HOLIDAY to the BASQUE COUNTRY 13 - 20 MAY 2018
Next May, we shall be exploring the coast of Northern Spain in the Basque Country, staying just outside the city of Bilbao at the 4* Hotel URH Palacio de Oriol in Santurzi, for seven nights (half board).  The hotel has fabulous views overlooking the harbour.   We depart Heathrow on Sunday afternoon (at 15.45) by scheduled British Airways flight to Bilbao and arrive at 18.50 in time for a late dinner at the hotel.
Monday - Coastal Area & Txakoli Wine. A leisurely morning, with a drive along the coast to the fishing port of Bermeo and the conservation area of Urdaibai.  Next, we visit Guernica, a town particularly important for the Basques. On 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the town was razed to the ground, as commemorated in the famous painting by Picasso.  We then visit a Txakoli winery, with aperitif and light lunch (included), before returning to Bilbao.  At the hotel, we will have a welcome drink before dinner.
Tuesday
- Bilbao & Guggenheim. First, we have a guided tour of the city of Bilbao; this 700 year-old city is undergoing numerous architectural transformations. Enjoy the view from the Artxanda viewpoint. We then head for the stunning Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank O. Gehry and a treasure trove of art and design of the 21st century.  A Pintxos lunch of delicious snacks will be included during a walking tour of the city's Old Quarter. We'll make a stop at the Bizcayan Bridge, the first transporter bridge in the world and in service since 1893.
Wednesday - Rioja Wine Area. We drive south for a guided visit to Laguardia.  Surrounded by magnificent mountain scenery, the medieval walled town is the central point of the La Rioja Alavesa wine region. We will visit La Bodega El Fabulista, located under the Palace of the Samaniegos, for a wine-tasting with expert staff. Next, we transfer to the very different, modern Baigorri Winery. After our tour, we'll enjoy a Tasting Menu of local dishes paired with specially chosen wines (included). On the way back to Bilbao, we’ll make a short stop in historic Vitoria, which dates back eight centuries and is the seat of the Basque Parliament.
Thursday - San Sebastian & Getaria. First, we visit the gorgeous fishing town of Getaria.  We then continue to San Sebastian, where the fashion house of Balenciaga was first established.  A visit to this charming Belle Epoque resort, built around a crescent-shaped bay, will show you why it has been admired by so many, for so long.  Its beach has been voted the best in Europe.  We will have free time here for lunch and shopping.
Friday - Santander & Santillana. Santander is a city in which seafaring, commerce and tourism combine.  On our full day tour, we will visit the Palace of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Victoria, who married the King of Spain, and the peninsula La Magdalena. Next stop is Santillana del Mar, a medieval jewel and a national monument since 1889, for a short walk with our guide, before lunch (independently) in one of the local inns.  We then visit the Caves of Altamira, famous for their Late Palaeolithic cave paintings, made by man approx 14,000 years ago, and its excellent museum, before returning to our hotel.
Saturday - Basque Railway Museum, Azpeitia. Our half day tour will provide a fascinating insight into the Basque Country's railway history, with more than 60 trains, trams and goods wagons, all restored to working order, as well as displays of railway clocks and lanterns, memorabilia and uniforms - rounded off with a ride on a steam train - before returning to our hotel in the early afternoon.  That evening, we shall have a farewell drink on the terrace, followed by dinner.
Sunday morning, we will depart Bilbao at 12.20 on our BA flight to Heathrow and coach back to Marlow, arriving at around 15.30 in the afternoon. Come with us to see a different side of Spain - 'Green Spain' - and enjoy a glass or two of Spanish wine!  The cost of the holiday is £1,295 per person, with a single supplement of £195.  Please see the booking form on the next page of this Newsletter.

John & Kristian