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well researched Basque food trip in June--help fine tuning?

Thanks to all those who have provided me with invaluable information as I plan my trip, which begins in Madrid on June 6. Below if my itinerary. Is there anything I ought to change?

Sunday, June 8
Drive to San Sebastian
Lunch: Akelarre
Dinner: pintxos (La Cepa, Cuchara de San Telmo, etc)
Hotel: Maria Cristina

Monday, June 9
Lunch: Elkano
Drive to France:
visit Hondarribia, Zigarramurdi, Espelette, Ainhoa, Aldudes, Sare?
Hotel: dine and stay at Hotel Arcé (or Freres Ibarboures or Ithurria?)

Tuesday, June 10
farmers' market in St. Jean de Luz
Lunch: lunch at Totta or or Chez Mattin or Kaiku (or somewhere else?)
visit Espelette, Ainhoa, Aldudes, Sare?
Return to Spain:
Dinner: Mugaritz
Hotel: Hotel Londres or Villa Soro

Wednesday June 11
Drive from San Sebastian to Extebarri
Lunch: Etxebarri
Dinner: ???
Hotel: Iturregi versus Castillo de Arteaga versus Mendi Goika versus return to San Sebastian versus Bilbao

Thursday, June 12
Lunch: Azurmendi
Drive to Bilbao
Dinner: pintxos? Zortziko? Extanobe?
Hotel: Carlton

Friday, June 13
fly out of Bilbao for Copenhagen (last hurrah dinner at Noma!)

Other restaurants I wonder if I should consider:
Zuberoa
Kokotxa
Casa Julian

I wonder where we should spend the night following our lunch at Etxebarri--whether we should return to San Sebastian for a light dinner, stay at Iturregi and go to Elkano (instead of for lunch Monday), stay at Castillo de Arteaga and eat there or somewhere nearby, or simply stay and dine at Mendi Goikoa. (Or maybe there's something I'm not thinking of.) Any ideas about the above--things to add, change, or omit--would be much appreciated.

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  1. We really enjoyed Bodegon Alejandro in San Seb. Good compromise between tapas places and expensive Michelin restaurants. It is run by the same family that runs one of the Michelin restaurants in SS whose name escapes me this morning after our Milan-London-Los Angeles flights yesterday. Jet lag...

    3 Replies
    1. re: macdog

      Are reservations necessary for Bodegon Alejandro?

      1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

        I reserved by email. Just google them and you can find email.

        1. re: macdog

          Thanks, I'll do that. Where else did you go in SS?

    2. >> Tuesday, June 10
      >> Hotel: Hotel Londres or Villa Soro

      We really liked Londres ... a few extra bucks for a beach-front room with a beautiful view, but we were there mid-May so it was pretty inexpensive. Can't compare to Villa Soro but Londres was good.

      >> Wednesday June 11
      >> Hotel: Iturregi versus Castillo de Arteaga versus Mendi Goika versus return to San Sebastian versus Bilbao

      Since you are going to Bilbao and to Azurmendi the next day it makes some sense not to backtrack, so I would probably go to Bilbao, which we like. Not as much as SS but we still like it there.

      For the June 12 dinner, we love Etxanobe (been twice) but you'll probably be pretty full after Azurmendi so maybe La Vina del Ensanche (near your hotel) for tapas. It's rated # 1 on TA for Bilbao. You can also just order a few things at Etxanobe ... the anchovy/lasagna in tomato cream, the cigalas and one of their excellent desserts would be a very fine smaller meal.

      >> fly out of Bilbao for Copenhagen (last hurrah dinner at Noma!)

      Noma! Damn, this IS a great foodie trip :)

      3 Replies
      1. re: willyum

        Thanks for this! I certainly am curious about Etxanobe but didn't think it was possible, in terms of stomach space, after Azurmendi. (But then, we're major gluttons.) Where did you stay in Bilbao? The Domine was sold out. I'm a little worried about the Carlton. Any thoughts about Iturregi after Etxebarri, maybe with another dinner in that neck of the woods? Or too far off course? Yes, a great foodie trip! (PS We cancelled L'Astrance--were planning to drive to Paris and fly to Copenhagen. So considering that, very restrained....)

