“I never go anywhere twice but … I have been on Georgina’s walking holidays in the Pyrenees four times now. The area is beautiful and Georgina creates a house party atmosphere which is so much better than other well-know holiday companies!” Chris, lawyer from Norfolk.

What Does the Press Say? And More Guest Reviews!

Read all about it!

Our Basque Country Walking Holidays are recommended in Fodors Guide to Spain (2015) and in the Bradt Guide to the Basque Country and Navarre (2016) in which I am also a guest writer.

Articles

Read our reviews from the International Press below:

  • The Guardian 2014: Great Escapes by Joanne O'Connor
  • The Daily Mail 2011: Spanish, Walking and Basque Cultural Holidays in the Pyrenees. On-line version here.
  • The Guardian 2010: Basque Culture and Walking Holidays by Max Walker. Online version / PDF version
  • Herald Express 2010: Walking and Basque Culture House Parties (Format Acrobat 11Mb)
  • MSM Travel 2010: Ituren and the Basques: Bells to Men by Simon Busch. Read it online here.
  • The Observer 2005. Spanish & Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees by Jo O'Connor. See below. (full text).
  • Executive Woman 2003. Georgina Howard and Walking the Pyrenees. See below.
  • In 2006 The Times voted us one of Spain's Top 10 Holiday Destinations.

Over the past 17 years we have been running these Basque Country Walking Holidays and specialised Spanish language immersion holidays for clients from all over the world. Guests have joined us from as far a field as Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii and Norway ... and some of them have been up to 7 times! I have asked many guests if they mind writing comments and reviews of their holidays so that other potential guests ... like yourselves, possibly ... have an idea of the ethos of our holidays and the idiosyncrasies in store for you all! Recently I also put Pyrenean Experience on TripAdvisor where we are also slowly building up our presence. If you would like to talk to any previous guests I am sure that many of them would be happy to exchange their experiences and thoughts with you. Please ask.

I leave you here with the different voices of the many delightful and fascinating guests who have walked through our doors, eaten dinner with us on the terrace and honoured us with a week of their time.

84 Comments to “ Press Say”

  1. mike says :Reply

    I was fortunate to experience a great week with Georgina, Inaki and Marion in what is, truly, an idyllic setting on a quiet hillside in the Basque country. In fact I enjoyed the Spanish immersion holiday so much that I took the opportunity of returning for a walking holiday some weeks later!
    Every effort has been made to make the guests stay am enjoyable one and this is enhanced by the “house party” style of the holiday which does make for some interesting group dynamics!!
    The countryside is beautiful and the views are breathtaking. The walk to the Vulture breeding ground was a day never to forget, and at one stage we counted approximately 60 birds in the air.That being said the introduction to various aspects of Basque culture, past and present, made for a very interesting break.
    Georgina’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious and her and Inaki make everyone welcome and almost feel, for a time, part of their family.

  2. keith and veronica says :Reply

    I cannot recommend this wonderful destination highly enough.
    It’s not just that the Basque Country is stupendously beautiful: green
    rolling hills, criss-crossed by paths which are still used by locals –
    there is a strong tradition of walking in the area. It’s not just that
    the house and cottages have breath-taking views over the valley. It’s
    not just that Georgina’s enthusiasm will enliven the most jaded of
    world-weary travellers. It is also the friendliness of the Basques
    themselves, which makes the Pyrenean Experience such a good idea.
    My wife and I have been four times, in 2003 and 2009 to learn Spanish,
    in 2010 to live for three months in the cottage. And in 2011 for the
    carnival. We’ve called in just to say hello several times since. The
    long list of appreciative comments on the website really does reflect
    the reality of the experience

  3. Tony Becket says :Reply

    For me, this holiday is summed up by the title ‘Pyrenean Experience’ in that it provided a range of activities that made me feel involved in the family life of Georgina and Inaki, their neighbours and indeed the whole of the Basque country. It was a full and gratifying experience. I like walking and I am keen to improve my level of Spanish so the holiday catered for those two interests. I like unaffected, unstuffy people and I found myself in a very congenial group who were open and good humoured. Highlights of the trip include: the Ongi festival where I found myself fully immersed in music and free cider; meeting Koikili, a picaresque smuggler full of stories about his years as a contrabandista; socialising with the group and picking up new Spanish expressions; and getting out of Inaki’s office (he’s a lawyer) without having to pay anything.
    Altogether this felt like a bespoke holiday and a full immersion in Spanish language and Basque culture. Congratulations to the effervescent Georgina for putting together such a great enterprise. If pressed by a modern-day Spanish Inquisition to find fault it would be the tea-bag shortage that threatened the Brits around day 5 but that was quickly dealt with by our attentive host.

