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Biking from Nottingham to Gernika? Are you crazy?

Biking in the Basque Country…….

Eight friends, all with a Nottingham connection, and all biking fans. Some of them had been here before for work and holidays and knew that cycling was big news here. How were they going to get together for a long weekend trip to discover some more of the mythical roads and hills that the Basque Country had hidden away? They had seen the stages in the Pyrenees in the Tour de France, and the Tour of the Basque Country, but how to get it off the ground? And just as importantly, they wanted it to be more than just cycling, they wanted food, drink and a few laughs….

So it was with interest that in Autumn 2017 I received an email regarding putting together a unique tour here. I am not a biker, but arrange all manner of bespoke trips, and the thought of of curating a made-to-measure tour for 8 keen cyclists from the UK got me excited. However, it wasn’t just the biking, the clients wanted me to create something that combined time in the saddle with beautiful places & local traditions. A chance to show off our cuisine, our landscape and our hospitality. A true Tour of the Basque Country.

Cycling, biking, riding, however you call it, it always been big here in the Basque Country. Tour de France winners? Check. Stages of the Tour de France? Check. Long tradition of biking? Check. Varied terrain and excellent surfaces? Check…

Four night tour

Accommodation was organised months in advance. This level or preparedness is essential to ensure a smooth running tour, always! A mix of locations, and styles of beds just adds to the experience. From Camino de Santiago hostels to 4* hotels, we had it all covered. What about my bike? I hear you ask. Well, all spots were chosen with secure storage for your pride and joy uppermost in our selection criteria. Its the little details see…

On the road

Tour design and profile is essential, especially for a mixed group such as this. Routes were chosen in combination with the accommodation, distances, elevation, and activities post-biking. We decided on a post-to-post style tour to give variety and a different feel to everyday. A single base is also an option of course. It allows for less morning prep time, but doesn’t have the feel of a tour. In terms of bikes, it was a mix of own-bikes and rented. We used our good friends at Bizkairoute for the excellent hire bikes, and the GPS/Garmin/Strava apps to enable our riders to see where they were going! In addition we had a ‘Broom Wagon’ to carry all the bike boxes, luggage, spares, drinks etc. Essential on a biking tour in a new location.

The Tour

A long weekend starting on Thursday saw our group of 8 enthusiasts visit a Txoko, a members-only dining club if you will, in the famous town of Gernika. The ritual of preparing food and dining together in the txoko here is a almost a religious thing, so as a visitor it rarely gets seen… It also meant the riders would be fully loaded for the days ahead….

Friday saw us embark from the hostel with San Sebastián as our destination. The route of saw us cover 115km along gorgeous coastal roads with little or no traffic. A couple of decent climbs and elevation of 1,900m, that included Itziar and Mendizorrotz. Passing through the Urdaibai Nature reserve, the villages of Lekeitio, Ondarroa, Deba and into San Sebastian was as one of the riders said afterwards. The best day’s riding I have ever done….

San Sebastian was a welcome respite from the long day in the saddle. Ice-cold beers, a beautiful beach and cool sea to soothe weary legs… Dinner was taken up in a Cider House another great Basque tradition, off-limits to all but the most ‘in-the-know’ travellers. Cider; free flowing, steaks, salt cod all delicious and served on long tables.. the tired legs were a memory…

Heading Inland

A spritely start saw us head east and inland into the interior of the green Basque Country. Sunny start, but the weather soon became Basque with a couple of heavy downpours, adding to the biking experience! A day of 90km, and 1,800m elevation into the the charming Basque village of Elizondo, nestled in the lush Pyrenean foothills. Climbs included Cat 2s Aritxulegi and Agiña. A great traditional lunch followed by an evening of laughs, Gin Tonics and a carb-laden dinner saw everyone happy to bed.

Pyrenees

Riders from the world over know these mountains. Harsh, rugged and with very unpredictable weather, they play a major part in the Tour de France every year. Cyclists such as 5-time Tour winner Indurain hailed from here. The Sky Team were spotted on the road here on another of our tours only days later…. Its big country.

