Why I love the Basque Gastronomy?

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It is Love with a capital L and Gastronomy with a capital G. Pincho calamar, pincho champinion en salsa, croquetas, pulpo, jamón Iberico, tortilla de patatas and a glass of quality Verdejo or sparkly Txakoli (a young light white wine). The list goes on. The cuisine of the Basque country is rich and unique. The food can be so good that I think I almost shed a tear or two the last time we were there. Which by the way was way too long a go if you ask me (in June, says my calendar).

The ground is fertile for vineyards, the land good for the livestock and the sea offers its best fruits. Why do I like the Basque cuisine so much? Well here’s why.

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It’s fun. Vamos a tapear! Meaning let’s go and eat tapas. Or pinchos when up in the North. I really like the culture and the way of popping in one restaurant and having a drink, one or two delicious tapas, enjoying the lively mood of the place plus great company and then heading to the next pincho bar. You get to see and experience many different places and also do an energizing (or something) walk in between. To sum it up, it’s tavern hopping with an exciting twist, with quality food and fun socializing.  So, off you go, enjoy and make a night of it!

Pinchos. Small tasty portions, snacks or appetizers, the Basque version on tapas. They can be very varied – there’s probably a thousand different kinds – from a slice of bread covered with hake or chorizo to a small bowl of juicy pulpo á la Gallega or a small glass of fresh gazpacho decorated with flowers. And the choosing is of course the most fun, tempting and tricky part. I guess you could say that it’s far more than a snack, it’s a way of life (without trying to sound all too exaggerative): fun, fast, informal, a gastronomic venture.

Pure quality. The food we tried was made of quality ingredients. It’s fresh, colorful, tasty and in many places very local. All things that I really value on my plate. And, what’s great about it is that…

It is very affordable. The price value relationship is excellent.  Two pinchos and a glass of wine for each can be around ten euros. Gotta love it.

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Great food is very attainable. Our family members are going on a trip to San Sebastian and they were wondering that is it a bit too much to eat in two three Michelin star restaurants in one day. But when in San Sebastian it is almost difficult not to; the city has more Michelin star restaurants per square kilometer than any other city in the world!  One of the most favorable areas to find a concentration of tasty places in San Sebastian is the Casco Viejo.

And, two peculiarities: often it is completely ok to throw napkins, olive stones and toothpicks (used as the spikes in the pinchos) to the floor in the bar. Do as the locals do. And head where the locals head. In the best places the people spread from the inside of the bar onto the streets. And the second curiosity, the local delicacy Percebe is shellfish despite of its name that refers to goose.

Spain_food3Mmmm, revuelto, very delish.

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Basque cuisine, definitely worth the taste tour!  It’s a culinary delight. ¡Que approveche!  And if you are heading over there I’m more than happy to give you a tupperware case:  you can thank me for these tips in the form of something small, yummy and spiked with a skewer. 

Gorgeous beach surprise: Playa de Itzurun

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The title pretty much sums up the ingredients of a successful day trip for me: something beautiful, the sea and the option to spend the entire day swimming and the surprise element. The 32-year-old me and the 6-year-old version rejoice of many of the same things and water activities and ice cream are high up on that list.

Playa de Itzurun is spectacular. A hidden gem, really. It’s located on the coast of Zumaia, around half an hour car ride from San Sebastian. My travel companion (the best one) planned this excursion and promised that the destination would be nice. And was it ever. It was gorgeous (hence the awstruck surprise factor).

We discovered the beach by first climbing up to the chapel of San Telmo, the patron saint of sailors. From the cliff opens the breathtaking view to the beach and to the Bay of Bizcay. About the chapel by the way: if you are looking for a truly unique and purely visual place to get married in, well then here’s a strong alternative.

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We marvelled at the long vertical cliffs and the limestone walls that led down to the beach. The beach is long and the sand is soft. If you’re a water sports enthusiast, you can go surfing, windsurfing or bodyboarding. And if geology is your thing the beach is very likely of interest to you because of the rock strata formations that rise vertically from the sea. Flysch, they call it, part of the longest continuous rock formations in the world.
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There definitely was something magical in this place. A day trip of ten points. And what is a day trip without something delicious. We lunched in the fishing village of Getaria, a convenient pitstop to enjoy something fresh from the sea.

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Biarritz discoveries: mighty waves and the perfect cheese cake

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Two daring and direct sparrows were staring at us and almost saying that yeah, you can sit there and enjoy the view towards the Rocher de la Vierge but that biscuit by your cappuccino belongs to us, no question about it. The first tip for Biarritz: the Eden Rock Café (6 place du Port Vieux). The café sits on the rocks and overlooks to the sea. The espresso and rosé were tasty and the spice of the place was the mighty sea right next to you, not to forget the new feathery friends.

I had a strong wish to visit Biarritz during our Basque Country adventure and I’m really happy we did, though I don’t know where the urge and idea originally sprang from. Maybe it was the images of long sandy beaches, high waves and a trifle of discreet luxury.

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Biarritz is a small and beautiful city on the Atlantic coast in the Basque country, around 35 kilometers from the border of Spain. It is a popular surfing spot: we saw groups of barefooted surfers running towards the beach in their wetsuits and with their boards. Biarritz is a relaxed city with a classy and bourgeoisie twist: a mixture of stylish and laid-back. You can find small boutiques selling local creations, cafés and of course the characteristic and tower-loving architecture. Yes, the architecture: it is distinctive and even slightly peculiar. Fine, varying and allowing, one could say.

I’ll share my Biarritz tips and spots from one afternoon to the afternoon of the following day.

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Start by walking by the beautiful Grande Plage beach towards the light house Phare de Biarritz. The views are spectacular and along the walk the forceful sea breaks against the rocks. By the lighthouse there is a small café where you can get something to drink or an ice cream. You can enjoy a glass of something cold and the panoramic view towards the long beach, the Rocher de la Vierge and the center of Biarritz. You might even catch the peaks of the Pyrenees. Sniffing the sea air feels good. For you running enthusiasts there is an eminently popular running route that goes beside the Plage.

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When you head back one place option to have an aperitif before dinner time is the bar of the Casino Barrière de Biarritz. One disappointing thing about the casino itself was that you couldn’t try the game machines just with some coins as they had blocked the coin holes. This was slightly annoying, and greedy. Hence the cocktails were the only purchase we made there.

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Our restaurant choice for dinner was Le B2 (5 Rue Du Centre) and it was outstanding. The oysters, the salmon tartar, the white wine (from Chateau Pouyanne) and the warm atmosphere. The special mentioning goes to the dessert which was worthy of the title the best cheese cake in the world (our opinion, but a very convinced and delighted one). Now I only have to find out how I can have that treat delivered to Helsinki. Le B2 is a very cozy and a rather small place. In the vicinity of the Market Hall (Rue des Halles) there are attractive looking bistros and restaurants.

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For the next day I would suggest: visit the market hall Les Halles to admire the place (I have a soft spot for market halls, maybe I’ll write a post of my favorite ones one day) and for a breakfast or a lunch to go pit-stop. There are fresh cut flowers, bread and a wide selection of vegies, cheeses, fish and meats. Even a stand for wine and sushi. I recommend having seafood when in the Basque Country. The market hall opens early in the morning and closes at three pm. The Day 2 route suggestions also include: a walk via the Allée Port des Pêcheurs to the Rocher de la Vierge and wandering in the small boutiques. Though the price level of bauble jewelry was surprisingly high.

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I would recommend marine Biarritz for a day trip or for a weekend getaway. Both if you surf and if you don’t. If you are in San Sebastian, it’s less than an hour’s ride away and definitely worth the visit.