The most frequent question I am asked is recently is: “Where are you travelling these days?”. But at the moment, I am not travelling because it so happens that several of my closest friends decided to visit London at the same time and I have the pleasure of hosting them here. While I am enjoying spending time in London with my wonderful friends, a little part of me is missing travel.
As I go out for Spanish food third time in the past four days, I can’t help thinking it may be time to go for a weekend break in Spain. My last trip to Spain was in summer (seems like a very long time ago), when I visited the Basque Country, but for some reason I only got round to organisimg my photos from this trip last weekend. This brought back a lot of beautiful and tasty memories. I decided to share these on my blog.
For those who don’t know it, the Basque Country is very different to the rest of Spain. To begin with, the climate reminds me of mild, foggy and ever changing British weather, even in summer. The language is very different too; although Spanish is widely spoken, the official Basque language has no resemblance to Spanish.
While sunny weather may not be the main reason to go to the Basque Country, there are many other reasons to visit this part of Spain. And the good thing is the Basque Country has a lot to offer all year round.
Art and architecture is definitely one reason to visit the region. You will have heard about the Guggenheim in Bilbao. This should be enough to convince anyone the city is worth of a visit. But Bilbao also has many other beautiful examples of modern architecture – I particularly like the bridges that connect the city’s two parts, divided by the river. Bilbao has an equally impressive old town. It is a city with a lot of character and a great architectural variety.
For those who prefer art nouvea architecture, I definitely recommend San Sebastian, a nearby seaside resort town, perhaps the Basque Country’s most famous attraction. I had fallen in love with this town even before I visited it for the first time after reading Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. This book was recommended to me by my friend Ashlea before our first trip to San Sebastian many year ago. It beautifully captures the town’s 1920s atmosphere – one of my favorite periods in history.
But the main reason to visit this part of the world is food, in my opinion. And I am not alone in thinking this; many claim the Basque cuisine is one of the best in Europe. The region is known for one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-star restaurants per person in Europe. From traditional pintxos (Basque version of tapas) to experimental dining – the Basque Country is a gastronomic paradise.
Visitors and locals are spoilt for choice. Practically everywhere you will find tasty local food. The biggest challenge is making a choice. I think a good place to start is to decide whether you want traditional food or nouvelle cuisine. It is worth noting that the Basques eat later than many other European countries; you are unlikely to find a restaurant that is even open between 3pm and 8pm.
San Sebastian has a certain elegance to it but the vibe is fun and relaxed. I love taking a walk along the sea during the day, especially on Paseo Nuevo, and walking around the old town, going in and out of pintxos bars, at night. Here I captured some of my favorite places in San Sebastian.
Bilbao has an equally impressive food scene. It is a bigger city, distances are longer and people look busier, but there is still a friendly vibe to it despite the industrial exterior. There is an ample choice of stylishly designed restaurants serving new Basque cuisine.