Behind the scenes tour to Basque Cuisine and culture in the French Spanish Pyrenees
By Kate McWilliams
Gastronomic tour company San Sebastián Food has revamped their successful ‘Discover The Basque Country’ experience, which offers sublime behind-the-scenes access to Basque cuisine and culture, led by Basque cultural specialist and author of ‘The Basque Country’ Paddy Woodworth and owner of San Sebastián Food Jon Warren.
This year’s tour takes place from 5th to 9th July and now includes a journey deep into the foothills of the Pyrenees to explore a number of remote Basque villages on both sides of the French-Spanish border, as well as a dinner at one of the region’s finest restaurants, Arzak (3 Michelin stars), run by acclaimed chef Juan Mari Arzak.
This unique adventure offers the very best of the Basque Country, far beyond the mainstream tourist trails. Guests will visit charming Basque villages steeped in history and tradition, learn the secrets of ‘cocina vasca’ at a Basque cookery class, meet with local chefs and regional experts as well as enjoying a privileged visit to the San Fermin Fiesta in Lesaka, home of the breathtaking ‘ezpata danza’ (sword dance). The tour will open with an illustrated introduction, over pintxos of course, to Basque history and culture by Paddy Woodworth, who has lectured on Basque themes at Harvard and the London School of Economics. Both Paddy and Jon Warren will accompany guests throughout the tour, to share their love and knowledge of the region on an informal basis.
This once-a-year tour not only introduces visitors to some of the Basque Country’s many highlights but also offers a true insiders’ view of the culinary and local traditions of Basque culture. In the picturesque village of Lesaka guests will have the chance to discover beautifully preserved architecture dating back to the 14th century. Local historian Rafael Eneterreaga will join the group to share his expert knowledge, offering visitors insights into many hidden corners and historical and anecdotal narratives from a resident expert’s perspective.
Those keen to recreate some of their favourite Basque dishes at home will enjoy the hands-on cooking class that takes place in a tiny Basque fishing village by the water’s edge. The group will also be granted special access to the kitchens at 3 Michelin star restaurant Arzak – a truly unique experience that will be followed by a spectacular tasting menu and selected wines.
Guests will stay at the charming Hotel Araya, ideally located in the French Basque village of Sare, regarded as one of the most attractive in the region. The hotel which overlooks the village square offers a wonderful terrace to enjoy aperitifs in a fantastic setting. Araya combines the comfort of a luxury hotel with the charm of one of the most beautiful Basque residences that started life as a 16th century inn for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago
This unique five day tour is priced at £2075 per person including all local transportation*, four nights in deluxe rooms at the beautiful Hotel Araya, all meals with selected wines, two dedicated specialist guides, Basque cooking class, San Fermin fiesta day experience, half-day countryside tour including cheese farm visit, three Michelin-starred dinner, optional guided walks, signed book, tour photo album and luxury welcome gift pack.
*Price includes private transport between all venues, including airport transport and a short boat trip, excludes international flights, travel insurance and 18% vat
More information here: www.sansebastianfood.com
San Sebastián Food is run by Jon Warren. Having quit a finance career in London back in 2008, Jon has been on a four-year Gastronomic adventure in the Basque Country. This life-changing journey inspired him to create a series of unique food, wine and cultural experiences and San Sebastian Food was born. Aside from running the business on a daily basis, he is the food writer for the Spanish Ministry of Tourism and Trade, covering Northern Spain’s coast from Galicia to The Basque Country.
As well as the unique ‘Discover The Basque Country’ tour, San Sebastián Food also offers a range of gourmet experiences ranging from a Pintxos Tasting Tours to Basque Cookery classes, Rekondo Wine Tasting or dinner at Arzak.
*’The Basque Country’ by Paddy Woodworth was published by Signal and Oxford University Press in 2008. Described by David Gardner at the Financial Times as:
“Shrewd and affectionate…..full of gems….a good eye for architecture and topography….a splendid portrait of a bewitching land”
Paddy Woodworth has been writing about the Basque Country since 1978, for publications ranging from the Irish Times to the International Herald Tribune and Vanity Fair, and for broadcasters including the BBC, RTE, and National Public Radio in the US. His first book, ‘Dirty War, Clean Hands’, was described by Franco biographer Paul Preston as “one of the most important books ever published about post-Franco Spain.”