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Pays Basque

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My wife and I are going to escape the in-laws in Bilbao for a few days. We're going to be in the French Basque Country around St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Ainhoa, Sare, and Irouleguy.

Any recommendations in and around that area? We'll be with our 20 month old son, so nothing too fancy. I'd actually prefer moderately priced places, but we're open to pretty much anything.

Any markets worth checking out?

Thanks, Chris.

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  1. This is a posting from earlier in the year - we were in Bidart October 2005.
    BIDART - now almost a suburb of Biarritz and close to the Spanish border. Lovely surf views are had at La Tantina de la Playa on the beach at Bidart. Food from the Basque region and inexpensive with mains costing 12-15 E. Top location if the sun shines and I would imagine very busy in the height of summer.
    LA TANTINA DE LA PLAYA, Plage du Centre, 64210 Bidart.
    05 59 26 53 56.

    1. Hi Chris,
      We just returned yesterdayfrom our annual stay in that neck-of-the-woods, spending two weeks exploring and dining from San Sebastián to Biarritz.

      Please don't miss the indoor markets at St.-Jean-de-Luz (outdoor produce stands arrive on Tues. and Fri. and you can buy provender for a great picnic) and the larger one in Biarritz. They're delightful and so atmospheric. We actually have taken breakfast in the Biarritz Les Halles several mornings at the stand "Chez ....." (name escapes me, but he makes fine coffee, tortilla española and jambon de Bayonne sandwiches). And across the street, you have my all time favorite tapas bar, "Bar Jean", where you can feast on tapas, raciones, plats du jour in a lively, convivial atmosphere for a low price. It's the "in" place in Biarritz. But they pack them in, so arrive early!

      Although you have plenty of authentic cider houses on the Spanish side in Gipuzkoa, if you want to try a Pays Basque version, there's the informal "Cidrerie Hernani" in Biarritz on Avenue Maréchal-Joffre 29-perfect for families, dining on long wooden communal tables. Pintxos and raciones served. Only open for dinner.

      For moderately priced dining with 20 month old in tow, I second the idea of an informal lunch at a beachside "shack" or guinguette.

      In addition to "La Tantina de Burgos", we also enjoyed the two in Guéthary (Getaria in Basque) the fishing village below Bidart. Both are found at Les Alycons beach. After passing the frontón court and the Gare, follow the signs down to Plages and Port. It's a narrow one lane road, straight down, and you'll need to wait for the traffic light which controls cars coming up and down. Once down at the jetty, there's parking. Choose between "Les Alcyons", where the plat du jour costs 11,50 euros, and the next door "Etxe Terra". There's another guinguette in Guéthary down on Cenitz Plage, the "Cenitz Ostatua" with moderate prices and casual, beachside atmosphere.
      All serve plats from 12-15 euros and specialize in grilled anchovies, sardines, tuna, dorade, etc. which will be grilled right before your eyes. Doesn't get fresher than this!