The Balenciaga Dress Museum at Getaria, another hidden gem

13 05 2014

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Everybody knows San Sebastian, its three beaches, wonderful arquitecture and of course, the great atmosphere and food of pintxos bars. It´s a delightful city that probably ranks No 1 among the most beautiful cities in Europe (my biased opinion!!). But visitors to San Sebastian normally miss the quaint fishing town of Getaria, whose peninsula resembles a “mouse” (“the mouse of Getaria”). Few know that the first person that circumnavigated the world, Juan Sebastián Elcano, second to Magellan (who died in the Philippines before completing the route), was born in Getaria (there´s a monument to this deed).Imagen

 

And fewer know that Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre, Balenciaga, the most famous designer of all times, was born in Getaria in 1895. Son of a seamstress, in a very catholic family, he soon became interested in the art of sewing and making dresses for the wealthy. In 2011, Queen Sofía of Spain inaugurated in his hometown the Balenciaga Museum (link) The museum has a collection of more than 1,200 pieces designed by Balenciaga and the building deserves a visit by its spectacular arquitecture. Dresses are shown as works of art and, in an atmosphere where lights have been dimmed so you can center your attention on the designs.Imagen

 

A must. If this museum were located, say, in Paris, it would be one of the most visited. Unfortunately, it´s in a fishing town of the Basque Country (as is the biggest Rolls Royce museum in the world and many others, but that´s a different story).

 

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11 Must-Sees in the Basque Country

21 01 2010

The routes below are, in my opinion, those places that you should visit when coming to visit this so unknown country. Most are easily accessible on public transport and, except in high season, you shouldn´t worry too much about crowds.

1) DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (in the world?), views from Igeldo mountain, pintxos in the Old Town, Chillida-Leku open air museum (www.museochillidaleku.com), the picturesque fishing town of Hondarribia.

2) ZARAUTZ, GETARIA (wonderful promenade almost touching the sea linking both towns), grilled fish at any of the restaurants in Getaria, ZUMAIA and its beautiful church, LEKEITIO, its port, its island and the incredible retable inside its church.

3) ARANTZAZU Sanctuary (www.arantzazu.org) and OÑATI and its University(www.oinati.org).

4) SAINT JEAN DE LUZ, BIARRITZ, BAYONNE-BAIONA, in the French Basque Country (also Petit Bayonne, on the other side of the river), great chocolates and gateau basque, apart from picturesque villages.

5) BILBAO, Guggenheim Museum (this was obvious!), Old Town, Funicular train to Artxanda for spectacular views of the city.

6) HANGING BRIDGE (Puente Colgante) of Portugalete, a Unesco World Heritage Monument, unique in the world, over 110 years old and running 24 hours a day.

7) VITORIA, Old Quarter (jewish) and a visit to the spectacular restoration of its Old Cathedral (Ken Follets based its novel The Pillars of the Earth on this cathedral, so they made him a statue!)

8) ATXONDO valley, where silence can be heard, spectacular place with the mountains and sheep in the background. And several wonderful restaurants.

9) URDAIBAI Biosphere Reserve and the beaches of Laga, Laida, the town of Busturia, Mundaka (surfers´ paradise), the sea estuary, the caves of Santimamiñe and the PAINTED FOREST OF OMA. Also the steep fishing town of Elantxobe.

10) The walled towns of LAGUARDIA and LABASTIDA and the wine region of Rioja Alavesa. Not to miss the guided visits to the wine cellars underneath the town.

11) The POZALAGUA caves, in the Karrantza valley, a spectacular combination of rare stalactites and stalagmites, now specially prepared for visits with kids, http://www.karrantza.com/?seccion=cuevas3&idioma=es.

You will not find massive tourism or tourist traps at any of these places, and if you plan your visit in advance you will get a very good idea of this beautiful country.