arrangements for guests.