THE BASQUE COUNTRY, THE PYRENEES & A RIOJA WINE TOUR: Explore Regions of Spain & France
June 5-15, 2018
TUES, June 5 Travel/WED, June 6: Arrive Bilbao • Meals: D
Travel from your home city to Bilbao, Spain. Arrive in Bilbao on the the next day. Welcome to Spain’s Basque Country! Take time to check in to the hotel and relax or wander around the Guggenheim Museum and the streets of Bilbao. Our hotel will be very close to the museum. Later that day, meet your group of fellow travelers, tour guides and director during Tour Orientation in the hotel. You will learn more details about the trip at this meeting. Afterward, we will enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a Basque restaurant in Bilbao selected by our guides.
THUR, June 7: Guggenheim Museum; San Sebastian ‘Pintxo Hunt’ • Meals: B, D
Today, we will have a museum-guided tour of the Guggenheim Museum. We’ll spend the morning and early afternoon touring the Guggenheim and take in their special exhibits. The museum building, designed by Frank Gehry, is a work of art itself. Constructed from titanium and glass, it looks like an abstract sculpture. In the later afternoon, we’ll head to San Sebastian, a short drive from Bilbao. San Sebastian is one the the most beautiful coastal cities in Spain’s Basque region. Some have said, “It is impossible to lay eyes on San Sebastian and not fall madly in love with it.” San Sebastian is known for its exceptional gastronomy, beautiful beaches, chic boutiques and lively pintxo bars. We’ll check in to our hotel and spend the evening on an ‘pintxo hunt’. Our guides will show you some of the best pintxo bars in town. This is a truly a local, lively experience!
FRI, June 8: Cycle Tour of San Sebastian & • Meals: B, D
Today, we’ll experience San Sebastian by bicycle! This is one of the best ways to see this fascinating city. We’ll start at one of the most iconic buildings in the city: Town Hall. We’ll follow the bike path along La Concha Beach to Ondaretta Beach. We’ll ride to see the Basque modern art sculpture on the ocean – Comb of the Wind. Using a secret passageway to see neighborhoods of San Sebastian from the workers’ city to the aristocratic bell epoque architecture, we’ll follow the Urumea River past bourgeois palaces. We’ll see the port, another important area for appreciating the city. Finally, we’ll ride back to town along the old city walls finishing on the contemporary boulevard that separates Old Town from the new area of the city.
The afternoon will be free time to shop, unwind or relax at the hotel.
That evening, we will visit a Basque cider house and enjoy a traditional cider house meal.
SAT, June 9: Cooking Class at Mimo, a San Sebastian Culinary School • Meals: B, L
Today we will join Mimo Food, a San Sebastian Culinary School. At the culinary school, we will learn Basque cooking techniques and ingredients at the direction of our instructors. This will be a day of hands-on cooking. It will culminate in a delicious lunch paired with carefully chosen wines. We’ll gather around their rustic wooden table for the memorable meal we made. New knowledge about Basque gastronomy is assured. The later afternoon/evening is free to explore the city on your own or with new friends.
SUN, June 10: Two Basque Beach Towns in Southern France • Meals: B, D
Today we’ll travel across the border to France headed for the Pyrenees. Along the way, we’ll stop in two charming French beach towns: Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a quintessential Basque seaside town. It is a fishing port with a picturesque harbor, a lively promenade and a long sandy beach. We’ll walk along the beachside Promenade Jacques Thibaud dotted with cafes and shops. We’ll go into town to Les Halles, the local farmers market, to learn about local gifts from the sea, regional produce and artisan foods. Guests might like to wander the market stalls on their own and stop at a stall tor two to taste pintxos. This is one of the finest markets in the area.
