Cooking Vacation in Spain Basque Country: Basque Cuisine in Bilbao from Pintxos to Txakoli
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Basque Cuisine in Bilbao from Pintxos to Txakoli - NEW

About the location: The Basque Country is synonymous with good food and a proud cultural heritage, and this is evident in the region's largest city, Bilbao. From the medieval Old Quarter with its winding streets and gothic Cathedral, to the Abandoibarra Quarter, the famed former industrial corridor that has been transformed through urban restructuring into a vibrant avant-guard neighborhood boasting some of the world's premier architecture, Bilbao will be yours to enjoy and explore. See such sights as Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, the Ibderdrola Tower, and the Calatrava Bridge, as well as the immense indoor Ribera market. Bilbao is just a short distance from some other amazing attractions, such as the town of Guernica (Gernika), especially dear to the Basques, the rocky island of Gaztelugatxe, and the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve.

Your accommodations for your three-night cooking vacation will be at a beautiful 4* hotel in central Bilbao. The hotel will feature beautiful decor, spacious rooms, and modern, en suite bathrooms, and will offer easy access to such sites as the Guggenheim Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the Old Town, the Ensanche Quarter, and more.

Chef AingeruAbout the cooking lessons: Spanish cuisine is world-famous, and the Basque Country offers some of the best. The Basque word for "tapas" is pintxos ("pinchos"), which you will explore both during a pintxos tour and a hands-on pintxos workshop You will also get to participate in a cooking course featuring traditional Basque cuisine. Your one-of-a-kind cooking courses will be led by two highly distinguished chefs. Chef Aingeru is a member of the prestigious Euro Toques association of chefs, and his impressive resume includes many prizes, in particular in the creation of "pintxos." Chef Txomin is equally celebrated, having studied under such famed chefs as Ferran Adriá, Pedro Subijana, and Koldo Royo and having worked in a number of Spain's most prized gourmet restaurants. Chefs Aingeru and Txomin will introduce you to the bold yet subtle flavors, colors, and compositions of Basque cuisine.

Basque Cuisine in Bilbao from Pintxos to Txakoli - NEW Itinerary

Day 1

Please note that depending on the dates booked the order of events may change. For example, the Guggenheim Museum is closed on Mondays, and most restaurants are closed on Sundays.

  • Arrival at Bilbao International Airport, where you will be met by your English-speaking guide and transferred to your centrally-located hotel. On your way to the hotel you will see the city of Bilbao, which is the financial and industrial capital of the Basque Country. The city has been spectacularly transformed in the last decades, from factory and ports being renovated into renowned urban projects like the famed Guggenheim Museum, the Calatrava bridge, the Ibderdrola Tower, and the Isozaki Towers.
  • Stop at the Archanda viewpoint high above the city, where you will see the entirety of Bilbao laid out before you.
  • Arrival at the hotel and check in. Time to rest or explore the city, if there is time, before your introduction to the Old Quarters.
  • This evening, explore the Old Quarter with its “seven streets” and interesting architecture. The old medieval heart of the city, the Old Quarter features narrow pedestrians streets and lanes lined with Renaissance, Baroque, and Modernist buildings. Your guide will point out some of the most famous sites, such as the fourteenth-century gothic Cathedral of Santiago, the bridge and church of San Anton, and the arcaded Plaza Nueva.
  • This evening’s dinner will be an introduction to the Baques tradition of “Poteo,” which is a long-standing tradition in the Basque Country. “Poteo” entails eating small bites (“pintxos,” the Basque version of tapas) and drinking small glasses of wine called “txikitos.” Each pintxo (pronounced “peencho”) is like a small work of art. They are elaborately constructed from Basque products combined with a modern touch. Usually pintxos are consumed standing up at a high-top table, but after your long day you can sit at a private reserved table to enjoy your lively dinner.
  • Enjoy a short walk back to the hotel and overnight.