Our final day saw us leave the threatening skies over Elizondo and head east up and over the Cat 2 Col de Izpegi and into France! Some incredible mountain views were taken in before we rolled down into Baigorri, St Jean Pied de Port, and the Camino de Santiago. The border into Spain took us up to the Cat 1 Alto de Ibañeta at 1,062m, and the lovely ride down into Pamplona, city of the Running of the Bulls and Ernest Hemingway! Overall a leg of 113km and climbs totalling 2,100m, the riders were over the moon!! A short biking tour of the Basque Country, into Navarra and the Pyrenees, all rounded off in the great 4* Hotel Maisonnave in Pamplona!!

Next Year.. 2019

Well of course!! We are early in the planning stagess for Basque Country Biking Tour II. Its something that was so successful that we feel we can make this into an event for every year. Great locations, great riding, super meals and the beautiful Basque Country to appreciate.

Speak to me if you fancy organising a similar biking and bike tour across the Basque country, it so much more than just riding here!!

Trip Advisor

Just take a look at the comments left by our clients if you need more convincing….

 

 

  • Biking in the Basque Country
  • basque bike tour

Eneko – Michelin Star Restaurant

Eneko Restaurant

Hidden away up in the hills close to Bilbao sits a restaurant that has been gaining international acclaim. The Azurmendi is a Three Michelin Star restaurant that was named as 38th best restaurant in the Worlds’ 50 Best awards in 2017  However, it has a little brother, called Eneko

This off-shoot has been created by the Azurmendi’s main chef and owner, Eneko Atxa with the intention of making the restaurant more accesible. A holder of one Michelin Star by itself, the menu is focused on local provenance.

We at Basque Experiences were delighted to be invited in early March to sample the magnificent dishes…  The visit also included a tour and tastings of txakoli wines produced at their own Bodega!

Menu

Local produce is fundamental here and the principle runs through the Menu. Wines were their own; Gorka Izagirre, G22, 42, and Arima as well as a Campillo from Rioja Alavesa. Seven courses of which some of which you can see n the photos! Can you guess what was used though? The variety of methods, ingredients and presentation was great, and everything was delicious!! I had a couple of favourites but I am not going to give the game away… You will have to come with us and try or let us reserve a table for you and your group…

Pizarro

Talking groups, we have our Pizarro ‘Basque’ Gastronomy Tour in late 2018. For our final day with Jose Pizarro we will be visiting the Azurmendi Restaurant and kitchens, a unique chance to dine and discover this superb restaurant!

  • Basque Hake
  • Egg.... and peppers and corn....
  • Foie or Chestnut
  • Olives
  • Rich beef
  • Eneko's Team
  • Eneko restaurant
  • Dessert

Sailing with us along the Basque Coast!

Basque Coast Sailing

Come join us sailing for a fantastic perspective on our beautiful country. Rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, fishing villages, flysch and the odd film set…   Game of Thrones style

Basque Experiences and their partner arrange superb, tailored sailing trips from the port of Santurtzi, one of the historic fishing towns on the Bilbao estuary. Fully insured and using expert skippers and the best vessels you are in safe hands! Whether you are experiences sailors or beginners, the trips are special.

Bilbao and the River

Embarking from Santurtzi we can cruise inland towards Bilbao. Past the UNESCO Industrial Heritage Site of the Hanging Bridge. Incidentally the first of its kind in the world and the only such listed site in Spain. Up-river and past old steel-works and shipyards, upto San Mames stadium and the incredible Guggenheim Museum. Or cruise around the Abra, the entry to Bilbao. See Getxo Algorta, Las Arenas and Portugalete on a morning cruise.

