Independent Spain from the Basque Country to Barcelona
“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends there!”
To paraphrase Orwell, all autonomías are equal, but some are more equal than others, and so is the case with Spain. A country divided into seventeen states, Spain is a rich mosaic of languages, histories and traditions. Two of these regions, Catalonia and the Basque country, are considered home to the very best cuisine that Spain has to offer and some truly spectacular scenery in the form of the coast, mountains and countryside. In the case of the Basque country, the Basques were among the earliest settlers in Europe; some even argue they date back to cro-Magnon man, and their language predates all the Indo-European languages. Catalonia is a part of Spain with as much French influence as Spanish, something very noticeable in the Catalan language. It is also, of course, home to Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. Should you need any further invitation, Catalonia is home to Cava, Spain’s most famous white, sparkling wine, whilst the Basque country borders La Rioja, Spain’s best wine growing region. Salud!
The Basque Country
“Everyone who has visited the Basque country longs to return; it is a blessed land.”
Day 1 San Sebastian
Bienvenidos en España! Welcome to Spain! We will whisk you away to your hotel for you to check in, relax and perhaps go for a wander along the beachfront, before we meet for a welcome drink and your first opportunity to sample the very best food that Spain has to offer. (D)
Day 2 San Sebastian
This morning we have a guided tour of the town followed by the Txiquiteo, the tapas tour for which San Sebastian is so famous. The afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B, L)
Day 3 Bilbao and Rioja Wine Tasting
Today we are off to Bilbao for a guided visit of the Guggenheim museum. There will then be some free time for lunch and a wander in the city. Having spent the morning working our brain cells, it’s now time to and kill a few off, Spanish style, as we head to the Rioja region for a wine tasting and visit, including dinner. (B, D)
Day 4 Into the Pyrenees
Today we say adios to San Sebastian as we begin our trajectory down towards Catalonia. En route we visit the city of Pau, home of King Henri IV. Our first stop is Vielha in the Pyrenees, where we will be based in a parador for the next couple of nights. Paradors were set up by Spanish King Alfonso XIII as a way of promoting tourism. They are high-end hotels, usually situated in converted historic buildings such as castles and monasteries. Upon arrival in Vielha, enjoy a spa, go for a walk or just sit back and enjoy this hotel with a view. And what a view! (B, D)
Day 5 Aiguestortes National Park
Today we head out to visit Aiguestortes (‘Winding streams’), Catalonia’s only national park. We will be visiting in minivans which will allow us to see as much of the park as possible. We will then hike a short path, before meeting our transport again and carrying on to lunch in a typical Pyreneen village. We then visit a UNESCO world heritage site before returning to our parador for dinner. (B, L, D)
*The weather may mean that the order of this itinerary will be reversed.
Day 6 La Seu d’Urgell
This morning we continue our descent towards Barcelona, stopping at Bonaigua for some truly spectacular photos. Lunch will be taken at Sort, where we will visit the prison which held, among others, Chuck Yeager, the famous WWII American pilot who was the first person in the world to break the sound barrier. The town of Sort was one of the crossing places for Jewish people, political refugees and Allied pilots who had been shot down in France as they hoped to escape back to the US or the UK through Spain. Sort was a compulsory stop in all cases due to Franco’s heavy controls and many of these refugees were caught and kept in Sort prison until judgement in the local court. Some were lucky enough to be allowed to the UK and US, but not everyone was lucky. Chuck returned to Sort in 2010 in slightly happier circumstances. We stay overnight in another parador, a former monastery, in La Seu d’Urgell. (B, D)
Day 7 Parador Stay in Cardona
Enjoy a morning at leisure to explore Urgell and then head for a visit to a local cheese producer, where we will learn about the local produce. The focus will then be less on the listening and more on the eating, as we indulge in a light lunch sampling the cheeses.
This afternoon we have the opportunity to visit one of the oldest cathedrals in Catalonia, dating back to 1116. We then continue on our way to one of the most beautiful paradors, perched above the town of Cardona, and it is here where we will spend our final night before arriving in Barcelona. You will have plenty of free time to explore the town before we come together for a superb dinner. (B, L, D)
“Barcelona is a fountain of courtesy, a shelter of strangers…a reciprocator of firm friendship, a city unique in its location and beauty.” (Don Quixote, Cervantes, 1605)
Day 8 Barcelona
We drive down into Barcelona and enjoy a panoramic drive around the city, including a visit to the Sagrada Familia, before checking into our hotel and having some free time for lunch.
Our afternoon continues with a visit to the Torre Bellesguard, a recently opened Gaudí masterpiece in the Tibidabo area of the city. This evening we dine at a great local hotspot in one of Barcelona’s loveliest neighbourhoods. (B, D)
Day 9 Barcelona Tasting Extravaganza
This morning we have a guided walk through the Born, stopping off for a food tasting on our way. We then wander down to Barceloneta, the neighbourhood by the sea, where we will sip on a typical aperitif of Cava. We will then take a cable car across the harbour of Barcelona and up Montjuic, Barcelona’s iconic hill that overlooks the city. There we will toast the view with a glass or two of wine and enjoy a typical tapas lunch. The afternoon and evening are at leisure.
This evening we will meet for some aperitivos and dinner with a view. (B, L, D)
Day 10 Spanish Cookery Class
Today we can all dream of following in the footsteps of Ferran Addrià, the famous Catalan chef and former proprietor of the three-Michelin-starred Elbulli, as we don our very own chef hats and learn how to cook typical Spanish cuisine. Our day begins with a visit to the famous Boquería market to pick up our ingredients, before returning to the cooking school to prepare a late lunch.
The evening is at your leisure. (B, L)
Day 11 Departure
Time to bid adios to Spain and adieu to France, but we hope it’s more hasta luego, until the next time.
Included in this trip:
Accommodation & Services:
- 3 nights in San Sebastian, 2 nights in Vielha, 1 night in La Seu d’Urgell, 1 night in Cardona and 3 nights in Barcelona.
- Centrally located, upmarket hotel.
- The services of an extremely highly qualified and experienced Tour Manager who will accompany you throughout your trip (dependent upon group size; please contact us for more information).
- Transfers to and from the airport.
- Private transport, unless otherwise stated.
- All tips. For instance, tips to tour managers, local guides, restaurants and porterage (where available) are all included in the total price; one less thing to think about.
- We will be visiting: San Sebastian, Bilbao, Laguardia, Vielha, Sort, La Seu d’Urgell, Cardona and Barcelona.
Food & Beverages:
- Breakfast and either lunch or dinner (unless otherwise stated).
- When lunch and/or dinner are included, alcohol in the form of wine and/or beer is provided, unless otherwise stated.
- Aperitivi, coffee and snacks where stated.
Entrances & Tickets:
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
- Cathedral in La Seu d’Urgell
- Torre Bellesguard
- Sagrada Familia
Guided Tours with a difference:
- San Sebastian
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
- cookery lesson
- visit to cheese factory including tasting
- wine tasting in La Rioja
- visit Aiguestortes National Park
- A surprise (we are all children at heart after all)
NOT INCLUDED IN THIS TRIP:
- Flights not included. I would suggest flying Bilbao or San Sebastian and flying out of Barcelona.
- Travel insurance.
- Visas, where applicable (Please note: US and Canadian nationals do not require Visas when traveling to Europe).
There are no ‘optionals’ for sale. Everything you have in the itinerary is included in the total cost.
Customised itinerary designed by Lucy Loves Travel Ltd.
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