  4. Jayni Bradbury says :Reply

    How do you solve a problem like ….Georgina ??
    Well you hang on and enjoy the ride of your life !!
    After being home for 2 weeks I am still reliving the fantastic memories I had the pleasure to collect on what I can only describe as ” one of my top 3 holidays” ever,and I have traveled all over the world
    The experience you have is precious and incredible
    To see and feel the Pyrenees mountains, people, wildlife, way of life ,can only be brought to you in Georgina’s authentic and passionate way ,and you leave this proud and beautiful land with a part of your heart somewhere on the top of the mountain ,where you sat and watched the many vultures soaring beneath you on the warm thermals
    My friend went away on a beach holiday at the same time , I asked her what did she do ,? oh just lay in the sun … She asked me what did I do … ?

  5. Shelagh Weekes says :Reply

    This was a week to remember in so many ways! For me it was the ideal holiday – one which involved a beautiful, unspoilt location and opportunities to walk, talk, laugh, eat, drink and learn, with delightful new friends. Georgina and Iñaki’s concept of learning language in such an unthreatening and enjoyable way is unbeatable.
    Thank you, both, and all your friends too, for a great time. Hasta la proxima vez!

  6. Mary Hindlemary says :Reply

    A group of seven, only two of whom knew each other before our Pyrenean Experience are now emailing regularly in Español. We found our stay in Ameztia totally inspiring, influenced mainly by Georgina whose bubbly personality enthused us all. We were treated to daily delights of the terrace views, guided walks in wonderful countryside, where our language skills were tried and tested in a relaxed way, never knowing who we were going to bump into, from the local farmer and friendly neighbours, to Koikili and Iñes, ex contrabandista and artist/cook respectively. Interesting and delicious evening meals cooked by Marimar and washed down with local vino, followed by lengthy chats and laughter brought an end to each varied day.
    Georgina and her loyal team have developed a unique holiday that does wonders for one’s every sense and soul.

  7. Wowee!
    What a week!
    I had NO idea what to expect but it more than exceeded any expectations I did have.
    A simply fantastic week jam-packed with so many unusual and wonderful activities.
    I loved meeting (and to my amazement being able to talk to and (mostly!) understand) all of Georgina’s fascinating friends – some of them wildly eccentric 🙂
    My spanish improved SOOOO much. So much so in fact that by the time I returned to Biaritz airport a week later, I found I’d forgotten how to speak French ha!
    Thanks so much Georgina and to all the other awesome people in the group who helped to make it so special.

  8. Anne Brown and John Airey says :Reply

    From the moment we arrived at Georgina’s beautifully located house with its stunning view from the terrace, we felt welcomed and at home.Our hostess goes out of her way to create a relaxed but active and stimulating environment with a combination of walks in the surrounding hills and further afield, visits to local places of interest related to the Basque people and culture,and very lively and interesting evenings with guests who quickly become friends.
    We both felt that this holiday was a unique experience, in a little known corner of Spain, which we will remember very fondly.

  9. Jill van der Kolk says :Reply

    In June I returned to Georgina’s for the third time on the Spanish Immersion course. Returning to the same area just makes me realise how lovely the surroundings are. The welcome and hospitality are wonderful. Since my last visit Georgina has added a comfortable and modern guest wing to her Borda, which enhances the house-party experience. The walks start and end at the house, heading off each day in a different direction to experience a different aspect of this beautiful region. There is nothing to surpass waking up in the morning, stepping out on to the terrace and seeing the mist hanging in the valley and the sun illuminating the hilltops. I hope I will return again sometime.

  10. Dylan Gray says :Reply

    What can I say that hasn’t already been said many times before…well here goes….superb location, lovely villa, great hosts, good food, a good variety of activities each day as well as a delightful walk everyday too.
    Georgina has great enthusiasm for what she does and has a great partner in Iñaki and they make a good team. I’ll definitely go back one day when my spanish is better hopefully.
    Y muchas gracias a Georgina y Marion por el imán de refrigerador.

  11. Mike Ball says :Reply

    I count myself as extremely fortunate to have holidayed with Pyrenean Experience twice in the Summer of 2014, Once on a Spanish Immersion Course and later on a guided walking holiday.

    This is a unique destination with the opportunity to experience Basque culture and good food in a beautiful unspoilt setting.

    Georgina is the most welcoming of hostesses and her and Inaki, together with all the local people she involves in the experience, provide a truly authentic introduction to the Baztan Valley.

    Whether it be for improving your Spanish, or simply walking and experiencing the culture and gastronomy of the area, the house party concept is an integral part of the whole experience and adds greatly to the overall experience.

    I would wholeheartedly recommend the experience and hope to return in the future.

