The wonders of the Basque Country

I was just talking to my friend Mimi about where I might take her for her birthday next April and the Basque Country came to mind. Mimi mentioned Biarritz on the coast, which is nice, but I think she’ll enjoy the villages and the countryside even better…

What do you guys think?villages-basque-countryBoucherieThe Basque country (Pays Basque) is well known for its hot peppers (piments d’Espelette) and its incredible cheeses (mostly sheep and/or cow). The “piment d’Espelette” is not very strong, but it is extremely flavorful. I use it on cheese, meats, sauces and vinaigrettes as well as in most marinades. The name Espelette comes from the village around which the peppers are grown. Farmers hang them to dry on the façades of their homes. It is very decorative and gives a great authentic feel to the area.VillagePiment (copy)EspeletteAll homes in the Basque country are white with wooden beams painted either red or dark green as you can see. Nearer the ocean, people are sometimes allowed to paint their shutters blue. These colors are mandatory, which gives the whole area a look like no other… In the country side, animals are free to roam around. You sometimes find sheep or cows in the middle of the road. The bull in the black and white picture was walking around free and scared me quite a bit as he walked towards my car. I had stopped by the side of the road to take pictures of his wives and kids… I never shifted this fast to first gear! I also met a great guy fishing in the river by the Spanish border. He was very proud to show me his catch of the day. We talked for quite a while. He was so proud of his village… Such meets (rencontres) are priceless for me…


Next time you visit France, make sure you visit this incredible region. You will not regret it!

53 Comments Add yours

  1. If Mimi wants Biarritz, it should be Biarritz. After all, it is her birthday! The villages and countryside can be for your birthday. Or mix them all together! 🙂

  2. Your photos always capture such beauty and transport me, Stephane! One day, I will visit but until then, thank you so much for sharing the love with the rest of us.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      My dear Lesley, I just woke up and you’ve already made my day. I do hope I get to meet you in real life one day indeed! Have a lovely day!

  3. Dipti says:

    J’ai visite le pay basque il y a 4 ans – je l’ai absolument adoré! Great post as always, brought back fond memories!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really wins your heart right away, doesn’t? 😊

  4. Deborah says:

    Love the photos.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Deborah!

  5. Lovely pictures. Basque is on my list of “destinations to go”.

    Surprisingly enough there are three Basque restaurants all within 10 minutes from my office in Shibuya, Tokyo. One of them, across from my office building, used to have one Michelin star but the chef left and opened one of the other ones in the neighborhood and they lost the star. The new resto by that chef does not have a star yet. The third resto in the neighborhood has one Michelin star and it’s really good.

    This is the one: http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/shop/0120154011/

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Yes Ayako, Basque chefs are usually very talented. Quite a few of them here have macarons

  6. Gosh, I want to visit one day. I’ve been to Paris and to the south of France but your blog posts are so amazing that I’m putting these places on my list to visit. Great post as usual!!!

  7. Kate says:

    Gorgeous photography I’d love to visit the Basque country someday 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You really should Kate!

  8. Nadia says:

    We will be in Bordeaux on August 18 to take our Audi to have GPS installed. Would love to meet you. If not possible, maybe you can recommend some great places for wine tasting and casual home cooked meals.
    Bisous,
    Nadia

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Hi Nadia, I would have loved to spend some time with you but August and September are crazy here between guests, family obligations, functions and events. There is plenty to do in Bordeaux city, but you will drive by St Emilion on your way there and should definitely stop. The tourist office there is very helpful. There are many good restaurants. One of my favorites is called Le Logis de la Cadenne… As for wine tastings, there are about 800 châteaux in St Emilion alone. 99% of them are quite good. The rest of them are excellent. You can’t really go wrong… A small family owned property I like is Château Cardinal Villemaurine. I am sure they would love to give you a tour! I hope we have a chance to meet another time.

  9. Nadia says:

    Definitely take Mimi to the villages and hamlets. She will love it! She is very lucky.
    I love piment d’espelette, just added some to a delicious fava bean soup I made for lunch today.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      That sounds delicious Nadia!

  10. Once again, your amazing photos astound me! I think Mimi will like the Basque countryside very much, especially since it includes so much cheese that Mimi is fond of. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I think you are right… 😉

  11. Angeline M says:

    Definitely take Mimi here to the countryside and villages. Biarritz can wait! Beautiful photos!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I so agree with you!! Biarritz is OK but not worth missing anything else like St Jean de Luz etc. 😉

  12. Jai says:

    I was just in San Sebastian last month and it made me want to visit all of Basque country! I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did – it was perfection in a little town. I can’t wait to visit Biarritz and the rest of the Basque country over the French border. Keep us updated on where to visit!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’ve never visited the Spanish side. I’m sure i’s charming as well! Thanks for dropping by Jai!

