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  • Writer's pictureGinny Light

Postcard from Green Spain

by Ginny Light

Eduardo Chillida’s steel sculptures in San Sebastián. Photo: Chris Willan

Over ten days in winter, we travelled from Bilbao along the spectacular coastline of northern Spain to the historic city of Santiago de Compostela, passing through the spectacular mountains of the Picos de Europa. The highlight of our trip was staying at Posada del Valle in the foothills of the Picos de Europa. It’s a family run hotel in 18 acres of organic orchards, pasture and a vegetable garden that supply the restaurant with much of its produce. We were treated to homemade apple juice and bread for breakfast, while in the evening the daily changing set menu included a soup, salad, main course, dessert or cheese, much of it picked just hours before it was served.

Pintxos classics. Photo: Chris Willan

Food is often a product of geography and history, and no more so than in Green Spain where the local fare goes far beyond the typical seaside menu – there are many familiar items such as tortilla, paella and squid but also products of the terroir, such as beef, cheese and beans. One of our favourite places was Casa Vergara 1948, a pintxos bar (small snacks held together with toothpicks) in San Sebastian’s old town, which specialises in cod, including cod cheeks and bacalao, but there were also the pintxos classics, such as tortilla and jamon Iberico. The vibe, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, is buzzy and the staff, in fashionable white shirts and black aprons, are ebullient and efficient, pouring local cider and wine from a height while diners choose from the buffet along the bar.

The joy of pintxos here is that everyone eats together – old, young, tourists and locals.Gastronomy is a big draw for Green Spain, but so too is the huge variety of activities and attractions in a relatively compact area, especially given the proximity of the mountains to the coastline and the region’s avante garde cities such as Bilbao and San Sebastián. One of the most dramatic we saw was Eduardo Chillida’s three steel sculptures mounted on rocks at the western end of Ondarreta beach in San Sebastián. The situation was chosen by Basque architect Luis Peña Ganchegui to be within the tidal ranges so the sculptures look very different when viewed at high or low tide.

18 acres of organic orchards, pasture and a vegetable garden supply Posada del Valle's restaurant with much of its produce. Photo: Chris Willan

This article also appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of our Green Traveller magazine.


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