Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (43)

I feel like it’s a safe assumption to make that you already know by now that we spent a rather long weekened in Gipuzkoa (which is in the Spanish Basque Country). We’ve been nattering away on You Tube, Facebook and Instagram so if you didn’t, where in the world have you been?!?! 🙂 😀

There is a lot to tell you and so as you can imagine, this is a picture heavy post but I feel this is one of those moments where the phrase “the more the merrier” is quite apt so sit back grab your cuppa (it’s raining cats and dogs here so my cuppa tea feels quite mandatory) and let’s take a trip through the Spanish province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque country.

This is from the first day. As you can imagine, more details will follow on subsequent days. We packed in so much over the four days we spend there with each day, restaurant and even hotel being dramatically different from the other so without further ado, let’s jump right in…

First off, straight from the airport – we headed over to for food at Sindika restaurant, (in Arantzazu, Oñati) – a place with some amazing views across the Basque country landscape guaranteed to go down well with the home cooked meals. I should have more photos of the food but I was quite hungry at this point and kinda forgot to take photos of the food! Not to worry, I learnt my lesson after this though and had my camera ready before every meal (after that one)!

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After that we went off to take in the views and the Sanctuary of Arantzazu which is a monastery set atop a hill but more on that later…

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As we were interviewed by Basque TV channel Goeina! (Pretty exciting stuff!!! Pardon Lloyd’s jogging bottoms and my UCLA shirt – seriously, of all the days to wear a shirt of a Uni I never attended! Damn you amazing TK Maxx bargains!)

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Interview over, we headed off to check out the Sanctuary of Arantzazu in more depth!

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Turns out the building is designed around the vision of the Virgin Mary which was seen in thorn bush hence the name Arantzazu which (kinda) translates to “Thou, among the thorns?!”, the exclamation made by said see’er of the Virgin Mary upon seeing her (that was definitely a roundabout way of making my point). We went to check out the crypt which isn’t really a crypt as people know it and serves more as a venue for events.

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There was some pretty cool art on the walls too…

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Before we made our way to the actual church itself…Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (9) Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (10)

Finally, back outside, you can check out the length and breadth of land. It was at this point I spotted these horses waaaaaay waaaaaaay down…Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (11)

To provide some context, look at the lower centre of the picture – that winding path is actually a proper road!Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (12)

We eventually left, in search for the next thing to see (one of the things I noticed pretty much straight away is that the people here make the most of their surroundings, these amazing mountains and valleys are used to the max by the locals who all appear to be really fit!)

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Had to take a photo of our trusted steed…

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Oh yeah, I almost forgot to say – The next stop for us was the Arrikrutz caves! We meandered through a rather picturesque path to make our way to the cave!

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These caves were amazing! Not only were they so intricate and really well preserved but the fossils of prehestoric and extinct animals had been found here too! We’re talking mammoths, pre-historic lions and even rhinos (okay, Rhinos aren’t extinct but Rhinos in Spain??? Whaaaaaaat!)

There was so much to learn about it and I never really thought of myself as a cave person until then! I didn’t do Geography in school, I had to choose between Geography and English Literature (why? I have no clue!) so while I can’t tell you much about rock formations, I can recite every single word in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night! Okay I can’t do that either but that’s neither here nor there… 🙂

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Below is the bed of the river that ran through the cave and formed some of the amazing structures we were left in awe of!

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We eventually left the caves and headed out to check out Oñati!

Before we left though, we’d been told at the start of the tour of the caves that wild deer lived near the caves but we probably wouldn’t get to see them. Lo and behold, as we pull out of the drive way – there they were – two deer just standing in the middle of the road. Waiting like they were ready for their close up (with the camera)! By the time, I scrambled around to get my camera, they’d scampered off. I was gutted that I didn’t get a picture but pleased that I saw them anyway! Somehow, they made an accomplished day feel even more accomplished!

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Oñati is a pictureque little town with lots of heart and soul! The kids were either dining with their parents or running around playing with their friends – this was at almost 10pm! You definitely got to see that there was a real sense of community here and I found it quite fantastic! Everyone seemed so relaxed and genuinely happy hanging out with their friends and family and it’s the version of Spanish life that I instantly fell in love with!

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The architecture wasn’t too shabby either! 🙂 I was very impressed as we walked around the town…

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We finally made out way over to Hotel Torre Zumeltzegi. Oh. My. Gosh. There is so much history behind this hotel! The hotel was originally the home of a Count (see below) and was passed down for generations before the current owner’s great grand parents bought it from the Count’s descendants. As a result, it’s definitely one of the most unique buildings I’ve had the pleasure of spending a night in! The walls are so thick and the hotel still retains elements of it’s rustic heritage but the inside is uber modern and very prettily designed!

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We got a tour around the hotel by the current owner (check out his family in the picture above who bought the property) and we got to fall in love with not just the exterior of the hotel but the interior too! It’s been so brilliantly designed to make you comfortable whilst not sacrificing on it’s strong history! Some of the stuff that Count did though were so tyrannical (like requesting/ordering that each new bridge had to spend their first night with him) and there’s some other stuff which appear to extoll his virtues but this ain’t no history lesson so I’ll leave you to do the ‘homework’ and find out more deets!

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After exploring the hotel, we headed to our rooms and got prepared for dinner which just involved me kicking off my shoes and trousers and sprawling out on the bed! Boy did that feel so good!!! 🙂Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (40)

We started off with a couple of starters (I went for the pate, berries and bruschetta)… Like I said, at this point,  having learnt my lesson from earlier, I quickly whipped out my camera for lots of photos of our food!!! Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (41) Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (42)

My second started was this beef and grilled cheese salad/cake thing! It’s was amazing! (Spot the fresh crusty bread in the background on the side! Another delightful element in the proceedings!)

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I went for steak for the mains and it may be hard to tell from the photos but this was one huge steak!!! (Just the way I like it!)Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (46)

I went for a delicious pastry for dessert (forgotten the name of it now) but as you can see, there were other tasty options to choose from! Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (47) Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (48) Mountains High, Valley Low and STEAKS! A First Day in Gipuzkoa! (49)

Stuffed with sooo much food and genuinely exhausted after a long but rewarding day. We all left for our beds with our faces ocovered in huge smiles!!! Time for a nice night’s sleep at the amazing Hotel Torre Zumeltzegi before another day filled with more explorations of Gipuzkoa and the flavour of Basque life! 🙂

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