Planning our Fall holiday, we wanted to go to Spain, but not the "usual" places. This led us to the Basque region and Rioja Valley, where we spent a week over Thanksgiving. Although located within the borders of Spain, the Basque region bordering the Atlantic ocean is a completely unique culture, with its own language and heritage. Signs throughout the beautiful cities of Basque - in Getxo, Bilbao, Guernica, San Sebastian and others -- proclaim their desire for independence. On the other side of the intimidating mountain range separating Basque from the rest of Spain, the Rioja Valley unfolds across fertile plains. Wine region!
The best beaches in Basque Country are in San Sebastian and Hondarribia, on the northern tip of Spain.
Within a short driving distance from San Sebastian are small coastal port towns like Zumaia and Getaria, with beautiful beaches and fantastic seafood restaurants.
On our roadtrip to the southern part of Basque country, we took the scenic route through Gorbea Natural Park, where we sought the enchanted Otzarreta Forest with its mossy trees.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a small island that has served several purposes throughout the ages - monastery, fortress, and witch-hunting ground. The 240+ staircase to the top is a mini-pilgrimage, with crosses along the way to remind you to say a prayer or think of a loved one.
Guernica is also infamous for the 1937 bombing by the Nazi German Luftwaffe, acting to support Francisco Franco's efforts to overthrow the Basque government. The small city was almost entirely flattened and perhaps a thousand people were killed. Picasso memorialized this horrific attack in a painting.
Bilbao is home of the Guggenheim museum, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. The city is also renowned for its Michelin-star restaurants, but $150 for a "tasting" lunch (per person) was hard to rationalize...
Although located within the borders of Spain, the Basque region bordering the Atlantic ocean is a completely unique culture, with its own language and heritage. Getxo is a town located in the Biscay province of Basque on the outskirts of Bilbao and was once the residential neighborhood of the bourgeois industrialists of the early 19th century.
Spain has its own unique rhythm: lethargic in the morning, a burst of energy at lunch, a mass vanishing in the afternoon. It’s when the sun descends that Spain comes alive, fueled by hearty blends of Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha....