Foodie heaven... The Basques are a fiercely independent bunch, with huge regional pride, a language that seems to consist entirely of 't's, 'k's and 'x's, and a desire to be distinct. This sentiment has had a wonderful side effect - Basque food is one of the ways they like to differentiate themselves from their Spanish cousins. 'No tapas here - only pintxos.' 'Sherry? Pah, Andalucian filth.' You get the message.

Competitive cooking

As with all things Basque, food is taken very seriously and the cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao are full of gastronomic societies and syndicates which are basically a good excuse for a bunch of male friends to get away from their stern matriarchal wives for a few hours. Boys being boys, there is an element of competition, naturally, and this has lead to huge culinary innovation in the region.

Try saying txikiteo after too much cider

The best place to sample the fruit of all this labour is in the charming seaside city of San Sebastian on a txikiteo or Basque tapas, sorry pintxos, crawl. The narrow streets of the old town are lined with pintxoserias, each specialising in croquettes, seafood, cheese or some such, and all best washed down with a glass of punchy Basque cider. Speaking of cheese, the influence of nearby France, and the Gallic branch of the Basque brotherhood, is noticeable in the delicious (and instant heart attack inducing) Roquefort in some of the tapas, sorry, pintxos recipes. And once you tire of finger food (it might take a while) and fancy the idea of using a knife and fork, San Sebastian has more Michelin starred chefs in residence than anywhere bar Manhattan and Tokyo.

Too little, too late

After all this gorging, we suggest walking in the rolling hills above the coastline, or trying your hand at surfing off Zurriola Beach, San Sebastian's cracking city beach, to help shed a few excess pounds.