Iparralde – the French Basque Countryside

It feels so good to be home. Fresh air, green mountains, and soft sandy beaches.

I am still in the thick of my vacation with my family in the Basque Country, but I wanted to pop in and say hello. I have captured over 1,000 images and I thought you would like to see some from a trip we took to Iparralde last week — the French Basque Country.

Despite current political divisions, the Basque Country (Euskal Herria) is made of seven provinces, four of them in Spain in the south (Hegoaldea) and three in the north in France (Iparraldea). The Basque language is spoken throughout and that is why we call it the Basque Country.

When I was a little girl and before all European borders disappeared, going to Iparralde was a very exciting adventure. Only an hour drive away, we had to carry our passports and a completely different currency. We looked for products that we couldn’t find back home and indulged in the supermarket aisles.

Last week we decided to take a trip to Donibane Lohitzun (St. Jean de Luz) and Espelette, where the famous peppers come from. We packed some food, but we knew we would find most of what we would need for our picnic in the farmers’ market that happens every Tuesday.

We purchased local sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt, artisanal bread from Etchart, charcuterie, mirabelle plums, berries, and more. As we expected, the old pedestrian streets were crowded with tourists. We ate amazing ice cream at Txomin and macarons and gâteaux basques at Maison Adam, then headed to the beach where we leisurely ate our bounty while we watched people come and go.

In the afternoon, we drove to Espelette. I was so excited for the burst of color that awaited us. The buildings are covered with hanging red peppers that are dried to make the coveted piment d’Espelette that I love.

Green hills surround the old town where herds of sheep graze. There was a light mist of rain that afternoon and it smelled of the Basque Country I remember from my childhood. A certain nostalgia and mysticism.

Last week I also taped a new episode for cooking show Robin Food, which will air in November. I cooked a risotto with wild mushrooms and clams, as well as a plum and red currant galette. I think you will like it. We certainly did.

I was also extremely lucky to eat at three-star Michelin restaurant Martin Berasategui and two-star Michelin Mugaritz. I will have to tell you all about it. What an opportunity.

I am in awe and inspired.

The kids are having so much fun playing with their cousins, visiting family farms, and running around in the open spaces. Weather has been unpredictable, but I welcome it. I love summer rain.

And so we will be here one more week. I will return with more images and stories, but for now, I must go.

The park awaits us.


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134 Responses to “Iparralde – the French Basque Countryside”

  1. Wow! The colours in your pictures are amazing – it looks so alive. It’s not an area of France/Spain that I really know but after seeing this, I’m really excited to explore it soon!

  2. Stunning photos! It looks dreamy there! Quiero ir ahora! Enjoy the rest of your time :)

  3. SiLviA says:

    very beautiful picture! I was in St Jean de Luz (and in the french and spanish basque country) the last year, but the weather was not so nice. It is very nice to see again those places through your pictures!
    have a nice stay there!
    Silvia

  4. What a beautiful place! The landscapes are wonderful and so are your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. Beautiful!! Love the photos and write up!

  6. meesch says:

    Such beautiful photos! I absolutely love your posts!

    -meesch
    http://www.aperfectkindofday.com

  7. Stunning, amazing, wonderful pictures!

  8. Adoro tu fotografia y tu saber hacer… Tienes Don. :)

  9. Angharad says:

    I’ve only ever experienced the other end of the French coast – this looks so vibrant and exciting. I’d love to go – your photos are gorgeous, as always!

  10. wow…the photos are amazing! such beautiful, vivid colors. have a wonderful rest of your trip and i look forward to more photos!

  11. How beautiful the Basque Country is! Can’t wait to visit Spain one day to see the country my ancestors came from.

  12. Sounds liek an amazing holiday…..even I feel like visiting. look forward to more of those 1000 images! Have fun at the park!

  13. tinajo says:

    These photos are all beautiful and vivacious – love them (and wish I were there)! :-)

  14. jenna says:

    so beautiful! i love the colors – those peppers look amazing and there are so many.