  13. Stéphane, that’s quite a gorgeous trip you are planning for Mimi’s birthday! Certainly, the Basque country is on my mus-visit places, too since I love Piment d’Espelette and my husband coats (yes, coats) everything in it. Birthday present for a chef Mimi needed? Meilleur du chef is located there, just in case one or the other utensil… that one can’t live without.

    Nicole xx

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Nicole! Yes, i know Mimi and her husband will truly enjoy that corner of France. Truly special in every way 😉

  14. ladyredspecs says:

    An idyllic pastorale Stephane, lucky Mimi, planning trip no 3

  15. Carl Johnson says:

    Basque country for sure. Stay at the Ithurria Hotel in Ainhoa. They have a great restaurant,that is
    reasonably priced with a Michelin star. I didn’t know it was rated until we had already eaten!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’ll keep the address in mind for our April trip. It will be my friend Mimi’s birthday and I have to select the most special places for us to stay and dine at. I think I had mentioned it to you: Ainhoa is my favorite Basque village…

  16. sammyd21 says:

    Now I want to visit France, amazing pictures and did someone mention cheese…..?

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I certainly hope you will Sam! And yes, cheese has been mentioned quite a few times on this site 😉 Thanks for dropping by!

  17. Sabine says:

    Anything I know from Basque cuisine makes me think it must be a wonderful place. And now your photos show me it actually is! I recently tasted cheese from the region, and it blew my mind (I´m a huge, huge fan of goat´s and sheep cheeses). What a wonderful journey you take us on here, Stéphane!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      The basque country is every bit as wonderful as it sounds like and the food is indeed extraordinary… I love sheep cheese but can’t take the smell of goat… Maybe because I was raised on goat milk as an infant… Have a lovely day Sabine!

  18. That’s our favourite weekend break! – arrive in Socoa from the Lot just in time for seafood lunch at Chez Margots, and then over to the Spanish side of Mount Rhune to stay at a tiny pension and feast on Basque fried chicken as the reward for climbing the mountain, then pick a border village for either tapas or Basque gateaux and a paddle in a stream….

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Perfection!

  19. chef mimi says:

    Is that a round/wheel of P’tit Basque cheese in one of the photos? Love that cheese!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Yes it is 😉

  20. Francesca says:

    You make it look very inviting. Not enough lifetimes to see all of country France. Whenever I read your posts, I feel an overwhelming urge to return- somewhere near the Verzere River.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is a nice spot indeed, especially between Montignac and les Eyzies… You have to come back 😉

  21. judilyn says:

    Your photos are sooooo tempting! Will there be room in your car’s storage area for an extra passenger? !!! ;->

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ha HA! I’ll make sure I get a big enough car dear Judie! Seriously though, next time you’re in France…

  22. Jodi says:

    Oh Stephane! I literally jump up and down when I see one of your posts in my feed, and you delivered again! Is the country really as beautiful as you show us through your lens?!!?? Oh how I dream!!! And that BULL! YIKES! Glad you made it out alive! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh Jodi, it’s even more beautiful! Every square inch of that area will take your breath away! I’m so glad you enjoy my little blog so much. It means a lot to me! Have a lovely evening!!!

      1. Jodi says:

        Hard to believe it could be more beautiful! NO FAIR!!! 🙂

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I feel guilty sometimes… NOT! 😉

  23. chef mimi says:

    Wow! That was fast!!! It looks beautiful! Getting even more excited!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Hi Hi! It really is very picturesque. You would have a blast taking pictures. You’d drive through the green acres and want to photograph every sheep and horse and cow crossing the road in front of us. Oh now THANK YOU VERY MUCH Mimi! You know what just came into my head again. Don’t you!!!!!

      1. chef mimi says:

        Hahahaha! At least Dave can remind us of the lyrics!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Please, please, please don’t bring it up at any time in September. You know it’s like a spell on me that stupid song. I’m not kidding: it will be in my head until I go to bed tonight… Might as well go watch an episode of it…

  24. Steve says:

    It looks unreal, like it’s a living postcard that they take down every night and put back up in the morning for the tourists! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You know, it truly is the one place I would love to take you to if you ever come back for a visit. Well, that and Provence and… The light there is very very special. Ideal for photography… The ocean, the mountains, the animals running “free”, the rolling hills, the food… Everything is there! Leica heaven 😉

      1. Steve says:

        We would love it. But my back has to get better as it’s getting hard to walk distances.

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