Gastronomy in Basque Country, Pais Vasco, Spain

A short while back, I had the opportunity to hear Rick Steves speak in Seattle, and among the topic that he was discussing was the concept of visiting “second cities.” In other words, while most people visit Rome, Paris, Madrid, and Berlin, they don’t visit Naples, Marseille, Bilbao, and Cologne. It’s just human nature to want to go to the big city. After all, it’s the one that most people have heard about and most of your friends have probably gone to.

Bonito fish and bread,

Bonito fish and bread,

But what we’ve found over the past couple of years is that those “first cities” are becoming overcrowded with tour guides, buses, and inflated prices to cater to tourists that might travel once every year or every two years. The real vibe of a country, or a place, is found in the second cities.

With that in mind, in October of last year, we decided to head to the Basque Country in the north of Spain, a place that is known to some tourists but not to most. A perfect place for a truly Spanish vacation.

Our flights into Amsterdam from Seattle and into Bilbao from Amsterdam were quite mundane and not memorable. We flew coach (I know I know… but the flights were only $400 each) and so we don’t have any photos from the flights themselves.

KLM Cityhopper to Bilbao

KLM Cityhopper to Bilbao

We do, however, have an awesome KLM lounge photo ☺ I mean how cool is it that they brand their cookies like that? And check out the silverware…

KLM cookies Lounge in AMS

KLM cookies Lounge in AMS

We picked up our rental car and headed to our hotel, the wonderful* Holiday Inn Bilbao, dropped off our things, and set out to explore the city. Bilbao is an incredibly modern and metropolitan city, as the entire Basque Country is. Indivdual elevators replace stairs on steep hills. Modern designed spaces butt up against centuries old buildings. Their ATMS however… require some work.

Modern Escalators in the City of Bilbao

Modern Escalators in the City of Bilbao

Modern Escalator / Elevator in the City of Bilbao

Modern Escalator / Elevator in the City of Bilbao

Old School ATM, Bilbao

Old School ATM, Bilbao

Our purpose in life for this trip was… food. We know that the north of Spain has an amazing gastronomic history, and this trip did not disappoint. Safe to say we ate our way through the country.  Here’s a big sampling of everything that we did

Pintxos (Tapas) Basque Country, Pais Vasco, Spain

Pintxos (Tapas) Basque Country, Pais Vasco, Spain

Pintxos Selection,

Pintxos Selection,

Pintxos Selection

Pintxos Selection

Sidra pouring

Sidra pouring

basque sweets

basque sweets

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Chipirones en su tinta, squid in their own ink

Chipirones en su tinta, squid in their own ink

Zoco Liquor

Zoco Liquor

Salt Flakes from a local salt mine

Salt Flakes from a local salt mine

Turrón

Turrón

Bread stuffed with cream, and ice cream

Bread stuffed with cream, and ice cream

Local basque desserts

Local basque desserts

Local Basque Cheeses

Local Basque Cheeses

Espresso and sweets

Espresso and sweets

Stuffed Asparagus

Stuffed Asparagus

Cod Omelette

Cod Omelette

More squid in its own ink

More squid in its own ink

For all the traveling that we do, and for all the places that we’ve been, the food in Euskadi in the north of Spain, specifically the Basque Country, has been hands down, the best, that we’ve ever had.  If you’re into food.  And you’re into ciders and local wines, and you’re into cheese, and you’re just into eating amazing food, then you MUST go to Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and San Sebastian.

Come hungry.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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