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Northern Spain's exotic and beautiful Basque Region is rich in history with its own unique culture, traditions and language. The Atlantic Ocean and its Bay of Biscay, the Pyrenees Mountains and the famed vineyards of La Rioja combine to make this destination truly special and a visual feast. And as its cuisine is at the very heart of its culture and one of the most celebrated in all of Europe, Basque Country it's a must-go for foodies. A gay-friendly destination, it would make a delicious, romantic getaway or a perfect honeymoon.
Day 1 - Bilbao
The gateway to Spain's Basque Country, Bilbao draws visitors with its famed Guggenheim Museum. An ancient port city, the arts and the culinary scene are flourishing here and there is much to see, taste and enjoy!
Arrive Bilbao airport; private transfer to Hotel Miro. This elegant boutique property is centrally located and overlooks the architecturally amazing Guggenheim Museum.
After settling in, explore Bilbao's historical old center Casco Viejo, and include a stop at the Art Deco, 3 story bustling food market Mercado de La Ribera for a colorful, fragrant view of the regional food. It is the largest food market in Europe. Later join the locals for a roving txikiteo dinner. This Bilbao tradition of "bar hopping", with a glass of wine in hand, includes sampling delicious pinxtos, these miniature culinary works of art are the region's version of tapas.
Overnight at the Hotel Miro.
Day 2 - Bilbao - San Sebastian
Breakfast at the hotel. This morning visit Frank Gehry's spectacular Guggenheim Museum, affectionately known as 'el goog'. Considered to be the first great building of the 21st Century, its structure is controversial and viewed as an homage to Bilbao's industrial past and commitment to its future. It features the works of this century's foremost artists including Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois and Jeff Coons. Perhaps stay on to lunch at the Guggenheim Bilbao Restaurant whose Chef Martin Berasategui is widely acclaimed.
Late afternoon, transfer via private car and driver to elegant San Sebastian and the stylish boutique hotel, Astoria 7. Mid century modern in style, the decor pays homage to the stars of the city's annual film festival. Overnight at Astoria Hotel 7.
Day 3 - San Sebastian
Breakfast at the hotel. This sophisticated seaside resort-like city was once the watering hole for Europe's royalty. Its famed La Concha is one of the world's great city beaches and is integral to it's life. Chic boulevards are lined with Belle Epoque mansions, cafes and boutiques and Romanesque churches blend with a plethora of pintxos bars - that happily are everywhere. San Sebastian is the epicenter of Spanish cuisine.
Spend the day on your own exploring, sunning, shopping and lunching.
Tonight, a special dinner at Arzak. Your reservation will be at a fashionably late Spanish hour. The name 'Arzak' is synonymous with top tier fine dining in Spain and rightly so. Although the Arzak family has been serving food in the same building since 1897, Chef Juan Mari Arzak is considered to be the father of Modern Basque Cuisine and has taken it to an art form. His talented daughter Elena reins now at the Michelin 3 star restaurant and the menu, comprised of local ingredients is exceptional. Overnight at Astoria Hotel 7.
Day 4 - Basque Cooking Class
Breakfast at the hotel.
This morning you will have a hands-on cooking class with Basque Chef Alex Barcenilla. He has over 20 years experience including three years at 3* Michelin restaurant Akellare. The class will focus on traditional Basque cuisine using regional fish and seafood. Lunch - with local wines - will follow.
This evening indulge in one of Basque country's most revered culinary customs a pintxos "hop" - San Sebastian style. A guide will take you on a private tour of the old town bars. It will be a true epicurean adventure. Overnight at the Astoria 7 Hotel.
Day 5 - La Rioja
Breakfast at the hotel.
Today will be devoted to learning and savoring La Rioja wines in situ. The region of La Rioja is synonymous with fine wines and you will taste traditional styles such as La Rioja Alta, and new wave wines from producers such as Roda and Ysios.
Enjoy a private tour and tasting at La Rioja Alta followed by a visit to the comprehensive Wine Museum in Haro
A drive through the stunning vineyards of La Rioja will bring you to your hotel, the region's newest, boutique property, Hotel Viura. Ultra modern in design, it is set next to a 17th Century church. The backdrop is the Sierra de Cantabria Mountains and all rooms have views of the charming picturesque medieval village. Overnight at Viura Hotel.
Day 6 - La Rioja
Breakfast at hotel.
Day at leisure to explore other vineyards, the region's medieval villages such as La Guardia or just relax. Overnight at the Viura Hotel.
Day 7 - Departure
Breakfast at hotel.
Drive to Bilbao airport for your return flight.