The Walking Party – private escorted walks since 1996.
Day 2 We set off in the vehicles for a fifteen minute drive followed by a beautiful walk with lovely views of the Pyrenees back to the Manor House for a picnic lunch.
In the afternoon there’s an optional visit to the lovely Chateau de Laas, which set in a beautiful garden on the banks of the river and has an extraordinary collection of wonderful antiques. It once belonged to the former chairman of the French Antiques Society and is well worth the visit! Return to the house by car for a wine tasting with Minette Constant who will show you the diversity of wines from south-west France and the difference between vintage and non vintage champagne. Dinner at the manor house with Florence, James and Minette. Walk:11kms
Day 3 We leave the Manor House and drive to St Etienne de Baigorry. Here we will visit an Irouleguy vineyard. Irouleguy was wine first made by monks for the pilgrims on their way to Saint Jacques de la Compostelle. Now a great wine, one of the classic reds of the south west, made with the tannat grape grown on red sandstone terraces. We will eat trout at the riverside village of Banca before a short drive followed by a beautiful walk downhill to see the Basque pigs in the Aldude valley.
In the evening we arrive at Sare for our next two nights in the lovely hotel beside the central square of this pretty Basque village, surrounded by Pyrenean peaks. Walk: 10kms
Day 4 After breakfast we walk over to the neighbouring village of Ainhoa. It is a little up and down over small hills before arriving in this classic Basque village, dotted with red and white painted houses and with wonderful charm.
Lunch in Ainhoa before an afternoon walk up to a tiny hill-top chapel for the outstanding views over the foothills to the Atlantic. We return to Sare with time to relax before dinner outside in the square. Walk: 12kms
Day 5 Again up in the morning for another lovely French breakfast of dark black coffee and freshly baked croissants before we set off into the mountains towards Spain! This is not too difficult a walk though there are a couple of short ‘pulls’ but it is a lovely way through the mountains towards the village of Bera. We will picnic on the way with beautiful views high in the hills and some delicious Spanish wines and fantastic Basque ham (this is the ham that comes from the free roaming pigs that feed on chestnuts which lends it the delicious characteristic sweet flavour). After the picnic we continue on to the village for a café cortadoor cervezabefore driving into Spain for San Sebastian and the Niza hotel over-looking the bay. Walk: 11kms
Day 6 We leave San Sebastian to drive to Bilbao for our visit to the wonderful Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and sponsored by the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation. This museum was specifically built to house exhibitions of monumental works and is I think one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. Frank Gehry designed it around the idea of boat lines and fish and it has a wonderfully curvilinear and scaly quality to it with a tremendous sense of light. The fact that Jeff Koons’ 15 metre puppy guards it like Cerberus is an added bonus of floral contrasting with metallic. Well worth the drive!
From here we return to the beautiful city of San Sebastian, a sort of nineteenth century Brighton with a perfect bay and a small island in the middle of the bay’s pincer edges. It is known as the gastronomic city of Europe having more starred Michelin restaurants per square metre of city than any other!
Day 7 We leave San Sebastian for the famous French port of S Jean de Luz. A moment to shop in the pretty streets (there are lovely shops in St Jean de Luz) and see the wonderful church where Louis IV married the Infanta of Spain in 1654. A light lunch in the town before leaving for Biarritz airport.
NOTE: The itinerary is subject to change according to local conditions. All mileages shown are approximate.
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