Crossing Borders: France & Spain
The itinerary starts with a look at daily Parisian life, moves into Southwest France for a taste of Basque culture and then crosses the border into Northern Spain.
Situated along the Seine River in Northern France, Paris is a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, boasting a unique charm and posh urbanity unlike any other European city.
Upon arrival in Paris this morning you will be met at the airport and transferred to your boutique hotel, housed in a 17th century building in the heart of the city. After check-in, take some time to settle in and relax before heading out into the city. Situated on a quiet street off of Saint Germain des Prés, each guestroom at your quaint hotel is uniquely decorated in keeping with the atmosphere of a private home.
Before lunch this afternoon, take a walk through the Louvre’s courtyard and the Tuileries Gardens. Lunch will be back towards your hotel at the Laduree Tea Room, with a dessert menu longer than its wine list and an array of uniquely flavored macaroons for which the pastry shop is famous. Try the Scottish smoked salmon éclair, followed by a visit to the confectioners shop on the ground floor.
Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel for a two-hour walking tour of the city. Choose a walk through the city’s historic center, Ile de la Cité and Le Marais district, or tailor the walk to meet your personal interests. Whatever walk you choose, your tour will end at the impressive Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Le Marais, housed in a converted 17th century mansion and exhibiting cutting-edge contemporary art. Afterward, wander in and out of the smaller galleries along nearby Rue St.-Claude.
This evening walk from your hotel to dinner at an intimate and stylish restaurant near Saint Germain des Pres serving fresh, simple dishes.
If you’re up for continuing your night after dinner, head to a Moroccan bar where you can sample North African wines in a pop-art styled setting.
After breakfast at the hotel this morning head to the Musee Cluny of medieval artifacts, built on the site of an ancient Roman thermal bath. Wander among the medieval tapestries and an impressive jewelry collection, making sure to visit the secluded terrace gardens at the end of your visit.
For lunch, walk over to a brasserie that has served traditional French cuisine in a relaxed setting since 1931.
You’ll spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the city’s famous flea markets with or without a guide. Take a taxi or the metro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and follow the locals toward the world’s largest antique market, Les Puces, which covers a vast, colorful space.
Next you’ll take in fabulous views of the city from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris completed between 1833 and 1836 in honor of those who fought and died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
Dinner this evening is at a small restaurant where sophisticated cuisine meets eclectic décor.
If you’re departing Paris on a Sunday, begin your day with brunch at a restaurant that has reinvented the Parisian brasserie, serving French cuisine with a Mediterranean touch. Otherwise, enjoy cappuccino and croissants at the hotel, or walk over to a nearby restaurant, where the menu revolves around eggs served in every imaginable way.
After brunch this afternoon you will be transferred to Orly Airport in time for your early afternoon flight to Biarritz, arriving just after 2 pm. Collect your rental car at the airport and drive to your accommodation in Bayonne, neo-Basque in style, with large windows overlooking a patio and surrounding gardens.
After check-in you’ll head straight to the Musee Basque, the largest museum dedicated to Basque life and history with over 2,000 works of Basque art. The capital of the northern Basque region, Bayonne sits at the confluence of the Adour and Nive rivers and has for centuries been a port of great significance.
Take time this afternoon to explore the city, wandering in and out of the half-timbered buildings that line the rivers and house various shops, cafes, and bars. Dine tonight at a family-owned restaurant offering the most eclectic and flavorful dishes in town, such as the twice-cooked pigeon.
This morning return to the resort town of Biarritz. Once the exclusive vacation spot of royals and celebrities, it is currently undergoing a renaissance as a destination for the world’s best surfers. Upon arrival you’ll head straight to the beach for a private surf lesson.
Your afternoon is at leisure in Biarritz. You may opt for lunch at one of the restaurants in the sumptuous Hotel du Palais, the celebrated centerpiece of old Biarritz. Alternatively, make your way to the busy Place Ste-Eugenie and choose a terraced cafe, perfect for people watching. For a quieter view of the city, stroll south of the market and stop for lunch at the Patisserie Miremont.
Later, drive 10 minutes to St.Jean-de-Luz, a small fishing port on the Basque coast known for its architecture, sandy bay and fine cuisine. Spend the remainder of the day exploring the city on foot, dining this evening at a nearby restaurant serving cuisine inspired by local products, with fine meats and the freshest seafood.
Before departing Bayonne this morning you may want to visit the Musee Bonnat, displaying an impressive collection of 19th century paintings, or visit the local market, an absolute must on a Saturday. The large market offers a wide and remarkable array of fresh produce, cheeses, bread and seafood.
Driving east from Bayonne, you’ll stop for lunch in the small village of Urt, on the northern edge of the Basque country. Located in a 17th century sailors’ inn, the restaurant offers a warm ambiance and serves traditional French cuisine infused heavily with regional southwestern Basque flavors.