        1. re: Honoredb

          >> Where did you stay in Bilbao?

          We've stayed at the Miro twice. It's a smaller boutique hotel near the Guggenheim about a block from the SG Domine. If you can snag one of the two top floor rooms ("Master Suites") it's pretty roomy (and if you stick your head out the window and look right you can see the museum :). I think the Domine is about 2x-3x more expensive and the Carlton was in a very busy area downtown, but it's quiet at the Miro. Garage for parking nearby.

          >> Any thoughts about Iturregi after Etxebarri, maybe with another dinner in that neck of the woods? Or too far off course? <<

          PhilD is the go-to guy on that, probably. I think he wrote that after the tasting menu at Etxebarri he could hardly waddle to the car though.

          I would only be speculating since we never actually got there, but I see that Chef Canales of Etxanobe is involved with another small restaurant in Axpe near Etxebarri. It's called Akebaso ... http://fernandocanales.com/restaurant... I'm guessing there's not much English spoken there but it's a local option and they have an ALC menu so you're not staring at another long tasting menu.

          >> I certainly am curious about Etxanobe but didn't think it was possible, in terms of stomach space, after Azurmendi. <<

          Looking fondly at our lunch menu just now I see we had 28 courses at Azurmendi plus a bottle of a good local white, a 50 cl bottle of Rioja tinto (I thought we were getting a 37.5 cl bottle, oops) and two glasses of PX sherry with dessert.

          Usually a bottle for the two of us is plenty but the meal lasted a long time as we know the staff well by now and we just kept the glasses full. Didn't eat anything that night. With less booze it might have been different.

      2. They wouldn't let us stay at mendi gokoia for one night ( two of us ) bizarre

        6 Replies
        1. re: ajpickup

          We stayed at mendi gokoia and would recommend heading to Bilbao for the night. Far better food options.

          1. re: PhilD

            I really liked the look of it and it's close proximity to extebarri. Having said that it may be a bit quiet. As it happens I've got a good deal at gran hotel durango for a suite. May be something going on there. Heading to bilbao the next day

            1. re: ajpickup

              We liked the look of it as well....but would head to Bilbao if we went again...!

              The area is a bit weird: the village is lovely and surrounded by mountains but literally 5 to 10 mins away the next town (where the hotel durango is) is very industrial and rough - you actually drive past a large chemical plant on the way to Extebarri.

              It's wise to remember that Bilbao was a really depressed, run down, industrial centre until they built the Guggenheim so whilst some of the areas are OK there is still a lot old industrial development (and unemployment).

              1. re: PhilD

                Yes that's why we plumped for durango, we have been informed it has quite a nice little town centre

                1. re: ajpickup

                  I will be interested to read your reports - I we go a bit lost in the town so thought we had unintentionally toured most if it.....so maybe it is a nice "little" town centre.

        2. Hi Honoredb,

          I guess it might be probably too late since looking at your schedule you are on already on your trp.
          But when we we were in the Basque Country 2 years ago we had a very long lunch at Etxebarri then drove to Castillo de Arteaga and stayed there for the night. We really loved this place!!! We stayed in one of the small towers and had a private little roof terrace where we had a bottle of cava waiting for us upon arrival. It was great just relaxing and we thought we would need no dinner after our 4.5 hour lunch but at some point were in the mood for something so we ordered a cheese plate and a plate with jamon and it was brought right to our terrace - bliss! The next morning's breakfast awesome, too. We then headed to the painted forest (Bosque de Oma) which was really nice.
          From Etxebarri it was only about 40 minutes drive to the Castillo and I think Azurmendi would be even closer for next day's lunch...
          Not really much around Castillo de Arteaga I think but the hotel has a restaurant, too.
          I would definitely recommend it, we actually went back the next year and even adapted our schedule accordingly...