Day 2

  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • After breakfast, depart for Guernica, a town that is especially dear to the Basques. The town and its central oak tree were for centuries home to the political assembly in the region, but its most famous historical legacy is the 1937 bombing by German aircraft during the Spanish Civil, when Hitler’s planes sent to support Franco’s troops razed the city. The bombing inspired one of the greatest works of modern art, Picasso’s painting Guernica (which is housed in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia). During your visit to Guernica you will see the petrified remains of the symbolic oak tree that miraculously survived the bombing, as well as the Casa de Juntas, where the Basque parliament has met since 1979.
  • After Guernica, visit a winery located in the center of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, for a lesson on “Txakoli,” the famed Basque white wine that is slightly sparkling and very dry, produced only in a few Northern provinces of Spain. The guided tour will conclude with a light lunch and Txakoli tasting.
  • Continue the day with a guided tour along the coast. Urdaibai is one of the Biscay province’s most interesting destinations. Its sandy earth is a haven for many species of flora and fauna, and it is an important wintering spot for many marine birds during their migration from Europe to Africa. The development of forest reserves in the region for the purpose of environmental conservation have made Urdaibai one of the most diverse landscapes in northern Spain.
  • Your next stop will be at Gaztelugatxe, a small rocky island that is connected to the mainland by a causeway and that houses one of Spain’s most striking sites, an 11th-century chapel built to honor St. John. (Note that there are around 250 steps to reach San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.)
  • Transfer back to Bilbao for a special Pintxos workshop, in which you will learn to replicate the sophisticated “tapas” snacks that line the bar tops in the Basque Country. From the simple “Gilda,” one of the city’s most traditional pintxos, to more elaborate avant-garde creations, the world of pintxos will be made fun and easy. And of course, you will enjoy your creations (with wine!) for dinner.
  • Enjoy a short walk back to the hotel and overnight.

Day 3

  • Breakfast and meet your guide for a visit to the famous Ribera Market, one of the largest markets in Europe with over 400 stands and almost 38,000 square feet. From its stained-glass entryway to its small catwalks over the river, the market is sure to enthrall. The farmer’s market is located on the top floor, full of bountiful produce, and the bottom floor houses some of the freshest fish in Spain, brought in on the morning’s boats.
  • After the market visit, it is off to cook! You will be welcomed by the Chef, who is a member of the prestigious “Euro-Toques” culinary association, and will be led in a cooking class on typical dishes of the Basque region. The course will end with lunch based on your efforts, wine included.
  • After lunch, enjoy a guided tour of the Abandoibarra quarter, a prime example of urban restructuring and vanguard architecture. You will see how an industrial city was transformed into a city famed for its culture and tourism, witnessing the urban evolution of Bilbao through a visit of the most relevant projects undertaken during the transformation, which are now some of the Spain’s leading urban landmarks.
  • Any tour of Bilbao’s modern architecture must include the city’s Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and considered an architectural masterpiece. The massive titanium, glass, and stone-sculpted building houses nineteen galleries, which you will visit with an official guide.
  • Back to the hotel and time to freshen up for dinner.
  • This evening, your very special farewell dinner will be at a Michelin-star restaurant, where all of your senses will be engaged, and where each dish will invoke the season, the city, and the Basque Country.
  • Enjoy a short walk back to the hotel and overnight.

Day 4

  • Breakfast and checkout.
  • On the way to the airport, stop in Getxo to see the Biscay Bridge, which was built to connect the two banks of the Nervión. It’s the oldest transporter bridge in the world and was built in 1893 by Alberto Palacio, a disciple of Eiffel. Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2006, it is one of the most revered constructions of the European Industrial Revolution and considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the Nineteenth Century.
  • Transfer to Bilbao International Airport.

Additional days/tours and hotel nights can be arranged for an extra cost. Options include: Rioja region: Visit the medieval city of Laguardia as well as three wineries; and/or San Sebastian excursion: Visit Mount Igeldo and San Sebastian (known as the Pearl of the Sea).