Basque country

The Basque Country is soon to be in its third year and is proving very popular - it is partially on the northern coast of Spain, where the Navarre hills sweep down to the Cantabrian Sea; and partially on the southern coast of France where the Pyrenees mountains sweep down to the Atlantic Ocean. The fact that it is half Spanish and half French only adds to its enigmatic and dramatic air. For years foodie friends had been telling me to go there for the extraordinarily good food and I and the gastronomads were not disappointed. 

Our group of 11 clients spent the week being hilarious and loud and up for absolutely anything. The men got seriously into the fish cooking class, breaking down huge tuna and hake and accessing their inner sea-farers. The Basques have a wonderful way of cooking fish where they sautée it on one side then pour garlic infested hot olive oil over the top just before serving. We ate pintxos (tapas) till they came out our ears - think foie gras on toast with apple sauce, beef cheek with piquillo peppers, black pudding rolled in pistachios, tuna with green pepper and olive oil - unbelievably refined, delicate and sophisticated.

We visited the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and a txacoli (fizzy white Basque wine) vineyard above the village of Getaria, did cheese visits in the mountains and learned how to make a paella (not Basque but very delish) in a gentleman's club. All this whetted our appetite to cross the border into the French Basque country and settle into our serene, beautiful hotel in the middle of the chic fishing town of St-Jean-de-Luz. Here we ate more fish, visited the  village of Espelette to taste the piment, tried the Irouléguy wines in the hills of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and graced the **Pyrénées restaurant.

I can’t talk about the last night because it would completely spoil it for you but trust me, it’s unforgettable.