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Archive for October, 2020

When it comes to visiting Spain, San Sebastian isn’t a city on many people’s hit list but, did you know that this cosy city, just 1 hour drive from Bilbao, is one of the culinary capitals of the world?

When it comes to visiting Spain, San Sebastian isn’t a city on many people’s hit list but, did you know that this cosy city, just 1 hour drive from Bilbao, is one of the culinary capitals of the world?

Situated in the Basque Country, a region with a rich culinary heritage that today glitters with 23 Michelin-starred eateries, San Sebastian, known as well as Donosti, is an an elegant beautiful medium-size city by the Atlantic sea, with fantastic beaches and surrounded by nature, offering an outstanding gastronomy and a cosy old town, with excellent accommodations perfect for a weekend stay.

When you think about San Sebastian, you think about Gastronomy. Consider a city that counts with most Michelin stars per square metre, consider a city where you can enjoy up to 3 Michelin starred eateries. Ready to indulge in one of them? Then, you’ll want to start with the one with the most history: Arzak.

San Sebastian – Source: Donosti Turismo

History

Built in 1897, 3 Michelin star Arzak Restaurant has always been family-run. In the early days it used to be a wine shop and tavern until Juan Mari Arzak’s parents turned it into a fine eatery whose cook was Paquita Arratibel. Her stews and traditional recipes from the Basque Country, especially Donosti, were highly pleasing.

Arzak Restaurant – Source: arzak.com

In 1966, Juan Mari Arzak took over the family business along with his mother, from whom he learned about Basque food. His interest in learning and his innovative spirit led him to create his own recipes: traditional Basque dishes with a gourmet twist.

At the age of 32, Arzak got its first Michelin star. From mid-70s on, Juan Mari won one award after the other and his restaurant was placed among the best establishments across the country and around the globe.

In 1976, Arzak and a group of chefs created the New Basque Cuisine, a new culinary concept that was aimed to revolutionise the art of cooking. Michelin stars kept reaching his restaurant, with the 2nd one in 1978 and the 3rd in 1989. He was the second to get 3 Michelin stars in Spain and, after 30 years, he still holds them.

Source: arzak.com

A family-run business

Culinary genius runs in Arzak family. In the 90s, Elena Arzak, one of Juan Mari’s daughters, joined the family-run restaurant. She attended top hotel and restaurant management schools in Switzerland and improved her culinary knowledge in great European restaurants.

In May 2001, she was given the Chef de l’Avenir Award by the International Academy of Gastronomy; in 2010, the Spanish Academy of Gastronomy granted her the National Gastronomy Award and, to top it all off, she deserved in 2012 the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award.

Currently, Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena share the kitchen and management of their restaurant. 

Source: arzak.com

The lab

Arzak is a place to eat, to discover, to experience. Arzak is signature cuisine, market cuisine, Basque spirit, creativity, avant-garde and changing all time.

Elena Arzak said once, in one of the interviews published about her, that “Cuisine is shaped by history and environment” and “In the Basque Country, we are surrounded by mountains and the sea, which naturally have influenced our food.”

A great part of Arzak’s success has been its never-ending ability to come up with amazing dishes that are not only extraordinarily original, but also exquisitely plated. In order to perform these extraordinary creations and keep a 3 Michelin-starred eatery level, a special laboratory has been designed above the restaurant, where Elena and Juan Mari Arzak and their team work many hours to greenlight new items every yea, let it be a dish, an appetizer or an ice cream. Traditional dishes and local products are combined with world flavours and textures. The lab has a “flavour workbench” with over thousand products and ingredients used to do research and create new recipes. Their cuisine is all about research and experimenting, creativity and inspiration, flavours and textures, and shared long hours in a lab equipped with cutting-edge technology and a team of cuisine lovers trying to achieve what no-one else has tried before.

Source: arzak.com

Discover gastronomy, come to San Sebastian

San Sebastian is the cradle of gastronomy in Spain and one of its most elegant and cosmopolitan cities. With its sandy beaches facing out into the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian is synonymous with good living. Counting just 170,000 people, the city not only boasts more Michelin stars per resident than any other in the world, but it also has three restaurants with three stars each: Arzak, Martín Berasategui in Lasarte-Oria and Pedro Subijana’s Akelarre.

Source: Turismo de Euskadi

We invite you to discover it: in the Old Town area, famed for its pintxo bars, you will find both a huge selection of the local speciality – pintxos are tapas-like snacks served in typical Basque style, usually on a skewer or toothpick – and a wide variety of wines; walking its three beaches – from Ondarreta up to Zurriola, taking in famous La Concha in between, it is a must to all vistors. And if you have time, plan a tour to one of the wineries and cider houses located in the surrounded areas, enjoy a “txuletón” T-bone steak or a typical cod-fish dish, taste local cider and “txacolí” wine, while you admire the green mountains and valleys of the region.

