Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Sights & Sites
Altamira Caves – Santillana del Mar; 011-34-94-281-8005; actual caves closed to public now but replica is open.

Roxario Jatetxea – 96 Errekalde Baserria-Mayor; 011-34-94-355-1138; roxario.com/indexCA.html; cider-house experience; try tortilla de bacalao.

Bar Itxas-Ondo – 9 Zarrakoa; 011-34-94-619-4004; overlooks water; great, affordable, tapas.
Eneperi – 89 San Pelaio (on way to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe); eneperi.com; 011-34-94-619-4065; eneperi.com; both formal restaurant and bar.

Hotel Miro Bilbao – 77 Alameda de Mazarredo; 011-34-94-661-1880; mirohotelbilbao.com; spiffy.
Silken Gran Hotel Domine – 61 Alameda de Mazarredo; 011-34-94-425-3300; hoteles-silken.com/hoteles/gran-hotel-domine-bilbao; modern; across from Guggenheim Museum.

Restaurante Guggenheim – 2 Avenida Abandoibarra (at Guggenheim Bilbao); 011-34-94-423-9333; restauranteguggenheim.com; chef trained at El Bulli and Mugaritz; emphasis on vegetables; try apparently unadorned endive chemically altered to have shellfish mouthfeel and taste; no foams or spherifications; dessert peach dish (exterior like fruit leather, inside like liquid).
Mina – Muelle Marzana; 011-34-94-479-5938; restaurantemina.es; elegant tasting menu.
Nerua – 2 Avenida Abandoibarra (at Museo Guggenheim Bilbao); 011-34-94-435-9000; guggenheim-bilbao.es.

Sights & Sites
Guggenheim Bilbao – 2 Avenida Abandoibarra; 011-34-94-435-9000; guggenheim-bilbao.es; mid-20th Century to present architecture and art exhibits; building designed by Frank Gehry.

Sights & Sites
Basque Coast Geoparkea – (1) Deba Tourist Office, 4 Ifar Kalea (Deba), 011-34-94-319-2452, deba.eus/eu/turismoa); (2) Mutriku Tourist Office, Txurruka Plaza (Mutriku), 011-34-94-360-3378, mutriku.eus/turismoa); (3) Zumaia Tourist Office, 13 Kantauri Plaza, 011-34-94-314-3396, zumaia.eus/eu/turismoa; 8 km-long coastal stretch between Deba & Zumaia in Gipuzkoa province; coast reveals extraordinary rock formations protected as part of Basque Coast Geopark (just 30 minutes by car from Donostia-San Sebastián & little under 1 hour from Bilbao); most striking formations are made of flysch – sedimentary rock sequence that makes among longest continuous rock strata in world; formed nearly 100 million years ago by crashing of waves against cliffs & creating platform of alternate hard layers of limestone & sandstone & soft layers of clay & loam; effect, especially at low tide, is stunning; park in bustling, attractive fishing port of Zumaia; start walking from San Telmo Chapel on town’s western side, perched precariously right on clifftops above Itzurun beach; from chapel some of best parts of flysch can be seen by following GR121 (red & white waymarking, part of Vuelta de Gipuzkoa route), just 10-15 minutes in direction of Deba; worth continuing along same coastal footpath for about 1 hour to most spectacular coastal section around Sakoneta, which forms Europe’s most extensive abrasion platform (sloping or nearly flat bedrock surface that extends out from sea cliff under shallow water); at low tide, Sakoneta coastal area reveals huge variety of wildlife such as cucumbers, starfish & sea slugs, along with many sea anemone varieties; platform, carved over millions of years by sea, is wavy, almost wafer-like sheets of bedrock; Algorri Interpretation Centre in Zumaia is good place to learn & where guided walks to most spectacular sections & beyond can be arranged; consider 3-hour boat trips from Zumaia along coast westwards via Deba to Mutriku, which enables best of geopark to be viewed from sea; try local txakoli white wine.

Hotel Marques de Riscal – 1 Calle Torrea; 011-34-94-518-0880; starwoodhotels.com; though main building (Gehry-designed) stunning, most of 43 rooms are in bunkerlike spa annex built in hill and reached by glass-enclosed bridge; excellent food; May for great weather; September to enjoy grape harvest eve; to stay in main building, book #s 101-104, 112, and 114-115 for village views through cantilevered windows; for those who want to gaze on Gehry’s design, book #s 116-118.

Sights & Sites
Guernica Peace Museum – 1 Plaza de Foru; 011-34-94-627-0213; museodelapaz.org.

Hotel Iturregi – Azkizu Auzoa; 011-34-94-389-6134; hoteliturregi.com; lovely.

Elkano – 2 Herrerieta; 011-34-94-314-0024; restauranteelkano.com; seafood; mystical cachet for foodies.
Iribar – Kale Nagusia; 011-34-94-314-0406; fresh fish a la plancha.

Sights & Sites
Museo Cristobal Balenciaga – 6 Aldamar Kalea; 011-34-94-300-4779; cristobalbalenciagamuseoa.com; displays couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga’s works.

