Food & Wine Aficionados

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“To know how to eat is to know enough”
Old Basque Saying

What makes the Southwest a natural stop for Epicureans…

    • Privileged access to fresh food from the sea, rivers, mountains and valleys throughout the region.
    • The joy of cooking and eating is central to the Basque culture on both sides of the border. Friend and family reunions turn into feasts in private homes, restaurants or street festivals.
    • Basque cooks are widely considered among the best in Europe.  The Basque country has the highest concentration of Michelin starred chefs after Paris. San Sebastian is to open a university of gastronomy, the 1st one in the the world, after being named recently by the New York Times the IT city for dining in Europe despite its relatively small size.
    • Traditionally men ( now women are welcomed!) belong to cooking societies dedicated to the preservation of their outstanding cultural and culinary heritage. Care to be their guest?
    • Abundance of fish, meat and vegetable market towns and local producers to check out. Local food specialties have been the raison d’être of many convivial festivals in villages for years

The established Bordeaux and Rioja wine regions are a 2 hour drive away from the Basque coast. In the meantime the smaller wineries of the Southwest might seduce you: Irouleguy, Jurançon, Madiran, Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, Txakuli in Spain, Tursan, Floc de Gascogne and the renowned Armagnac in the Landes. Discover wine secrets the French and the Spanish have kept to themselves.

Imagine 10 friends savouring life in the Southwest…

Your party is staying at a private home with 5 bedroom and 5 bathrooms. The home is nestled in a village that belongs to one of the most beautiful villages of France, surrounded by green mountains, and a 20 minute drive from the coast. It has been appointed with great love, a strong artistic sense, fine furnishings, lots of colours and carefully selected art work. You are strategically located to explore the area where, within a short drive, a variety of experiences can be enjoyed. Special activities led by local hosts have been pre-arranged for the group when it makes senses. There is plenty of free time and everyone has the opportunity to enjoy their own interests as per my detailed travel log packed with ideas, recommendations of visits-shops-museums-restaurants etc… To make this possible, the group has rented several vehicles to be independant in ‘smaller’ groups. At the villa, your needs for housekeeping and cooking services have been all taken care of .

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Here is a suggestion of slow travel experiences to consider during your stay:

  • You take two private guided tours of historical St Jean de Luz & Bayonne to get a feel for the place, the culture and the food gems
  • A local , but well travelled , and bilingual chef gives you a guided tour of a local market to introduce you to the regional specialties. You then proceed to his home or your own villa to take part in a cooking feast and party. Your participation in the kitchen is welcomed!
  • A local group of Basque retired French fishermen welcomes you to their casual quarters to cook and share a meal
  • you take a short drive through the hilly and lush country side and sample local specialties at farms : local cured meats, foie gras , Ossau-Iraty ewe cheese etc… )
  • join a Basque chef on the Spanish for a full morning of traditional cooking or pinxos making ( pinxos= tapas in Basque)
  • wine tasting in the Irouleguy region where the vines are on the foothills of the Pyrénées mountains and later on the Jurançon hills near the town of Pau
  • baking worskhop at the Gâteau Basque museum: time to put an apron on and bake the local desert in a traditional kitchen
  • after a 10 minute boat ride from France, enjoy the walled medieval Spanish town of Fuentarrabia, its narrow streets and great tapas bars
  • drop by nearby San Sebastian in Spain for an evening of tapas in the old town with your local guide who knows the good stops and the bar culture of the young and not so young as you hop between bars sampling great food and drinks.
  • join a Basque cooking society ( traditionally run by men but things have evolved there as well and women are welcomed…) for an evening of Basque cuisine immersion and camaraderie
  • get together at a hard apple cider mill for a traditional meal of cod omelette and BBQ meat, and again great Basque camaraderie
  • take an easy stroll in the foothills of the Pyrénées and reward yourself with a traditional and casual Lunch in one of the many secluded inns on the border with Spain
  • enjoy a day at the Guggenheim in Bilbao ( Frank Gerhy’s titanium boat) and get a feel for the cultural revival of the city
  • indulge a meal at one of the many Michelin starred restaurants in the area on either the French side of the Spanish side
  • have an expert on Armagnac share with you the secrets behind the making and the aging process of this ‘digestif’ and of course taste the differences
  • explore on the Spanish side the many fishing villages, stop in the vineyards of TXACULI and try its green wine in cellars overlooking the ocean>
  • drop by the workshops of local cratfmen or Basque linen makers for a break
  • the nearby Bordeaux and Rioja wine regions might deserve a trip extension
  • the area is a big draw for golfers, avid cyclist, well-being lovers, hikers, surfers,  bullfighting afficionados to name other interests the region caters well to, Check out What to do , When to go, Where to stay .
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