Basque, Spain

Sep 19, 2017 - National Geographic Orion

A Tasting Menu of Basque, Spain

In addition to its traditional culture, and incorporating much of it, the Basque region that straddles the border of southwestern France and northern Spain has recently acquired a remarkable reputation for haute cuisine.  As of the latest published guide in 2017, Basque country has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other part of the world!  Although these small and exclusive establishments do not figure in the itinerary of our expedition through the region, we are being treated to a tasting menu of travel that deserves to stand alongside the best cuisine in the world – a wonderful variety of experiences of this beautiful country and culture.  Here is a menu for our day today:

First course:  Begin the day’s meal with the delicate flavors of a gentle sunrise of pink and gold light on high clouds and wisps of fog as the National Geographic Orion enters the harbor of Bilbao the capital of the Spanish Basque province of Biscay.

Second course:  As the fog lifts, sample some of the variety of modern Basque country with drive along the Nervión-Ibaizabal estuary into the center of the city.  After leaving the modern port at the mouth of the estuary, this short route entertains our palates with the evolving tastes of the city’s recent history.  Opening with the piquant flavors of abandoned factories and shipyards, it soon blossoms into the rich and varied savor of the vibrant re-developed area that is now the city’s heart and soul.

Third course:  Enjoy a quick, refreshing salad of architecture, including seasoned stone churches and clean, fresh glass and steel towers created by many of the world’s greatest architects.

Fourth course:  Feast on one of the great masterpieces of Basque cultural cuisine, the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. This is the centerpiece of our day’s menu, an enormously varied collection of art, primarily in the bold and challenging flavors of abstract expressionism, wrapped in the astounding titanium shell of Frank Gehry’s fabulous building. Works by Richard Serra, Robert Motherwell, Yves Klein, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and many more explode into the senses as this elaborate course unfolds.

Fifth courses:  Our menu now offers several choices: a deeper exploration of the marvelous esthetic flavor of Ghery’s architecture with the photography team, a powerful contrast to the previous course in a walk through the traditional tastes of the Old Town or a meal within a meal in a Basque cuisine cooking class – which is, in fact, mostly an eating and drinking class!

Sixth course:  Back on our ship, we proceed with a crisp, clear palate cleanser in the form of a presentation on the Basque region by our cultural expert, Miguel Rodriguez.

Seventh course:  Delve into a dramatic and delightful mélange of flavors from around the world in the photographs of our National Geographic photographer, Kike Calvo.

Eighth course:  Enjoy another meal within the cultural meal, a fantastic dinner presented in the main dining room by our chef, Lothar Greiner.

Ninth course:  Complete the day’s rich repast with the sweet and exotic flavors of the Philippines as our crew offer us a special entertainment in the main lounge.

Like a tasting menu in any great restaurant, today’s sampling of flavors has teased and tempted our senses, introducing us to the wonderful variety of experiences to be found in the Basque country and sprinkling in contrasting and enhancing elements from all around the world.  The wines accompanying today’s menu have included bright sunshine, mild temperatures and the company of good friends.

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About the Author

David Cothran

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

David has worked for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1993 on six continents and in over 65 countries. David is interested in many of the natural sciences, particularly ornithology, geology and marine biology; he most enjoys contrasting the broad perspectives provided by world travel with detailed investigations of local ecosystems on land and in the sea.

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