Sights & Sites
Museo Chillida-Leku – 66 Jauregui (Hernani); 011-34-94-333-5963; museochillidaleku.com; museum for Spanish Basque sculptor notable for monumental abstract works.

Hotel El Emperador – 14 Plaza de Armas; 011-34-94-364-5500; paradores-spain.com.
Alameda – 1 Minasoroeta; 011-34-94-364-2789; restaurantealameda.net; 3rd generation family business occupying old house; well-renovated interior; traditional cuisine & enticing set menus, with strong emphasis on technique, presentation & top quality ingredients.

Azurmendi – Corredor del Txorierri; 011-34-94-455-8866; azurmendi.biz; deceptively bucolic; modern and traditional Basque cuisine; try kokotxas (tiny hake jowls).

Hotel Palacio Oxangoiti – 2 Gamarra Kalea; 011-34-94-465-0555; oxangoiti.net; perched above cathedral plaza.

Kaia – 5 Txatxo Kaia; 011-34-94-624-3753; lekeitiokaia.com; excellent grilled hake.

SAN SEBASTIAN (includes Donostia, Errenteria, Gros & Lasarte-Oria)
Bars & Nightclubs
Bascook – 8 Barroeta Aldamar; 011-34-94-400-9977; tapas.
A Fuego Negro – 31st de Agosto; 011-34-65-013-5373; tapas.
Bar Ganbara – 21 Calle San Jerónimo (Parte Vieja); 011-94-342–2575; ganbarajatetxea.com; busy favorite near Plaza de la Constitución; run by 3rd generation family; specialty morsels range from shrimp and asparagus to ibérico acorn-fed ham on croissants to anchovies, sea urchins, and wild mushrooms in season.
Museo del Whisky – 5 Alameda del Boulevard; 011-34-943-424-678; museodelwhisky.com; where chefs and movie stars drink into night; unofficial cocktail is gin & tonic (ask for Martin Miller gin and Fever-Tree tonic).
Ondarra – 16 Avenida de Zurriola (Gros); 011-34-94-332-6033; ondarraclub.com; laid-back; tables spill onto sidewalk.
Txepetxa – 5 Calle Pescaderia; 011-34-94-342-2227; tapas.

La Concha.

Hotel Astoria 7 – 1 Sagrada Familia; 011-34-94-344-5000; astoria7hotel.com; cinema-themed hotel; 20-minute walk from beach and Parte Vieja (Old Town); rooms are mid-century modern; ground-floor has library and cafeteria.
Hotel Gran Bahia Bernardo – 1 Calle de Trueba (Gros); 011-34-94-329-8049; hotelgranbahiabernardo.com; few blocks from Zurriola beach; 10 simple rooms with hardwood floors, wi-fi, minimalist photographs.
Hotel Maria Christina – 4 Paseo Republica Argentina; 011-34-94-343-7600; starwoodhotels.com; open since 1912; riverfront property with Belle Epoque cupolas; convenient base; Vietnamese restaurant.
Villa Soro – 61 Avenida Ategorrieta; 011-34-94-329-7970; villasoro.com; fin de siecle mansion restored with modern rooms; ask for room in original house.

Akelarre – 56 Paseo Padre Orcolaga (Donostia); 011-34-94-331-1209; akelarre.net; 3 Michelin stars.
Aldanondo Jatetxea – 6 Euskal Herria; 011-34-94-342-2852; aldanondo.com; open on Sundays and Mondays, when most other restaurants are closed.
Arzak Restaurante – 273 Avenida Alcalde Jose Elosegui; 011-34-94-327-8465; arzak.info/index.html; 3 Michelin stars; Basque fish and game.
Astelena – 1 Calle de Inigo; 011-34-94-342-5245; Parte Vieja pintxo bar; famous for pastel de pescado (fish paste); also try croquetas with pistachio crust and/or salmon and cheese crepes.
Bar Goiz-Argi – 4 Calle de Fermin Calbeton (Donostia); 011-34-94-342-5204; Parte Vieja pintxo bar; must try brotxetas de gambas (shrimp skewers) and bola de carne (fried béchamel, chopped beef, and pimento ball).
Bodegon Alejandro – 4 Calle de Fermin Calbeton (Donostia); 011-34-94-342-7158; bodegonalejandro.com; hidden among Parte Vieja pintxo bars; longtime stellar Basque cuisine bastion.
Borda Berri – 12 Calle de Fermin Calbeton (Donostia); 011-34-94-343-0840; Parte Vieja pintxo bar; try carrillera (slowly braised veal cheeks).
Cafe de la Concha – 10 Paseo de la Concha (near beach); 011-34-94-347-3600; cafedelaconcha.com; hamburgers & tapas.
La Cuchara de San Telmo – 28 Calle 31st de Agosto; 011-34-94-343-5446; lacucharadesantelmo.com; Parte Vieja pintxo bar; try seared oreja (ear), wonderful seared foie gras with apple compote, and/or orzo and goat cheese risotto.
A Fuego Negro – 31 Calle 31st de Agosto; 011-34-65-013-5373; aguegonegro.com; order Makcobe (mini-Wagyu burger), or spider crab, avocado, and licorice mix-up, or pastel cherry-meringue wafer with mackerel, sheep’s cheese, and mint.
Kokotxa – 11 Calle Campanario; 011-34-94-342-1904; contemporary Basque.
Maruxa – 14 Paseo de Bizkaia; 011-34-943-461-062; city’s best pulpo de gallega (octopus).
Mugaritz – 20 Aldura Aldea (Errenteria); 011-34-94-352-2455; on par with El Bulli; rural setting; can sit on terrace for cocktails; tasting menu; 2 Michelin stars.
Narru – 56 Calle de Zubieta; 011-34-94-342-3349; narru.es; beneath Hotel Niza; less dramatic alternative to, e.g., Ni Neu; try secreto Iberico with Basque apples.
Ni Neu – 1 Avenida de Zurriola; 011-34-94-300-3162; restaurantenineu.com; in Kursaal (auditorium and convention center); beside Zurriola beach; try tuna tartare with green lemon cream.
Rekondo – 57 Igeldo Pasealekua; 011-34-94-321-2907; rekondo.com.
Restaurant Martin Berasategui – 4 Loidi Kalea (Lasarte-Oria); 011-34-94-336-6471; prestige restaurant with expensive tasting menu.
La Perla – Paseo de la Concha; 011-34-94-346-2484; seafood restaurant on beach, with excellent beach and water views; interior is modern and open with light wood floors and high ceilings; have coffee and light snack or head to rear dining room to try specialties like chicken breast with foie gras or grilled filet.

