The Basque Country
May 15-25, 2022
We can’t wait to share this most picturesque region of Europe with you. To give you a point of reference, the Basque Country straddles the Pyrenees Mountains North into France; and South into Spain—covering about 3000 square miles of varied terrain from beautiful coastal environments to dramatic mountains and everything in between. We will spend most of our trip in Spain, with one day in France. The following pages provide you with an overview of another amazing journey, brought to you by your friends at Castles & Concerts.
We begin our trip in the most populous city of the region, Bilbao. Even though it is 11 miles from the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao sits on the highly-navigable Nervion River in a region rich in iron ore. As a result, Bilbao rose to prominence in the 14th Century as a major industrial center (steel-making), as well as a central hub for export of a diversity of products. Not long after its rapid ascension, the financiers arrived to help the industrialists with their money; and Bilbao added banking and commerce to its impressive list of commercial endeavors.
Today, Bilbao still operates as an important port for the region, still has ironworks and still has many banks headquartered there. Suprisingly, however, this “all business” town has transformed into a major tourism destination with the opening of the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by renowned architect, Frank Gehry, the iconic Guggenheim Museum attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors to Bilbao every year.
As is our custom, we will split up into smaller groups during the day and all come together for a banquet and concert in the evening. We will visit the Guggenheim on one day; on another, we will walk the Siete Calles of the Casco Viejo (Seven Streets of the old town). If you are up for it, you can take the elevator to the Basilica de Begona, a massive structure over-looking the town that was built on the spot that the Virigin Mary is said to have once appeared. If you get into town early enough, we’ll head out on the road to visit some of the most charming coastal fishing towns like Getxo (where we will visit a well-preserved 600 year-old castle); and perhaps head in-land to Guernica where we will visit the Santamamine Cave where there are 13,000 year old pre-historic paintings dating from the Cro-Magnon era; and also visit the Tree of Guernica, where the rights and privileges of the Basque people were first recognized in the 14th Century.
On Wednesday, May 18, we head east down the coast from Bilbao and begin our Main trip in one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, San Sebastian. Even though the town was founded in the 11th century, it only rose to prominence in the 19th century, when the Habsburg Queen, Maria-Cristina, chose San Sebastian as their summer watering spot to cure her daughter’s skin ailments. San Sebastian quickly transformed from a remote fishing village into THE preferred holiday destination for International Society that, in many respects, remains today.
Our elegant home here is the Maria Cristina Hotel, designed by the architect responsible for the Ritz in Paris. Perfectly located next to the well-preserved Old Town, we will spend our days here discovering many of the gastronomic delights (like Pintxos in the Old Town); art installations (like the Peine del Viento “Wind Comb” at La Concha Beach and the Chillida Leku sculpture garden in the beautiful green hills); classic buildings (like the Town Hall, the Museo de San Telmo, the Palacio de Miramar and the Catedral del Buen Pastor); and of course, the superb picturesque beaches.
No trip to the area is complete without a visit to the old fishing village of Hondarribia. We will stroll through this old fortified town that houses a 10th Century Castle now run as a Parador. We will follow a small part of the Camino de Santiago to get us down into the painted village area, where we will have a lunch of more delicious Pintxos.
As you already know, Basque Country isn’t only located in Spain. So of course we will cross the border one day and visit the world-renowned beach town of Biarritz! The town is a wonderful place to walk around and has many charming cafes to sit and enjoy a view of the beach. We will have a guided tour of the coastline and then meet for lunch at one of the many wonderful restaurants.
We are thrilled with the varied styles of music that we will present during this trip. Livingston Taylor is back to soothe our souls in song; along with his better half, Gail Arnold, who will help us make heads and tails of all the wonderful food choices we will have. Angie Byrd will once again bring her vocal-stylings to the show. We are pleased to welcome back two uber-talented husband-wife teams: Aaron & Victoria Lington and Vince & Carol Littleton.
We are thrilled to have the incredible Tim Hockenberry join us for his Maiden Voyage with Castles & Concerts. We are also incredibly pleased to announce that the world-class person & violinist, Matt Szemela will be there as well.
To help us read the Basque Night-Skies, we are again pleased to welcome the C&C House Astronomer, Steven Majewski. And of course, Tom, Matt & Chip will join the fun at every opportunity. Every evening on our trip, we will play for your entertainment and for the joy of making music with our friends.