Two hours from Bayonne in the sleepy village of St. Savin, you will be greeted by the owners of a generations-old inn in the heart of the Hautes-Pyrenees. The hotel’s restaurant gives country cooking an international twist, and tonight you’ll dine on the terrace, taking in the view of the Argeles Valley with the Viscos peak in the distance.
Alternatively, venture 27 km southwest to the town of Barèges this evening, for dinner at a mountainside inn. Here you can enjoy a fantastic menu of traditional French dishes, a walk around the lake, and the magnificent view of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre.
This morning depart from Saint Savin, continuing your drive up into the Hautes-Pyrenees. With a local guide, you’ll depart from the village of Gavarnie to explore the Cirque de Gavarnie and Europe’s highest waterfall, the Grande Cascade.
Return to St-Savin this afternoon to try your hand at regional favorites during a two hour cooking lesson with a Maitre Cuisinier of France.
This morning you’ll drive from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the Basque coast of Spain, stretching 100 miles from Bilbao to Bayonne, France, and offering a much different history, culture and cuisine than the rest of Spain. En route, you may wish to visit Lourdes, 20 minutes from St. Savin, or stop in the village of Uzos to sample the local take on bonbons.
You’ll arrive in San Sebastian this afternoon, after which you’ll check into your charming hotel located along the city’s bay.
This evening, you’ll meet your San Sebastian food and wine guide for a food and wine tasting tour through the old town of San Sebastian. Your evening includes several stops, where you will enjoy pintxos, some of the world’s finest miniature cuisine, paired with a taste of accompanying local wines.
This morning, you will be transferred to a picture-perfect village at the water’s edge, for your Basque cooking class with an internationally renowned local chef. The visit includes a gourmet lunch that you’ll help create. Enjoy your handiwork, paired with local wines, on the restaurant’s terrace overlooking moored fishing boats in the harbor.
Return to your hotel after lunch. Relax, or explore the city on your own for the remainder of the afternoon.
Later, meet your guide for a very special visit to one of Spain’s finest wine cellars. This is a unique chance to see one of the most exceptional collections of wine in the world guided by a talented and inspiring sommelier. Afterwards, you are invited to have dinner (Optional) or return to San Sebastian.
Depart San Sebastian late this morning on a one-hour drive to the seaside town of Getaria, where you’ll meet your guide for a visit to a family run winery. The green hills around the beachfront villages of Getaria and Zarautz are covered with the noble grape varieties of Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza, the grapes in regional favorite, Txakoli.
Enjoy a guided tour through the cellar, given in English by one of the family members of the vineyard. Afterwards, you will have a full tasting of the Txakoli paired with local seafood of anchovies and tuna.
Continue on to the historic fishing village of Lekeitio, isolated from the hustle by its location down a long, winding road. Here you’ll spend the night in a beautiful 17th century palace that was recently transformed into a modern hotel.
You’ll have the remainder of the afternoon to explore the area on your own. Walk along Isuntza Beach, or through the old quarter of town, reminiscent of an old fishing village. If you’re feeling ambitious, climb nearby Lumentza mountain.
Dine this evening at a portside restaurant serving fabulous, fresh seafood.
Depart Lekeitio at your leisure this morning, continuing your drive down the coast.
Lunch this afternoon will be at Eneperi, a Basque farmhouse dating back to the early 19th century, serving fresh fish, vegetables and wine from surrounding farms and vineyards, and offering stunning views of the island. After lunch you’ll hike up the 231 steps to the thousand-year-old monastery situated at the top of the island.
Your next stop is Bakio, a small town famed for its stunning beaches with steep cliffs. Outside Bakio you’ll visit the small island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge.
Continue on to Bilbao in the late afternoon. The cultural and economic capital of País Vasco, Bilbao is a city with a grim industrial past that is currently undergoing a social, economic and aesthetic revitalization process. You’ll have the remainder of the day to explore the city on foot. Surrounded by lush green hillsides, Bilbao boasts beautiful old buildings and stunning new structures between the Old Quarter and New Town.
This evening you’ll dine at a local Basque restaurant.
Today is yours to explore Bilbao. Begin with the the famous Guggenheim Museum. Opened in 1997 and designed by Frank Gehry, the museum is an example of 21st century architecture. Created with unusual materials and unique forms, it resembles a silver fish and connects the city with its river. Break for lunch at the museum’s outdoor café.
Later this afternoon visit the Museo de Bellas Artes, one of Spain’s most important museums of painting and sculpture.
Dinner tonight will be at an elegant restaurant in Bilbao, offering a modern Basque cuisine tasting menu with a local wine list.
After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport and return your rental car in time to meet your return flight home.
This is just the beginning.
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