  15. Your holiday looks like a dream….and as for your photography, whoaaaa im so jealous , your pics amaze me.Enjoy , Alan ( cumbriafoodie )

  16. Zelako argazki politak!. Saiatuko naz Robin Food-erako grabatu dozun atala ikusten, rissoto gainera…..Azaroan han egongo naz, huts egin barik. Mosuak

  17. Seriously, your photography puts my heart at rest. It’s so, so stunning.

  18. Absolutely stunning photos as always. You truly captured the colors of summer. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Sandy says:

    Dear Aran,

    your photos remind me of my vacation in basque country. I remember very friendly and helpful people there supporting me with my damaged car. I love Espelette and the tasty and awesome Piment.
    Enjoy your time, keep your emotions in your heart and stay safe.
    best greetings from germany,
    Sandy

  20. Anonymous says:

    Amazing, congratulations. Maybe you wrote it (and I didn’t see it) but the man in Ezpeleta-photo is Pantxoa Carrere, a wellknown basque singer

  21. Itxaso says:

    Ohhhhhhhh handi bet!!Ze leku politek!Zelango argazki politek! Peio Ospitalegaz be topau zinien orduen, bera da ezta? Ni ya atzera nau Indianan, elegante pasau dogu bebai,zuok be disfrutau!

  22. Welcome back! These photos are absolutely divine and I am completely transported to this wonderful place. Your blog posts are always a treat.

  23. wow!!! your little one would dare pick at redcurrants and eat them off the stalk like that!!! for that, i salute her! its too acrid for me, unless it goes into a jam.

    Thanks for the photos of your country, Basque. Its absolutely beautiful. I hope to be able to visit one day…

  24. LatteLisa says:

    I’ve only one word for the images: GORGEOUS!

    Thanks for sharing with us; coming here is so inspiring.

  25. Rachel says:

    I’m in love with Basque country. It’s the best.

  26. Karine says:

    What an absolutely stunning place! I’m looking forward to the risotto recipe!

  27. Such gorgeously vibrant colours! This makes me miss Europe!

  28. Linda says:

    This looks amazing Aran! I’m a big big fan of your blog!

    I wanted to ask if you use Instagram? If not, this user is posting your photos! http://web.stagram.com/n/coolsummerjam/

  29. How deliciously beautiful! I especially loved the image of the sheep on the hill and the stacked beach chairs. Your cooking episode sounds divine; can’t wait to check it out!

  30. Thank you all!

    Itxaso- domekan altzusten egon ginen zure izekon baserrien baina ez ziren etxean egon. argazkiek atara genduzen eta bialduko dotsudaz. pozten naz etxean ondo ibili zarelako. mosu handi bet!

    Anonymous- yes, we know Pantxoa indeed! we spotted him on the street and spoke to him as we are great fans. My kids and I listen to their music in the car. :)

    Linda- i do ue instagram…. but i will have to check this user that is steaking my images… not cool :( thanks for letting me know.

    Eskerrik asko!

  31. Joy says:

    The photographs are heavenly!

  32. Shelby says:

    I have been to St. Jean de Luz and absolutely love it!!! What a special, quaint little town, and breathtakingly beautiful… as your pictures depict so well. Enjoy your time at home! Thank you for sharing and bringing back wonderful memories!

  33. Gretchen says:

    I love the peppers drying on the sides of the buildings! And sheep on green hills remind me of childhood visits to the Scottish Games in the Catskill Mountains (NY).

  34. Irina says:

    Hello!
    I enjoy reading your blog so much! and I love looking at those amazing photos. I discovered it through Merce’s one, “Cuina per a Llaminers”.
    I’ve never been to the Basque Country, yet. It looks beautiful, so maybe one day…

  35. Anonymous says:

    I like the mix of lively pics and text like fresh well chosen ingredients for a tasty dish. One feels gratified after tasting it and would like some more

    cheers Mada

  36. Brenna says:

    These images are absolutely amazing ! I wish I made it to Basque country while I was in France.

