San Sebastian - Bilbao, November
Please forgive me if I ramble on, but we’re planning 5 nights the Basque country in November, and I had hoped I might find some advice here.
First of all, I know November is not the best time of year to go. We’re prepared for rain and cold.
Secondly, we arrive on Sunday afternoon in San Se, and leave from Bilbao (airport) on Friday. Arrival is by train from Bordeaux, so where we start the trip is somewhat flexible.
So, on to the questions:
1) Many restos in San Se seem to be closed Sun/Mon and many on Tuesday. How hard should we twist around our plans so as to be there on different days? Will all the great pinxto bars and good restos be closed on those nights?
2) We booked at the Pension Bella-Artes, a modest place that’s #1 on TripAdvisor. We looked at Villa Soro, but decided that it might be a bit far from the old town if there were a lot of rain. Are we making a mistake?
3) It seems that Akelare is open on Tuesday for lunch, so we might try to book there for our one 3-star meal. Is that the place you’d pick? (Going there means staying a 3rd night in the San Se area which unfortunately limits the overall set of places we can visit. If there were a really top-notch resto closer to Bilbao, that might afford more options.)
4) We had thought that we might stay a night in Getaria, there is at least one nice small hotel there. We had hoped to eat at Elkano, but it is closed for vacation. Is Kaia-Kaipe (which is open) of similar quality? Or would you push further down the coast to find similar pretty accomodations and great local seafood?
5) We are torn between traveling south to Vitoria (with its Cathedral and museums) and west to the area closer to Guernika. How would you choose?
Thanks very much for any advice you can give!
1. Lots of options in SS so you won't starve on a Monday, doesn't Bllbao have the same problem, but with far fewer places to eat so it may be more tricky to be there early in the week? Search the board there is a recent post on eating on Monday.
2. Villa Soro is nice (I have stayed) and next to Arzak, it is also good for the new town tapas bars. However it is a longish walk to town but buses in SS are good and cheap once you work them out. I would suggest you it would be better to stay on the seafront if you can.
3. Lots of discussion on the board about the pros and cons of each three stars. SS is far better for food than Bilbao. Etxebarri nearer Bilbao is worth considering.
4 & 5. Pass
I first went in a very cold December and loved it, so November should be fine. It is a great area for fresh produce, some of which works really well in the winter.
I have never been to the area myself, but I'm going to La RIoja and then to San Seb in Novembe as well. If you're renting a car, you should check out this place Echaurren in Ezcaray. Looks amazing.
1) It is difficult, but if you plan on visiting 3-4 pintxo bars a day you can get a good view on the best on Sunday/Mon/Tues and maybe only miss one or two. IF you plan it right.
2) NO! I wouldn't get any farther away than Bellas Artes. You'll have enough of a walk from there. A short stay isn't worth learning the buses.
3) Akelare is nice and people are saying good things about it lately, but it's my third choice of Arzak and Mugaritz (top)! Do, as other replies suggested, check out Etxebarri.
4) Getaria's nice, but also very reachable by bus if you want to stay in San Sebastian. Restaurants recommended in nearby Zarautz by are Gure Txokoa, Otzarreta y Aiten Etxe.
5) Vitoria consistently gets non-rave reviews. I've only been once, and I may never return. However, the coast and Bizkaya in general is SO BEAUTIFUL. Lekeitio, the painted forest, etc, etc .So...
1. I agree with PhilD that November will be fine as well as no one starve in San Sebastian, therefore, keep your schedule as is.
2. The location for Pension Bella-Artes is about a 15 minutes walk to the Parte Vieja where many of the pintxos places are located. You don't want to be any farther. If it was me, I would prefer my pension/hotel to be a little closer to the old town and La Concha because that is where I will be spending most of my time, especially in the evening.
3. For one 3-star meal at lunch, Akelare is the best and safest choice; great view with better food than Martin Berasategui and more consistent than Arzak. I would consider Etxebarri, great as it is, only as an addition but not if I am looking for a 3 star experience.
4. Sorry that I can't help with Getaria other than that Elkano is excellent; haven't been to Kaia-Kaipe.