Would you like to know more? Drop us an e-mail, we will come back with a programme designed to suit your wishes. info@across-spain.es

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Not even 2 hour motorway drive south Barcelona airport, on the Mediterranean coast, we find Ebro’s Delta, one of the most famous river deltas in Europe, a wetland location containing 320 sq. km. of Natural Park. The delta hosts a wide variety of aquatic environments and a wide range of different habitats that provide micro habitats for a huge abundance and variety of birdlife, and it is key breeding site for many rare species of birds. Most recent survey has revealed over 300 species of birds that are either resident or migratory to the Ebro Delta.

This nature reserve, declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and full of contrasts, is an ideal setting to get away from crowds and stress of big cities: wild beaches of large dune fields, spaces where there are plains and salt mirages and extensive rice fields. Photography lovers will also discover a spot where the beauty of a sunset with the stylized shadow of a group of flamingos is worthy of the most demanding camera objectives.

Why are there so many great birds in the Ebro delta?

The answer has a lot to do with the range of habitats available: ricefields, saltpans, muddy bays, sand dunes and spits, freshwater lagoons and reedbeds, riverside woodland and open sea.

The delta is the habitat of 7 species of gull and 9 species of tern. Here we find as well the world’s largest Audouin’s gull breeding colony, one of the essential concentrations of common reed bunting, and the Iberian Peninsula’s second largest colony of flamingos and glossy ibis.

In order to perform best possible experience, the park has bird-watching routes equipped with walkways, lookouts and information panels and expert guides to accompany you.

South Itinerary

A full day route starting in the village of Poblenou del Delta and that includes spots as Sant Antoni saltpans, Saltpans de la Trinitat, La Tancada, Erms de la Tancada and Gola del Migjorn.

First observation spot will be the tower with views over l’Encanyissada lagoon, from where species such as Little Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Red Crested Pochard, Caspian Tern, Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Harrier, Greater Flamingo, Fan-tailed Warbler and Great Reed Warbler can be spotted. Continue towards the coast, stopping at the Sant Antoni saltpans, a very interesting spot for gulls, terns and waders.  

Head now to the beach and follow the sandy track that leads down the Trabucador to the saltpans of la Trinitat. On the shores of the bay a good variety of waders, gulls and terns may be seen and in the winter months the waters of the bay are a prime site for divers, Red-breasted Merganser, Black-necked Grebe and the occasional Common or Velvet Scoter.

Back to La Tancada lagoon. This is an interesting site for ducks, including Red Crested Pochard and Garganey. Ospreys fly over on quite a regular basis.

Between here and L’Eucaliptus resort are the Erms de la Tancada, an area of saltings, rough pasture with bushes and channels which is ideal for migrant birds in the spring and autumn, with a huge potential for producing pleasant surprises.

Route continues the way to Illa de Buda and the Gola de Migjorn along a road that past vast extensions of rice fields. An observation tower offers views over the Illa de Buda with its ricefields, saltings, pools and lagoons and the reedbeds and marshy areas of the Alfacada, as well as the open sea. This area is one of the best in the whole of the delta for seeing a great diversity of birds in a short space of time.

Finally, make the short drive to the beach for a seawatch, at what is said to be the best spot in the delta for seeing Gannet, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Razorbill, Balearic and Levantine Shearwaters, sea duck, gulls (including Mediterranean Gull), terns and waders, depending on the time of year.

North Itinerary

A day long itinerary starts with an observation tower overlooking the southern tip of the Canal Vell lagoon. Among other birds, Night Herons can be seen here, as well as Greater Flamingo, Great White Egret, Bittern (on migration) and a variety of ducks.

Continue to Riumar, more precisely to Lo Garxal, a shallow lagoon with usually abundant terns and waders. Water Rails breed in the reedy areas along the southern edge while the inhabitants of the dune slacks include Lesser Short-toed Larks and Collared Pratincoles.

Platja de la Marquesa beach is the spot for conducting a seawatch in the hope of seeing skuas, shearwaters, seaduck and other seabirds according to the season. In the winter months Mediterranean Gulls pass by in their hundreds, as do Black Terns in late summer.

From here a track leads to the Fangar lighthouse. The huge, flat sandy area past the dunes is a major breeding area for terns and Kentish Plover, while on the bay side there will often be large numbers of waders, terns, gulls and ducks.

The last port of call is the southern shore of the bay, or port, of the Fangar. From the edge of the bay it is possible to follow the shoreline for approximately 4 kilometres. If possible avoid the time around high tide, when most of the birds, especially the waders, are forced elsewhere. Photography lovers should not miss this area: it can be excellent for close up views of waders, flamingos, terns and gulls, especially in the afternoon when the sun is behind you.

Would you like to know more about birdwatching options this nature reserve has to offer? Please, let us know, we will be glad to assist you! info@across-spain.es       

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