  37. Manderley says:

    Que imágenes tan bonitas!!! Son unas fotos preciosas!!
    Me han encantado.

    Saludos

  38. how wonderful. thanks for sharing this beautiful place with us.

  39. Itxaso says:

    Beretxikortan egon zinien? Ze ondo!Oporretan joan ziren eta ondino kanpotik dabizela pentsetan dot.Nik be aurten ez dodaz ikusi, gauze bat dala edo bestea dala azkenean ezebez. Bai, ahal dozunean bialdu argazkiek!Jo, ia datorren urtean koinzididuten dogun!

  40. Seanna Lea says:

    Your home is such a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing it with all of us!

  41. Welcome home Aran! Look at you, soaking up all the sounds, sights, smells and everything Basque. We love it! I hope time ticks very slowly for you & your gorgeous family during your last week. Enjoy! Zita

  42. Mallory says:

    stunning! how well would a tourist do there?

  43. Hola Aran, zelako argazki politek. Badakizu, Itxas, Colin eta bere ama hemen egon direla ezta? Gu be Biarritz, Bidart eta Donosti aldetik ibili ginen, asko gustatu jakien eta disfrutau gindun.
    Ikusi dot Itxasori komentatu dotsezuna, domekan Altzuste aldetik ibili zintziela, ze pena ez egotea inor Beretxikortan, oso majoak dira eta ateak zabalik aukiko zinduen. Beste baten izango da.
    Disfrutau zure familiagaz eta ia hurrengo ezagutzeko aukera dekogun.
    Besarkada bat, Miren Bego

  44. I love the Basque country is so gorgeous, and I miss the food. We used to go to Bidart on holiday every year from England. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time with your family Aran x

  45. Danielle says:

    This is simply amazing Aran, and Miren’s dress is too cute! Wish it came in adult sizes :)

    We are planning our Christmas holidays to France and the Basque country has been mentioned as a possible pit-stop to visit friends and check out the place. I hope it works out! And I can’t wait to hear all about your meal at Berasategui – the salad you posted on Instagram looked too beautiful to eat.

  46. Olivilla says:

    q bonitas! viniste de vacaciones?

  47. 20R3Mun says:

    Aran! Argazki bat behintzet hegualdekua da. Nire herrikua ganeran! Mundaka gero faltan botaten dot.
    Ondo pasa gure Euskal Herrijan, guapa!

  48. Lora says:

    What gorgeous photos. They make me want to book a flight now! The photos alone could have you dubbed the one woman tourist board for the region.

  49. Dzoli says:

    Trully enjoyed journey with you.So beautiful:))

  50. Y says:

    Those peppers have such amazing colour! Really really wishing I could drop everything right now and go overseas :)

  51. Naomi says:

    This is so absolutely gorgeous. This makes me nostalgic for a place I’ve never even been. That is the mark of an amazing photographer for sure (not like anyone would have been questioning that).

  52. Katie says:

    Gorgeous pictures! I love how brightly colored everything is! xo

  53. Ahlala the macarons from Maison Adam, un must incontournable ! And the caramels from Maison Miremont, so delicious!

  54. I’m going to spend next summer in the Basque teaching violin!

    theyogurtgirl.blogspot.vom

  55. Miren Bego- bai Han egon ginen baina auzokoak frantzien dauzela esan euskun. Hurrengoan izengo da. Ze ondo itxaso, Colin eta amagaz ezta? Pozten naz!

    20R3MUN- bai, hori mundakan da! Aitek ataratakoa. Ondo agertzen nintzen bakarra! :)

    Mallory- it’s full of tourists! :)

    Thanks all!

  56. Sami says:

    Beautiful photos, and I love the red pepper curtains! Enjoy the holidays xx

  57. The view from the beach is just stunning and breath taking!

  58. This is just so wonderful and beautiful. Reading this post made me feel like I was right there with you.

  59. Maïlys says:

    haha, is these haricots rouges are local as it says, they definitely are not the same that I shelled in Mississippi last most ;)

    God, I miss home so much right now! (and I probably won’t see it before another 6 months!!)

