(AS SEEN IN EPISODE 104, “Landmarks, Legends and the Lap of Luxury” AND EPISODE 105, “Basking in Basque Country”)
The Basque Country, País Vasco, is one of Spain’s most independent, distinct autonomies (almost the ‘Texas’ of Spain, the Basque Country has a long history of distinguishing itself from the rest of the country). Bilbao, its best-known city, is a great example of the particularly Basque combination of self-assured tradition coupled with an investment in what’s modern, what’s next. Ten years ago, the city invited Frank Gehry, a contemporary, experimental architect, to build the Guggenheim museum. Flash-forward a decade and Bilbao, once an unremarkable city, is now a celebrated architectural and intellectual destination. But, as Mario and Mark learned during their tapas crawl through the historic district, while the Guggenheim brings in the crowds, Bilbao itself delivers its visitors an unexpected sense of established culture. Similarly, Juan Mari Arzak, San Sebastián’s most well-regarded chef, taught Mark and Claudia how to make the most old-fashioned Basque dish, cocochas al pil-pil, even though he’s known for avant-garde cuisine that tests culinary boundaries. The Basque Country is distinguished by this simultaneous historical pride and forward-looking excitement.
Mark and Claudia were sure not to miss this must-go tapas bar. Chef Senén’s food is intelligent, innovative, and memorable. The best bite is the fried potato and egg parcel.
Practical Information: Calle del Prado 18, Vitoria-Gasteiz, +34.945288676
Mark and Claudia Chef Victor, who makes some of the most elegant food using, exclusively, the seemingly inelegant charcoal grill. Must sample the grilled caviar, gambas, and espardeñas.
Practical Information: Plaza San Juan, 1, 48291 Axpe-Marzana, +34.946583042, www.asadoretxebarri.com
One of Spain's most famous restaurants. Juan Mari and his daughter Elena prepare some of the most modern, even postmodern, food that's as innovative as it is delicious. Mark and Claudia learned to prepare Cocochas al Pil-Pil and Hake with Clams and Parsley with Chef Juan Mari Arzak.
Practical Information: Avenida Alcalde Elosegui, 273, San Sebastían, +34.943278465, www.arzak.info
This is where Arzak took Mark and Claudia for perfect pintxos. The mushrooms with egg yolk are the speciality.
Practical Information: Calle San Jerónimo, 21, San Sebastían, +34.943422575
Gran Hotel Domine
Mario and Gwyneth enjoyed their stay here, especially because it’s directly across the street from the Guggenheim—talk about a good view! It’s extremely hip and the amusing fountain in the lobby is made completely of tableware.
Practical Information: Alameda Mazarredo, 61, Bilbao, +34.944253300, www.hoteles-silken.com/ghdb
Designed by Antoni Miró, this hotel is down the street from the Guggenheim and is chic, comfortable, and modern.
Practical Information: Alameda Mazarredo, 77, Bilbao, +34.946611880,www.mirohotelbilbao.com
Parador de Hondarribia
Don’t be put off by the forbidding exterior—this old medieval fortress houses one of the most comfortable Paradors around.
Practical Information: Plaza de Armas del Castillo, 20280 Hondarribia, +34.943645500, www.parador.es
The Guggenheim Museum, definitely one of Spain's most recognizable buildings. Gwyneth and Mario got to chat with Frank Gehry, the esteemed architect, here on the 10th anniversary of its construction.
Practical Information: www.guggenheim-bilbao.es
San Sebastián International Film Festival, the distinguished festival held every year.
Practical Information: www.sansebastianfestival.com
Marqués de Riscal Vineyard and Hotel, (another Gehry-building) where Gwyneth, Mario, Mark, and Claudia took advantage of all its offerings (spa, food, wine, and more!)
Practical Information: www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1539
Caudalíe Spa, the spa at the Marqués de Riscal Hotel that specializes in grapevine therapy. Gwyneth said it best, “Detox to retox”.
Practical Information: www.caudalie.com
Bodega Ysios, Elciego, the Santiago Calatrava-designed vineyard that Gwyneth and Mark drove past on their tour of wine country.
Practical Information: www.vintagespain.com/ysios.htm
Artxanda Golf Club, designed by José María Olazabal, was where Mario escaped to for a challenging round of golf while taping in Bilbao.
Practical Information: Carretera BI-3732 Km 11,5 48960, Galdakao Bilbao (Vizcaya - Bizkaia), Tel. +34.946565505, www.artxandagolf.com