If you are traveling to the Basque Country with your iPhone or iPad in tow, this is a wonderful resource to take along (and do some pre-trip reading). The Basque Country is known for its unique culture and cuisine, so these are two areas you’ll want to know a little more about to better enjoy your trip.
The app is not meant to be a trip planner or comprehensive guide book, but makes a perfect complement to other resources. I used the app before and during a recent trip through Rioja, Bilbao, San Sebastian and Pamplona (the app currently doesn’t cover much regarding Rioja or Pamplona, but it sounds like plans are in the works to expand). We had the trip planned out in terms of hotels and a few major activities, but this guide helped us delve further in to each area.
If you’re traveling outside of your data plan’s borders, you will especially appreciate that most of this guide’s features are available offline (because of that, it does take up more space than many apps). This often limits the usefulness of other apps and online information to trying to get on wifi and therefore not always being able to quickly access information on the go. I loved being able to reference this guide as we walked around, for example, doing the “txikiteo” amongst the pintxos bars. Mark has written fun, accessible descriptions and tidbits about various pintxos bars, restaurants, museums and more.
The app is easy to use and offers various ways to search, so it is simple to navigate. Before our trip and during some of our drives, I would peruse a category by region and read about some of the sites of interest to get ideas. This helped point us to Petritegi Tolare Sagardotegia (cider house), outside of San Sebastian, an experience I am glad we did not miss. Mark’s information was even more accurate than our hotel concierge in terms of the time/cost of the taxi and gave us an idea what to expect of the evening. As the staff gave us a quick overview in Spanish, I checked the app to read what Mark had written to feel comfortable that I understood the process and meal correctly. (There is generally a set meal at the Sidrerias which Mark describes well, and you meander around with other patrons tasting cider from the various barrels as they tap different varieties, wandering back to enjoy your meal in between tastes.)
We also let the app guide us to several pintxos bars in Bilbao and San Sebastian and enjoyed all the recommendations. As we headed out one day for lunch in San Sebastian with no particular plans, we read a description that sounded like just what we wanted and ended up with a great home-style meal for a bargain. It was also nice to be able to quickly pull up an entry, for example the Guggenheim Museum, before going to check prices, hours and get a quick overview.
The menu decoder seems a little sparse with all the diversity of Basque cuisine, but gives you a good overview of some things to recognize and seek out, along with some more basic Spanish menu items which could be useful if you had not previously traveled in Spain. I generally did not use the map portion of the app, simply referring to the addresses in the app and using our small city maps.
Reading through the app not only gives you a list of places to check out, but a glimpse in to the culture and special experiences so that you can better soak in the joys of this area. Make sure to peruse the beautiful photo section too! If you haven’t yet planned a trip, reading through this guide will certainly inspire you to start planning. My next time back I will have the app handy and continue my rounds of some of the many recommendations. The app left me “hungry” for more!