  60. Danica says:

    Inspiring. I am without a doubt going to visit this place in my first Europe visit next year to taste it!

  61. Your photography is just so beautiful. I would love to take a class from you. Thank you for posting such wonderful photos and letting us visit the Basque country through you!

  62. luisa says:

    me encantan estos post tuyos, unas imágenes preciosas. Saludos.

  63. These photos are amazing! So brightful with such beautiful colours! Love them!

  64. maudska says:

    Reading what you wrote concerning “passing the boarder” and finding totally different products, I remember feeling the same as a little girl living in the French speaking part of Switzerland and sometime going to France. Now we almost find here the same products but I cherish the time when it was a little adventure to go grocery shopping there. Stunning pictures…

  65. Carmen says:

    Ya estaba impaciente esperando las primeras fotos de tus vacaciones en el Pais Vasco…que bonitas.
    Creo haber leido en algun sitio que han robado en el restaurante de Berasategui no?

    bss

    habra q esperar a noviembre para ver las recetitas mmmm

  66. milena says:

    splendido reportage fotografico !!

  67. Sini says:

    “Wow” is all I can say when I see those brilliant red peppers hanging outside the houses.
    Have a nice time, enjoy!

  68. Juliana says:

    Your photos make me want to go right now!

    Is the Basque the French speak the same as the Basque you speak? Or is it a different dialect and you are able to understand each other?

  69. Thank you so much for taking us on a visual journey through this beautiful part of the world. Enjoy the rest of your holiday! Regards, Nina

  70. Nivee says:

    Que lugar de ensueño Aran! gracias por compartir tus hermosas fotos! Creo que lei en la revista Geo savores del mundo sobre los pimientos de Espelette, que bueno ver esas casas bañanadas en rojo! queremos mas!!! jaja disfruta de tu ultima semanita de vacaciones aca te esperamos con impaciencia.
    Saludos

  71. Elisa says:

    spectacular images! Your family must be so happy that you are visiting! I love the yellow little sandals!

  72. Carmen- si creo que robaron en el Berasategui aunque la verdad es que no quise preguntarles mucho por no hacerles recordar el mal trago.

    Juliana- yes, the Basque language can be quite different from one town to the next. Each province has its own version, but we can all understand each other. There is the official Basque language called Batua (which means United) that is used in schools and public offices.

    Today we watched the fishing boats unload their catch and also went mushroom picking. I hope I can share more images soon!

    Thanks!

  73. Oh my goodness, your pictures are incredible! I can’t believe how vivid and colorful everything is, looks almost other-worldly…!

  74. I have no words to describe your photos. They are absolutely amazing! Just came across your blog today and I am completely blown away by your work. A year ago we were ending the honeymoon on the train from Italy to Hendaya (so then we could find a way to come back to Portugal), and I remember watching out the window all those vibrant colors of the houses and the green fields… and I wanted to step out of the train and feel and walk those places. I never forgot that feeling, but now you made me want to go there so much more! Thank you for sharing this!
    **
    Inês
    http://if-madewithlove.blogspot.com

  75. Stephanie says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Wish I was there. Thanks for sharing.

  76. You are a fantastic photographer. Your sense of color and proportion is something I look at very keenly and in this time that I have started following your blog, I have learnt so much.

    Thank you so much.

  77. ValHalla says:

    You are fortunate to be from Basque country, and I was fortunate to visit the lovely area in May. I expect to return–I think it might be my dream place in fact. Anyone interested in Provence or Tuscany should explore this region–it is less expensive and just as gorgeous.

  78. Marie says:

    J’adore le pays basque j’ai aussi le souvenir des frontières que nous évitions quand nous passions par le petit chemin des “contrebandiers”. Ce sont mes vacances d’ado il y a très longtemps dans ma famille paternelle…..

