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RS Basque Country Tour 2020

I just signed up for the RS Basque Country tour for next year!!! Due to work commitments, I will be taking the tour that starts on July 8. I plan to take advantage of the 4th of July holiday (one less vacation day to use up) and fly to Paris on July 2, arriving on July 3. It will be my fifth trip to Paris and my plan is to just wander around and relax -- no agenda. Then I will take the train to Bayonne for the start of the tour. My plan is to arrive the day prior to the tour (July 7). Is it worth arriving two days prior on July 6th? Is there enough to do in Bayonne or nearby? I was considering day trips to Biarritz and/or St. Jean de Luz but do't know if those can be done in one day.

At the end of the tour (July 16), is it worth staying in Bilbao an additional day or two? I was considering taking the train to Zaragoza on the morning of July 16, stay two nights there and then take the train to either Madrid or Barcelona on the 18th and fly home on the 19th. Is that plan advisable? Or should I stay in Bilbao and do day trips from there. I don't have any books yet but I am just too excited and NEED to start planning now :)

Thanks for your advice!
Mary

Posted by
6752 posts

You should definitely visit St-Jean de Luz if your tour doesn’t go there. We are considering a return trip to this lovely seaside small city. The small towns nearby in the foothills are among the most beautiful in France-Ascain, Sare, Ainhoa,Espelette. I recommend that that anyone visiting this area read Michael Kurlansky’s “ The Basque History of the World.” Very helpful in understanding the Basque culture and history.
And Bilbao has a lot to offer too. Since this a Basque focused trip add your extra days in Pays Basque, France and Pais Vasco, Spain. maribelsguides.com have lots of information on this area of the world and will help you plan both ends of your trip extensions. Print them out and take them along.

Posted by
19182 posts

Bayonne has a large historic district and some museums. There's also the Atelier du Chocolate's Musee du Chocolat, which has a small museum-like area detailing the chocolate-production process (considerable English material), including some short videos subtitled in English, and an amazingly generous tasting area. If you sample everything, you are likely to be very sick indeed, so be selective. It's good chocolate, worth tasting, but not quite as good as the $50-per-pound stuff.

Biarritz seems to cater to the wealthy; the casino holds pride of place. I didn't like the city as well as Bayonne or St-Jean-de-Luz. However, there is a quite good, privately-operated Asian Museum, heavy on the decorative arts from India but with material also from China, Tibet and Nepal (and probably other Asian countries). The museum aside, I considered Biarritz totally skippable, but I confess that I could have missed some good stuff. It was rainy the day I walked around the central area (not an uncommon situation in the Basque Country).

St-Jean-de-Luz is a picturesque small town. It will take a good while just to walk all the streets of the historic center.

There's good public transportation between those three places if you don't encounter a strike.

The Spanish Basque Country has many interesting destinations. Bilbao has a large historic district (Casco Viejo) as well as the Guggenheim and several other museums. I liked it much more than the very touristy San Sebastian. From Bilbao you could visit the fishing town of Bermeo, but I think there are more convenient side-trips from San Sebastian: Hondarribia, Zumaia/Getaia/Zarautz, an the interior capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz. The latter is 1-1/2 hours away by train, however.