Gastronomic Honeymoon thru SW France + N Spain
hello - getting married late August and heading to Spain and SW France for a 3 week honeymoon. We are flying in to Barcelona, but so far have no plans to spend time there. Looking for advice/tips/suggestions on how best to spend our 3 weeks. We will unwind from the wedding madness/jet lag for a few days in Begur, Costa Brava before heading North by car which we'll have the entire trip.
We want to fit in a cooking class or two, wine tour, and possibly meet with local cheese and olive oil makers for tours+ tastings. Have looked at a ton of tour companies, but most don't have exactly what we want to do and are 5-7 days in length. Costs are also prohibitive. We are now looking to create our own tour and hire knowledgeable people to provide classes/instruction in English.
Definite stops include San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Rioja region for wine. Everything else is up in the air: Bordeaux, Cahors, Toulouse area for Cassoulet, Gallicia, Asturias/Cantabria, and possibly back to Barcelona if it's really worth it. Can we do it all? What would you leave out or definitely include? We already have a long list of restaurants from previous post suggestions. But more than just eating out, we want to really be immersed in this amazing food and wine culture, stay in some of the beautiful old farm houses, and see some of the lesser known areas of Spain/France. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated!
I think your itinerary is far too ambitious. I would go a little slower and choose three areas to explore in depth rather than rushing around. You will get more insight, have a more relaxing time and get to know an area. Souphie's suggestion is good, base yourself in the Pay-Basque (Hegia) and then around Cahors/Carcassone for about a week.
Spend some time in Barcelona (it is a great city you need to stay there - fantastic food and lots to see), a few days in Begur (see if you can get a cancellation at El Bulli in Roses)and head up through France and then spend the last week in the North, San Sebastian, Bilbao etc. They are not far from Rioja which is good for a day or so. Gallicia is great but save it for another time.
Thank you Phil, Olivier and Souphie for your suggestions so far. Gallicia is not high on our list (though I hear the seafood is to die for), but San Sebastian is and it appears we are stupid for not spending time in Barcelona, so we will have to make that a higher priority. As for other areas mentioned in my original post - these would be more day trips or possibly pass thru for a night on our way to somewhere else for a few days. Wherever we end up, I really want to spend a minimum of 3 days so we are not constantly schlepping suitcases around! From your suggestions so far, it seems a trip all the way to Bordeaux is not necessary - rather France just on across the Spain border has plenty to offer. Thanks again - and keep the suggestions coming!
actually, we leave Thursday! just got married over the weekend and are now wrapping things up before we leave. Here is an updated itinerary. We have only made a few reservations, and have yet to figure out where all we want to stop and eat along the way. Any further/new suggestions would be greatly appreciated by all you Chow Hounders.
Day 1-4 - Costa Brava.
Day 5-6 Carcassonne. Day 7-11 Toulouse/Albi area.
Day 12-15 St Jean De Luz/Biarritz/Bayonne/Pau (hopefully)
Day 16-17 San Sebastian. Dinner at Mugaritz, lunch at Extebarri.
Day 18-20 Guggenheim in Bilbao on the way to La Rioja for 2 days of wine tasting.
Train to Barcelona for the last 3 days. It's going to be a whirlwind, but we can't wait!
If you're anywhere near Bidart, try to go to "Le Moulin de Bassilour". This a bakery, with its mill still running is kind of off the beaten tracks, but worth a detour IMO. They make delicious gâteaux basques and sablés.
All in all, a beautiful place, and good products.
I would plan one or two nights at Hegia, seems like a great honeymoon spot for food lovers. And at the same time that I book Hegia, even before, I would ask Arnaud Daguin, the Hegia guy, about everything you asked. He's one of the most knowledgeable persons I ever met when it comes to food and cooking, knows everyone in the region, is genuinely friendly, at least with his clients, and loves to share his country. He sent me, for instance, to the Oteiza farm to get some pork and duck goodies. See pics of all that there: http://picasaweb.google.fr/ZeJulot/Hegia#, and see his website there: http://picasaweb.google.fr/ZeJulot/He... That was also a lovely ride.
For the rest of your stay, it's probably smart to research B&B, both to keep the costs down and have indeed a real overview of local food culture(s).
Given your dates, it is probably smart to make reservations now.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help.