  79. akt says:

    Your shots make my mouth water. I am planning a family vacation next spring, and now after seeing your shots, we must put the Basque region on our itinerary.
    Thank you for the inspiration.

    akt, ottawa

  80. We spent a wonderful holiday in the French Basque region a year or two ago, staying at Bidart. This post and your lovely pictures bring back lots of memories, especially of our visit to Espelette (where we had a super meal, on our wedding anniversary, in a restaurant called La Potoxa – a type of local pony I believe) and sampled the local peppery flavoured chocolate. I am still using the Espelette pepper I brought back. This really makes me want to visit the region again – soon!
    hopeeternal
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

  81. Stunning. Exquisite. And this explains your love of blue and red in many of your photos! Thank you so much for sharing this place and experience with us.

  82. I always love your photos but these are really special. I was in Donostia and St. Jean de Luz last year so this is a pleasant reminder. It is lovely to see St. Jean through your eyes. I particularly like the last shot with the Espelette peppers. Lovely colour and composition. Cannot wait to hear about Mugaritz. It is on my list.

  83. Meeling says:

    Absolutely stunning scenery…makes me want to hop on a plane and take a vacation!!

  84. G says:

    I love the vibrant colors in all of your photographs! So warm and inviting :)! I especially like the second photo. She’s so precious! Glad you are having a wonderful time and I send many thank yous your way for sharing your adventure!

  85. wow. these pictures are so beautiful. thanks for a great post. don’t forget to stop by today for my new outfit post.

    http://www.fashboulevard.blogspot.com

    For all the latest fashion news from a southern girl making it as an LA stylist follow on facebook.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fash-Boulevard/137375899661727

  86. Li Ying says:

    Awesome pictures! Love the combination of color and ur daughter is SO CUTE!
    :)

  87. Very beautiful pictures, i want to go back on holidays now ! ;)

  88. Anonymous says:

    Gora euskadi eskatuta! I loved the post and photos, especially the ones of my little girl. Miss you guys, Chad

  89. volvo0721 says:

    Thank you for showing us newbies how to get it right. I have spent the last weeks getting all new equipment to enable me to give the very best in my posts. I know I am new with everything( minus the love of baking and cooking.) I have so much to learn and I do feel intimated, by your blog, but you make me not fear the fear as to speak and one day I will be able to post beautiful shots and concepts like you. Thank you and I am also growing a prop cupboard. I think one of my favorite parts of blogging! Thank you

  90. I’m jealous! The colors are amazing, and I just adore your little girl’s blue dress.

  91. Jenny says:

    Oh summer colours! Just beautiful.

  92. zer0gluten says:

    Jo, qué bonito todo Aran!, pero a mí lo que me sigue alucinando es tu niña. Cada vez que la veo, pienso lo mismo. Ya está así??. Es increíble cómo crecen.
    Tienes una tierra preciosa. No me extraña que cuando vienes, te des el gustazo de fotografiar tantos rincones con encanto.
    Un besazo grandote, grandote.

  93. Chamomile says:

    Charming.
    I haven’t more words, seeing this lovely photographies with an explosion of sparkling colours.

    Welcome back in my life.

  94. Yoli says:

    Takes me back. Beautiful images and blog!

  95. ilke says:

    The only thing I can say is beautiful and relaxing! Good to be home with the family, right?

  96. Those photographs are amazing and pop out so beautifully with the vibrant colors. Your work is a true treat!

  97. Stunning, inspiring and ever so delicious looking. Thank you.

  98. Zita says:

    Aran!

    I always look forward to seeing your summer Spanish posts. Your photography is so inspiring, so dreamy and absolutely beautiful. Hope to see more photos in your next posts!

    Zita
    from Budapest
    Hungary

  99. ChichaJo says:

    What amazingly vibrant and beautiful photos! I would love to one day explore that part of the world…enjoy your holidays!

  100. Fantastic photos – you have truly captured the colours of the Basque Country.

    All the best from

    Geu Basque Country Tourist Magazine

  101. Aliena says:

    Fabulous report! It resounds along with my memories. Although I’ve always thought it’s not easy to document what it’s closer to you, you don’t let custom to make you overlook tiny special details…

    I haven’t been able to make it to Mugaritz or Berasategi, so I wait for your report.

