- Gorge on cheeses with a local Basque farmer
- Visit some of the oldest markets in the Basque Country before cooking your finds with a local chef
- Sample some of the loveliest wines in Rioja
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Spend six days enjoying the best food and wine the Basque Country has to offer on this luxury road trip. Enjoy time in the gastronomic cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian and the beautiful Basque countryside before sampling the fine wines on offer in Rioja.
Bilbao, in Northern Spain, it just a two-hour flight away, or you can add this adventure onto a longer road trip from the UK to Europe. If you're flying, you'll pick up your hire car at the airport and head straight into town and find a spot for a long lunch. We will recommend our favourite restaurants in our detailed destination Dossier. After your first introduction to the wonders of Basque cooking (and with a slightly tighter waistband), spend the afternoon exploring the city, starting with the obvious highlight - Frank Gehry's spectacular ship-shaped Guggenheim Museum.
Later this afternoon, make your way to a traditional farmhouse just over an hour inland. Here, you will meet your expert cheese guide/shepherd who will take you through the cheese making process before you sample a few of the farm's cheeses in a tasting. Suitably cheese-sated you will make your way to your hotel in time for a late supper.
This morning you will make the 20-minute drive to Ordizia, where your expert guide will be waiting to help you get under the skin of one of the oldest markets in the Basque Country. As you wander among the stalls selling local, seasonal produce, your guide will explain how the people of the Basque region fiercely guard their regional dishes and the various institutions set up to protect them. After lunch at a local restaurant, you will make your way to San Sebastian - the jewel in the region's culinary crown. It's about a 40-minute drive, but we recommend taking the slower, scenic route using the detailed directions we will provide. Once you've arrived and left your bags at your hotel you will have the rest of the day and evening to explore a city often dubbed the foodie capital of Europe. San Sebastian has an excellent pre-dinner ritual, where locals drop in on a few favoured (tiny) bars for a glass of wine and a couple of pintxos - tapas-like morsels on cocktail sticks. When it's time to settle the bill, the barman simply tots up the cocktail sticks. As before, our detailed destination Dossier will be full of recommendations of where to eat.
French Basque Country
This morning you will head one hour across the French border to understand more about the collective Basque culinary tradition when you meet your expert guide in the town of Espelette, home of the eponymous pepper, which was given protected AOC (protected designation of origin) status in 2000. With your guide, you will visit a local farm where you will learn more about the pepper, how it is grown and how the locals prepare it. This afternoon, you will make your way back to San Sebastian but not before dropping in for a café au lait and an ice cream in some of the pretty towns en route. This evening it's time for another txikiteo or pintxos bar trawl.
This morning you will drive to Ondarro, an hour-and-a-half from San Sebastian. Ondarra is one of the many small towns along the Basque coast which relies on fishing, so after a wander around the market with your private local guide, you will visit the fish auction where restaurateurs compete for the best of the catch of the day.
Post-auction, and with your own catch of the day in hand, you will make your way to one of the Basque Country's highly secretive culinary societies for lunch with a private chef. Basque culinary societies are the driving force behind the preservation of the region's cuisine and traditions (and the general high quality), so make sure to pick your host's brains about all things food-related. After lunch, you will visit a local taxakoli (dry, slightly sparkling Basque wine) producer for a tasting before heading back to San Sebastian for the evening.
After breakfast this morning you will bid farewell to San Sebastian and make your way two hours inland to the neighbouring Rioja region. Once you've dropped your bags in your hotel room, you will be met by the hotel's sommelier for a lunchtime wine tasting. The afternoon is yours to explore the area, or sleep off your liquid lunch, before you head to a local bodega and cellar for your second wine tasting of the day. Here, you will learn about the colourful past of the cellar and its owners. Since wine tastings and driving don't go hand-in-hand we have arranged private transfers to get you to and from the bodega.
Depending on which flight we've booked for you, you will have some time to explore Rioja this morning before making your way back to Bilbao in good time for your two-hour flight back to the UK. Or, if you've still not had your fill of European excitement, we can add on a road trip through the south-west of France, visiting Bordeaux en route to the UK.
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