French Basque Country Day Trips
Spending a week in San Sebastian in September. Have time to spend a couple of days devoted to driving in the french basque country. Would love recommended itineraries for towns we should visit as well as recommendations for places we should not miss for lunch - we love a country setting, and are food and wine lovers who go out of our way for good meals!
Have been reading about recommendations in St. Jean de Luz, Sare and Ciboure but would love to hear more thoughts as to the "not to be missed."
We enjoyed a visit to Pierre Oteiza in the Aldudes Valley near Urepel for charcuterie. He uses a breed of Basque pigs which he (apparently) saved from extinction and now has a healthy population. There is a walk you can take, about 2km, which takes you up into the hills to see how the pigs are raised at different stages. You can find a few of his stores in a handful of cities and villages in the region but a trip to the main farm is more interesting.
On the way you can also see the trout farm at the entrance to the Aldudes valley: http://www.truitedebanka.com/ by Michel Goyocachea. Excellent smoked and fresh terrines, pates etc. The fish swim down a stream constantly fed by natural waters where the are raised.
Both of these products with sampled at L'Auberge Basque, a small hotel with 20 rooms in St. Pee sur Nievelle with the excellent breakfast which included breads, corn cakes, gateau basque, the trout, ham, bacon, three different cooked ham/egg dishes, homeade compotes, homemade jams and yogurt. To get the full spread it's 28 euros but well worth it. We elected for a Discovery night which came with the degustation menu at dinner and breakfast the next day. While the meal was nice, we found it to be poor value at 85-90 euros per person in comparison with other options in the region. The breakfast, OTOH, is worth every penny.
Check out La Table des Freres Ibarboure in Bidart. Superb.
Be sure to visit Espelette, a charming village famous for "piment d'Espelette", the dried red pepper used extensively in the region.
You should post this on the France board to get more recommendations.
Agree with nearly all the recommendations, especially the Aldudes, one of the most beautiful spots in Europe.
I beg to differ re L'Auberge Basque. To be fair, we have had meals ranging from very good to excellent in that area, and found L'Auberge Basqu outstandingly so-so.
My fave restaurants there:
- Olhabidea, outside the village of Sare, Pigeon so juicy that juice was running down my chin. Admittedly not very glamorous, in the restuarant's stunning country-house setting en plus.
- Chez Mattin, in Ciboure, After all the creativity in San Sé and in Olhabidea, this example of excellent classic food is good contrast. Esp seafood but not only.
- Kaiku, in St Jean de Luz, Inventive classic. Again, in the kind of beautiful house in one of the oldest and most animated streets that one wonders whether it is touristy. It is not.
- Chez Margo, on Socoa beach, in Ciboure. Very good seafood. Try to specify a table on the terrasse when you reserve, with view on the Socoa fort and on the bay of St Jean de Luz.
And here is another recommendation for the Arcé. We dined there twice, once in the beautiful albeit somewhat stark interior room, and once on the terrace, under the plane trees with hanging lights dancing in a slight breeze, next to the gently flowing river. It was late September, and lovely. Our hotel room was equally fine, and similarly overlooking the river. We also enjoyed Kaiku. On a whim, we stopped by, but could not get into, Olhabidea -- we had no reservation there. But the proprietors nicely gave us a tour, and it looks invitingly special. -- Jake