  102. Sally says:

    ahhh I live in Saint Jean de Luz – It is nice to see the photos…I just had a coffee there with a friend and I always forget to take the time to take photos. New resolution for my own blog!

  103. I feel like I was right there with you! So beautiful and relaxing. Thank you for taking us on that journey.

  104. nedj says:

    C’est drôle … je vis ici et en voyant tes photos (splendides ) je me dis … ce pays est vraiment merveilleux et .. j’ai de la chance !
    Encore une fois, un joli billet gourmand et coloré !
    Nedj

  105. a. maren says:

    now i know this is not at all what you are going for, but sometimes when i read your blog, i hate my life.

    :)

    beautiful pictures.

  106. Oh your photos are soooooooooooo gorgeous…drooooool!!

  107. Love the pictures … make me miss Italy and the trips we used to take in the French country side … beautiful post.

  108. Those chilly wall hangings are so cute..love all the pictures here. Need to dig into other recipes.

  109. Beth says:

    Love your photos. I’m a huge fan of farmers’ markets, and the markets in Europe are just so photogenic.

  110. Alessia says:

    beautiful colours..wonderful pics. Thanks for sharing.

  111. Claudia says:

    Foto e colori meravigliosi seguo sempre il tuo blog!!!! fantastico tutto brava!!!!

  112. Maureen says:

    Every time I visit your blog I feel like I’ve been on holiday. Thanks so much for the work you put into each post.

  113. Adla says:

    I feel like I need a magic flying carpet to transport me to that beautiful place. so beautifully captured, you are inspiring !

  114. ibb says:

    Argaziak izugarri politak dira…Ezpeleten uztailean ibili nintzen baina ez nun Pantxoa eta Peioren erdi hura handik topatu…etxean diat piperra sukaldean jolasteko.
    Berriro beraz, Davidekin jolasean…oraingoan lasaiago?

    Ondo ondo pasa. Patxo bat,

    Ibb

  115. mmm les tomates bien rouges! les tommes de chèvre!! merci pour ces belles photos!

  116. dburlison says:

    Thanks..Well done site-very interesting/informative..And many nice photos..Never seen so many red peppers..

    Always Travel Safe- WORLD TRAVEL UPDATES-FOREIGN TRAVEL GUIDE:

    http://www.travelaskthelocals.yolasite.com

    (Feel free to post on our forum)

  117. Mary says:

    I feel as though I just went on a virtual vacation via your beautiful photographs. I especially love the beach scenes and the one of your daughter looking out over the street. Could you please share with me what lens you used for those photos. Thanks!

  118. Can I just say…. I’m jealous! It looks so beautiful there. I hope you thoroughly enjoy the rest of your vacation.

  119. MARIA says:

    Ongo etorri etxera!!!

  120. What’s left to say – the colours are a feast for the eyes. I want to be there now!

  121. Elizabeth says:

    These are beautiful pictures–the colors and clarity of the images are unbelievable. I think I’ve found a new dream destination!

  122. Oh the color!! Adding the French Basque Country to my “must-travel” list. This was better than coffee for perking up my Monday :) Thank you for sharing!

  123. ScottieJ0e says:

    Your images are amazing! I’ve been taking lots of shots of my tomatoes (growing 9 varieties) but the photos of the hanging peppers are inspiring.

  124. Francesca says:

    I’m glad I stumbled across your blog through Giulia (Juls’ Kitchen). Very nice!!

    I was in the little Camargue last week, fantastic region and had the peppers too! :D

    I wonder whether I can also ask you some advice as well in relation to the blog as I also use blogspot.

    Hope to hear from you soon
    Francesca

  125. Roxane says:

    Your pictures make me travel…

  126. Maybe your best post yet! Incredible. Darling, what camera do you use?? Love it all and thank you for your art. xo

  127. Kenon says:

    Such a beautiful scene! I hope to hear about your opportunities to eat at the Michelin star restaurants! (I’m so close and excited catching up with your blog!)

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