Basquefood winegastronomyJoy DoddsMediterranean

first_imgBasquefood & winegastronomyJoy DoddsMediterranean MusingsSpain Read all of JOY DODDS’ previous Mediterranean Musings – from Italy to Spain, and including gastronomic delights …Coastal Euskadi, Basque Spain, exudes tradition and passion.Perched on the Bay of Biscay coast near the border with France, this colourful region – locally known as Euskadi in Basque or País Vasco in Spanish – is an autonomous region with its own government, as well as its own culture and language, its own culinary traditions and a distinctive landscape. Medieval town walls and springtime blossomsThe two largest cities of the region are San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque) on the Bay of La Concha and Bilbao, the provincial capital, both on the coast. San Sebastian’s Old Town (Parte Vieja) is reputed to have the highest concentration of bars per square metre in Spain, and is the undisputed king of Spain’s restaurant scene with countless Michelin restaurants.Bilbao, best known for its architecturally-stunning Museo Guggenheim, a modern art mecca, also boasts the nearby fine arts museum, Museo de Bellas Artes, which holds art works by El Greco, Goya and others. Like San Sebastian, it has a reputation for partying, particularly in the old town, Las Siete Calles, on the right bank of the Ria de Bilbao where the Catedrale de Santiago stands. Bilbao’s beaches, particularly Azkorri, are another great attraction.Neither city, however, is the capital of Pais Vasco, this honour falling to inland Vitoria-Gasteiz, where Spain’s Basque Autonomous Community Parliament building is located. Considered the best-preserved medieval centre in Basque Country, its Renaissance palaces and stone mansions are among its attractions, as well as some of the finest Basque restaurants. Classic Basque farmhousePursuing our easterly coastal route, we passed through both San Sebastian and Bilbao, their attractions well-documented, for the lesser-known but equally fascinating charming coastal town of Hondarribia, or Fuenterrabia in Spanish, in Guipuzcoa province. Perched on Txingudi Bay with Jaizkibel Mountain its magnificent backdrop, this medieval gem, to me, ticks all the boxes as one of the most fascinating sites on the Basque Coast.Puerta de Santa Maria, Hondarribia’s original main gateVoted one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, this former Roman settlement and port is surrounded by magnificent and evocative medieval city walls with huge battlements that overlook the Rio Bidossoa. The original main gate, Puerta de Santa Maria, makes the ideal introduction to the town, the historic centre of which dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. Despite its medieval authenticity, Hondarribia is surprisingly non-commercial in terms of touristy souvenir shops and the like, increasing its appeal.Hondarribia’s historic quarter is a maze of cobbled streets, its elegant buildings in the vicinity of the main plaza, Puerta des Armes, in striking contrast to the joyful colourful houses of the fishermen’s quarter (La Marina), most notably along pedestrian-only Calle San Pedro. Hondarribia’s Fishermen’s Quarter shops and eateriesThe fishermen’s houses have facades painted bright green, red or blue colours, and adorned with wood-carved eaves and wrought iron. The wooden balconies are all cheerfully decorated with flower boxes and pots, creating a picture-perfect scene.Many of these old-fashioned houses now contain bars and restaurants, most serving pintxos (Basque tapas). One of the town’s other great attractions is its gastronomy, its restaurateurs having won countless awards for delicious seafood and pintxos paired with drinks such as txakoli sparkling wine and Basque cider served throughout the village.(See Basque Gastronomy below).The harbourside La Marina is full of seafaring vessels of all sizes, including a huge beached blue and white fishing boat, a tribute to the bravery and persistence of its fishermen and the town’s historic roots.La MarinaOther attractions are the Gothic and Renaissance Castle of Emperor Carlos V, now El Emperador, a brilliant four-star parador and the 16th-century Iglesia del Manzano church. Sandy Hondarribia Beach at the mouth of the Bidasoa River is also picturesque.Out of town, well worth visiting are the 16th century Our Lady of Guadalupe Sanctuary and Hermitage and the Castle of San Telmo on Cape Higuer, while west of the city, on Mount Jaizkibel, is the Guadalupe Fort which was a Spanish Civil War prison.Our comfortable and evocative farm-stay cabinA farm stay in Hondarribia makes a truly authentic experience. Our beautifully-appointed rustic cabin was only five minutes from Pueurta de Santa Maria but located in stunning lush countryside. Exquisitely decorated for comfort and character by our most convivial hosts, our Basque accommodation was perfect. (TEL: B+34 635727120)Rustic decor and well-appointed farm-stay facilities in rural HondarribiaBasque GastronomyHondarribia charcuterie – jambon, cheeses, all proudly displayedWhat can you expect from the highly-acclaimed delicious and distinctive Basque cuisine? Fancy a Basque tapas (pintxos) or ten from our La Marina Bar? Mouth-watering!Menus are rich in meats and fish grilled over hot coals, as well as marmitako (bonito and potato stew) and lamb stews. Monkfish, octopus and cod feature widely along with local specialties such as Tolosa beans, paprikas from Lekeitio, piquillo peppers and artichokes, ideally followed by a plate of delicious Idiazabal sheep’s cheese.We relished the array of pintxos at a brilliant local bar/eatery on Calle San Pedro, not to mention the convivial, laid-back atmosphere and local beer choices. Nearby restaurant La Hermendad de Pescadores is famous throughout Spain for its seafood, the simple blue and white building on the waterfront being best known for its fish soup, or sopa de pecsado. Another Hondarribia restaurant, Almeda, is one of several awarded Michelin stars for fine Basque dining, based on the freshest of locally-sourced seafood.Our choice to explore charming Hondarribia rather than Guipuzcoa Province’s larger well-known icons proved to be an excellent one. All the rich culture and proud traditions renowned in the coastal ancestral lands of the Basque people were there in spades, along with medieval history and acclaimed gastronomy, amid a rugged unspoilt rustic charm. Next week we’ll dig deeper into Basque Country, exploring the Spanish-French mountain regions of the Pyrenees.Coastal view towards Francelast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *