A great gastronomy

Here we have to devote a full paragraph and yet it might not be enough to shelter our enthousiasm for the basque cuisine and gastronomy!! The basque country is certainly one of the French regions with the most joyful gastronomy. There a strong Spanish influence that starts with the tapas , a colourful collection of snacks to start a dinner with, featuring cured ham (from Bayonne or even better the Jamon Ibérico), and many sort of sea food. The basque cuisine is as varied as the territory it comes from, be it sea food or inland food.

There is a strong tradition of fishing dating back to the XIXth century when Basque fishermen used to sail to Newfoundland to fish whale and cod. So if you want to eat light and yet tasty try “merlu à l’espagnole” a refined white flesh fish baked in the oven and served with grilled garlic in a vinegar sauce, or a fish, generally seabass or gilt-head, grilled “a la plancha” (meaning grilled on a metallic plate), or crab soup called “txanguro” or a fish soup called “ttoro”. The food coming from the inland territory is less light than seafood but not less tasty! You seriously cannot leave Pays basque without sampling a “txuleta” a grilled bone steak served for 2 persons. One of the renowned specialty of Basque country is “piment d’Espelette” or Espelette pepper which features in veal “axoa”, “piperade”, or “lomo” (fine slices of spicy pork). The inland gastronomy provides a varied range of desserts, be it ewe’s cheese (that people eat with cherry marmalade), “mamia” (a sour tasting ewe’s milk curd), or the rejoicing “gâteau basque”, an ‘energizing’ cake with almond filling. As to the beverage, basque cider is a unique apple wine, slightly acid and very different from the Breton cider.

As you might have infer from the mouthwatering list above there are a lot of very serious restaurants in Pays Basque, from gastronomic ones to simple beach restaurants.

Close to buoyant Spain

One of the advantages of buying a French property near one of the French borders is that you can have a double ‘foreign fix’ for the same price! This is particularly true in French Pays Basque which is so close to its Spanish counterpart for cultural and linguistics reasons. Even if part of the same cultural entity (“Euskadi” meaning basque country in Basque) the Spanish side of the Basque country differs from the French one. Less of a tourist destination and more industrial it boasts big cities with different interest. Among them you have Bilbao and its stunning Guggenheim museum, or San Sebastian with its Belle Epoque architecture and charming bay. If you are more of the outdoor type, Navarra will offer you plenty of activities in a wonderful and unexpected scenery of arid mountains (or how to visit Colorado while staying in the Pyrenees!) … and thanks to aridity, great wines!