Onward to Biarritz, an elegant seaside town that has been a popular resort since European royalty began visiting in the 1800’s. It is also a major surfing destination with beautiful sparkling beaches and great waves. This juxtaposition of chic/upscale with the more laid-back surf scene makes Biarritz a unique destination. We’ll walk along La Cote de Basques, a beautiful beach framed by cliffs. At one end of the beach is the Rock of the Virgin/Rocher de la Vierge. Legend has it that there was once a ship on its way to dock when a huge storm struck, making it impossible for the ship to navigate to port. Suddenly, a ray of light appeared showing the fishermen a safe way to shore. After the miracle, the fishermen erected a state of the virgin the on the rock as it stands today. We’ll walk to Rocher de la Vierge connected to the mainland via a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel. From the end of the rock, guests can enjoy some of the best views of Biarritz.
In the later day, we’ll make our way to Bidarray, a charming village in the French Pyrenees and enjoy dinner at our auberge.
MON, June 11: Day Hike & Gourmet Picnic In The French Pyrenees • Meals: B,L
We will enjoy the day hike (easy to moderate) taking in the panoramic view of pristine green-covered mountains. We’ll and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch prepared by our guides. Guests who choose not to hike can relax at the hotel or wander the scenic town of Bidarray. That evening is free but those that wish, can join others and visit Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port near Bidarray.
TUES, June 12: A Taste of Spain’s Rioja Region – Bodegas Muga Tour & Wine Tasting Class • Meals: B, L
We’ll drive from St Jean-Pied-de-Port and head to Spain’s Rioja region. The next few days will be spent experiencing and learning about Rioja by touring wineries/bodegas, learning how to taste wine, seeing winemaking in action, visiting the wine caves beneath a medieval town and experiencing local cuisine. Our first stop will be at Bodegas Muga in Haro for a tour of their beautiful grounds and winery followed by a Wine Tasting class. That evening we’ll stay in Logrono, the capital city of La Rioja. The evening is free to explore Logrono on your own or with new friends.
WED, June 13: A Taste of Spain’s Rioja Region – Laguardia & Two Architectural Gem Wineries • Meals: B, L
Today we’ll visit two outstanding wineries near the town of Laguardia well known for their unique architecture. Our first stop will be at Bodegas Ysios. Designed by Santiago Calatrava as a “temple dedicated to wine”, it features an aluminum wave for a roof with as exterior of cedar that blends into the mountainous backdrop. It is a must-see when in Rioja. We will enjoy the architecture and tastings at Ysios.
We’ll then take to the winding streets of Laguardia, one of the loveliest medieval towns in Rioja. Laguardia is a village that has not changed much since the 13th century. Perched on a hill overlooking the vineyards, Laguardia retains its historic walls including four entrance gates. Hundreds of years ago, tunnels were dug into hillsides under the city’s structures to keep inhabitants safe. Today these tunnels have been converted to wine caves/cellars. We’ll see the underground wine caves that maintain optimum temperature and humidity for the wine aging process. We’ll enjoy lunch in Laguardia.
Our last stop, and certainly not the least, is the Bodegas Marques de Riscal. No trip to Rioja is complete without seeing this architectural wonder designed by Frank Gehry. Get your cameras out!
THURS, June 14: A Taste of Spain’s Rioja Region – Bodega Vivanco Tasting & The Museum of Wine Culture • Meals: B, L
Vivanco Culture of Wine Museum is in Briones, a medieval town in La Rioja Alta region at the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria. We’ll tour the winery and taste at Bodega Vivanco. We’ll visit their Museum of Wine Culture to learn about the history, current state and the future of winemaking. Then we’ll enjoy a farewell lunch before heading back to Madrid.
The final stretch of our tour will take us to the Madrid airport. The tour ends at drop-off to your chosen airport hotel. The tour will be officially over once you are dropped off. You will be responsible for your hotel that night and its shuttle van to the airport the next morning (most of the airport hotels have complimentary shuttle vans). It’s a day of saying “Farewell to Spain” and time to rest up for the flight home tomorrow.
FRI, June 15: Travel Home
Today, you will travel home from Madrid based on your flight arrangements. Say goodbye to Spain & France, for now!