Basque Culinary Center – 101 Paseo Juan Avelino Barriola; 011-34-94-353-5103; bculinary.com; new culinary school and research institute headed by Ferran Adria; half-day classes for enthusiasts; otherwise, full, 4-year curriculum.
Luis Irizar Cooking School – 5 Calle Mari; 011-34-94-343-1540; escuelairizar.com.
Motoras de la Isla – Paseo Mollaberria; 011-34-94-300-0450; motorasdelaisla.com; motorboat trips to Isla Santa Clara.

Aitor Lasa – 12 Calle Aldamar; 011-34-94-343-0354; good, local cheese shop.
Galparsoro – 6 Calle Mayor; 011-34-94-342-1074; galparsoro.com; bakery only.
Kukuxumusu – 15 Calle Mayor; 011-34-94-342-1184; kukuxumusu.com; cartoon-designed products.
Viva La Vida – 12 Calle de Narrica; 011-34-94-343-0378; vivalavidatodalavida.com; original graphic-designed accessories and clothing.

Sights & Sites
Calle de Zemoriya – Gros; follow yellow trail markings (in reverse) for this Camino de Santiago portion; weave through forests and picture-perfect cliff-over-ocean panoramas; might want to buy snack at Galparsoro before leaving.
Isla Santa Clara – island in bay.
Mount Igueldo – on bay’s western edge; 011-34-94-321-3525; monteigueldo.es; for funicular ride to top.
Promenade – along bay; 4 miles long; lovely walk along community’s 3 sandy beaches.
San Telmo Museoa – 1 Plaza Zuloaga (Parte Vieja); 011-34-94-348-1580; santelmomuseoa.com; next door to refurbished 16th Century former Dominican convent where permanent Basque artifact and art collection kept.

Casa Julian – 6 Calle de Santa Klara; 011-34-94-367-1417; casajuliandetolosa.com; great steaks; ancient charcoal grill in cavelike space with 6 tables.
Sights & Sites
Pagoeta Natural Park – Gipuzkoa; 011-34-94-383-5389; nekatur.net/Espacio-natural.aspx?Id=10&lang=en-US; 2.9K hectares; instead of demonstrating only natural landscape, shows human impact on environment; installations throughout park for making charcoal from wood & water-powered Aborregi forge (reconstructed); archaeological remnants of prehistoric occupants, with barrows, cave deposits & dolmens.

VIZCAYA (includes Atxondo & Muxika)
Urune – 8 Txakale Auzoa (Muxika); 011-34-94-465-1663; urunehotela.com; affordable; high design escape; 30 minutes west of Bilbao; renovated 1780 farmhouse; plaster walls, steep chestnut roofs; low-slung beds and space age purple pod chairs; beautiful shaded flagstone terrace overlooks forested hills.

Asador Etxebarri – 1 Plaza San Juan (Atxondo); 011-34-94-658-3042; asadoretxebarri.com; tucked in Axpe-Marzana’s rolling hills; inside 2-story stone building on village square; mythologized in blog posts and magazine articles; exemplary seafood, home-made grills and charcoal, and grill technique from next realm; 44th best restaurant in world; not high concept.
Hotel Santuario Urkiola – 9 Barrio Urkiola (Abadiño); 011-34-94-609-7013; hotelsantuariourkiola.com; idyllic location.

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