Monthly Archives: April 2010

11 Must-Sees in the Basque Country

  • Menéame0

The suggested routes below are, in my opinion, those places that you should visit when coming to this so much unknown country. Most are easily accessible on public transport and, except in high season, you shouldn´t worry too much about crowds.

1) DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (in the world?), views from Igeldo mountain, pintxos in the Old Town, Chillida-Leku open air museum (www.museochillidaleku.com), the picturesque fishing town of HONDARRIBIA.

2) ZARAUTZ, GETARIA (wonderful promenade almost touching the sea linking both towns), grilled fish at any of the restaurants in Getaria, ZUMAIA and its beautiful church, LEKEITIO, its port, its island and the incredible retable inside its church.

3) ARANTZAZU Sanctuary (www.arantzazu.org) and OÑATI and its University(www.oinati.org).

4) SAINT JEAN DE LUZ, BIARRITZ, BAYONNE-BAIONA, in the French Basque Country (also Petit Bayonne, on the other side of the river), great chocolates and gateau basque, apart from picturesque villages and perfect beaches for surfing.

5) BILBAO, Guggenheim Museum (this was obvious!), Old Town (Casco Viejo), Funicular train to Artxanda for spectacular views of the city.

6) The HANGING BRIDGE (Puente Colgante) of Portugalete, a Unesco World Heritage Monument, unique in the world, over 110 years old and running 24 hours a day.

7) VITORIA, Old Quarter (jewish) and a guided visit to the spectacular restoration of its Old Cathedral (Ken Follett based its novel World Without End on this cathedral, so they made him a statue!)

8) ATXONDO valley, where silence can be heard, spectacular place with the mountains and sheep in the background. And several wonderful restaurants .

9) URDAIBAI Biosphere Reserve and the beaches of Laga, Laida, the town of Busturia, Mundaka (surfers´ paradise), the sea estuary, the caves of Santimamiñe and the PAINTED FOREST OF OMA. Also the steep fishing town of Elantxobe.

10) The walled towns of LAGUARDIA and LABASTIDA and the wine region of Rioja Alavesa. Not to miss the guided visits to the wine cellars underneath the town.

11) The POZALAGUA caves, in the Karrantza valley, a spectacular combination of rare stalactites and stalagmites, now specially prepared for visits with kids,, http://www.karrantza.com/?seccion=cuevas3&idioma=es.

You will not find massive tourism or tourist traps at any of these places, and distances from one to the other are not that big, so plan your visit in advance and you will make the most of this absolutely beautiful corner of the world!!

Those Strange Eating Schedules

  • Menéame0

I know, I know…all of you are kind of shocked by those strange eating schedules when you come to visit us: we do have breakfast at standard hours, just like you, but lunch is rarely before 13:30 (01:30PM), and it´s quite complicated to find a restaurant open before 21:30 (09:30PM), except maybe in Donostia-San Sebastián, where they are more influenced by the French visitors. Kids have an extra meal right after school, between 17:00 to 18:00 (just a sandwich, a piece of fruit and/or a yoghourt). On weekends this schedule readapts to our way of life: breakfast, as everywhere else, is later. But then we have the “aperitivo”, which is around 13:00, and may consist of several glasses of wine or “zuritos” (small glasses of beer), together with some pintxos, friends and outside the bars, if the weather is nice. We then have lunch (yes!), around 15:00, which may last a couple of hours. And then, the siesta…(which is not as common as you may think). Dinner on a Saturday evening may not start before 22:00 (10:00 PM) and not finish before one in the morning…or later.pintxos And it´s very hard to get a table before 0930PM.

Another habit of ours is to have the “amaiketako” (meaning at eleven), that is, a small meal by 11AM or so, in order to keep going until lunch time. It used to be more popular in the past, when factory or rural labour had long working hours and work was much tougher than today.

But why do we have these odd (to you, that is) eating schedules? Well, the legend goes that at the beginning of the XX century, when blue-collar workers started to claim their rights and obtained better salaries and therefore social status, the “capitalists” changed their eating times so they would not share their meals with their workers. As a consequence, the workers wanted to follow their bosses attitudes and habits…so they also changed their schedules accordingly…….and everybody ended having their meals later than usual…

That´s why our working and school times divide our day into two long sections. And the main news on TV are at 3PM and 9PM, finishing almost at 10PM. So don´t be surprised if you feel like having dinner at around 6PM and find that people are still working and restaurants closed. Relax, have a glass of wine and a pintxo and blend in with the locals, it´s a wonderful experience!!.