Weekends on the Coast

Alternatively take a weekend trip along this gorgeous and rarely seen coast. Head towards Castro Urdiales for lunch or east past Plentzia, Bermeo, Lekeitio and onto the fishing villages of Zumaia and finally San Sebastián. The French coast is also close,with gorgeous harbours at Hendaye and St Jean de Luz. Want to learn? Well we can arrange courses for you with a fully qualified sail school, skippers and instructors. Is fishing your thing? Well we can put lines out for Tuna, feather for Mackerel and jig for squid... depends on your taste! Combine a morning onboard a yacht with a cycling tour on electric bikes with our friends at www.deskonecta.com… Just drop Basque Experiences a line!!

  • Sailing Bilbao
  • Hanging Bridge
  • Sailing Basque
  • Basque Experiences

A Wine Tour from Bordeaux to Bilbao

New Wine Tour….

Bordeaux to Bilbao! That was the idea we came up with back in spring 2016, for some clients who visited us in 2015 on a private wine tour from Bilbao to Barcelona! They loved it so much we agreed to create a new tour for them. This time to take in the SW of France, the world’s most famous wine producing region along with the French Basque Country and the wines and gastronomy of the Spanish Basque Country…

 

Chateau and Cite du Vin

Bordeaux is the city of wine par excellence. Historic, traditional yet modern, regenerated and home to truly spectacular wines. The Cite du Vin, family owned Chateau Lamothe du Haux and the magnificent Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte all combined with our own excellent private guide. Visits to the charming and stunning St Emilion, fine dining in superb restaurants. Not a bad way to start the tour…

Biarritz and San Sebastian

The French Basque Country is sometimes passed by… It’s more recognised neighbour, San Sebastian gets the limelight these days. But Biarritz with its aristocratic past, belle-epoque architecture beautiful beach and elegant residents means a visit is always a must. Lunch at a riverside restaurant in Bayonne was followed by a visit to a D.O. Espelette red pepper farm before heading to San Sebastian for what was a long yet fascinating day. The Hotel Villa Soro certainly makes up for it though!! Visits to Getaria to learn and sample our indigenous Txakoli wine before an evening experiencing the Sagardotegi… The Basque Cider House!

Urdaibai and Bilbao

Ernest Hemingway was a frequent visitor to the Basque Country, writing, making friends and generally enjoying the finer things in life that we have to offer here! There is no better way to learn about his exploits than taking a slow boat along the Oka River in the stunning Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. Sampling local cheeses and preserves, tasting local Txakoli and sing sea-shanties and whaler’s songs is a great way to spend a day before heading into Bilbao and the chic Hotel Miro

Our week of wine and Basque Culture was rounded off with visits to two superb wine-makers. Torre de Oña in Laguardia and the stunningly located Bodega Contino. Here our farewell visit was rounded off with a delicious lunch… The swaying trees provided the shade as as a warm breeze blew through the vines…

 

BBKLIVE2017 Bilbao Live Music Festival

BBKLive2017 Bilbao!

For the second year running Basque Experiences have the pleasure of working with the team at Last Tour! BBKLive is an annual live music festival on the Kobeta hill right in the centre of Bilbao. The three day festival celebrated it’s 10th anniversary this year as bbklive2017, and Basque Experiences were only too willing to help.

International and Basque

This year’s line up saw 80’s favourites Depeche Mode headline along with Las Vegas’ finest, The Killers and the pride of Belfast, Two Door Cinema Club. Other big bands entertaining the mixed local and European crowd were Primal Scream, Brian Wilson, !!!, 1975, Fleet Foxes, Royal Blood, Explosions In The Sky, Justice, The Parrots, Cabbage…. its a long list! Do you want me to name them all? 😉

Work was done…

Its not all watching bands you know. We had the pleasure of taking some UK music journalists around Bilbao on the Friday. A great bike tour around some of the coolest spots in Bilbao. San Francisco, Dos de Mayo, Pozas, San Mames, and of course, past the shiny Guggenheim! All of this pedalling was fuelled by regular fuelling spots at some of the best and most original bars in Bilbao. After all, its what we are good at here as well…. Here are some great photos we took of our guests. I know for a fact that they had a great time, and that some, if not all will be back next year!!

  • Basque Country Tour