  12. Tom Stenhouse says :Reply

    Well what can one say. I was a bit apprehensive about coming on this course as my Spanish was at a low intermediate level, I can understand most things but when it comes to speaking my brain freezes. My wife, Halle, speaks very well and gets a bit fed up with me making mistakes, all the time. So I wondered how I would fare speaking Spanish all day and not getting the dreaded word block.
    I am pleased to say that it was a WOW! Walking and talking on at least a one to two basis or more often than not one to one, was very relaxing and corrections were made all the time without judgement or sighing at me making the same mistakes. Slowly but surely it started to click and the words came more freely. Exploring the Basque countryside and learning about local workers added many new words to my vocabulary as well as my understanding of the Basque culture. Georgina is a very “bubbly” person full of life and enthusiastic about what she does, along with her many friends and daughter (who speaks, Basque, Spanish and English fluently}, the education was excellent.
    The formal classes, were relaxed and covered important aspects of grammar.
    The one suggestion I would make is to have a feed-back from the guests at the end of the week, to state what words, phrases, aspects of grammar they found useful. We all learn differently and pick up different things, it would also be useful for Georgina to know whether what she is hoping to teach and what is learnt are one and the same. Muchas gracias Georgina, por la gran experiencia de aprendizaje. TOM

  13. Risa says :Reply

    I went to Georgina’s lovely home with my 9 year-old daughter and my husband who likes to bike in Pyrenees. Although my husband normally likes to bike at French side of Pyrenees, he enjoyed everyday biking because the place was simply so beautiful, and there are many natural parks around it. The last 4km of going up: he called it “col d’Ituren” and it gave him so much strength!

    While my daughter who loves animals was so happy, not to mention the endless play time with Marion of same age who is so friendly and patient, very smart girl who translated everything my daughter needed.

    And I enjoyed taking spanish lessons with my daughter! Georgina found us a perfect teacher who is good at teaching kids. Unfortunately my daughter got sick, caught cold, and missed 3 days lessons, it still was so memorable. I’m sure she warns to go back soon!

    One thing I like about Georgina is that she’s very honest. She tells you no lies. And I’m sure I caused a lot of troubles, but she always smiled and said “wonderful”, making sure we are feeling at home. She was very considerate, thought of anything we needed, spent for the house party for us, very selfless person.

    There are no shops around her place, but she brought us to shopping as needed (almost everyday!) and one time I and my husband went down the mountain on foot ( she taught us the short cut, and it’s just an hour) and we enjoyed the tapas bar in ituren and elgregorriaga, the next village, she even picked us up!

    And her husband Iñaki is a wonderful person!! He’s not only a lawyer, but great spanish teacher, even though he wasn’t my teacher, and a lot of sense of humor. My daughter loved him so much, too!

    I hope next time I visit them, my spanish will be better.

    Oh lastly, I almost forgot about the fire place. The house has a fireplace, and it’s so cozy! We were there in April, and there were days still chilly. We were shy at first if we can use it, even though Georgina said we could, because I thought it’s expensive, or takes time to buy wood and carry them up or something, but as soon as we learned how to do it, it became our favorite place. Of course, it has centralize heating system, too. So at night, when you can’t take care of fire wood, you can just turn on the heater.

    If you prefer to stay away from TV (my TV addict daughter survived without TV for 3 weeks) and just wake up by birds chirping sound, want to relax, or walk around (it’s very safe even alone), it’s a perfect place. I even got used to spanish time that I wake up late (I normally have to wake up before 6), and eating lunch at 2pm, afternoon activity at 4 or 5pm, and eating dinner at 10pm. So different from Japanese or Filipino way where I stay, but it makes sense if you stay there. My husband said “spanish people know how to enjoy life. They don’t adjust to life, but life will adjust to them.” But I found spanish very humble and hardworking.

  14. Michele Cory-Smith says :Reply

    Pyrenean Experience describes the holiday perfectly and lived up to all expectations. I wanted a week of total Spanish immersion plus an opportunity to find out a little of the local culture and history and was not disappointed. The intimate and very relaxed, house-party atmosphere was ideal for a single traveller (my partner doesn’t speak Spanish so didn’t join me) and I’d have no hesitation in recommending this holiday to anyone who enjoys good scenery and fresh air and is curious to discover more of Navarran cultures and traditions.

  15. Hilary Blumer says :Reply

    My fourth time with Georgina, but the first time as a guest in her much expanded home in Ituren. As ever, a really great experience with a super group of guests….strangers when we met, but friends at the end of the week. Accommodation 5* and food and drink plentiful and varied. Mixture of walking and culture really works, and such amazing people with incredible stories to tell. Countryside is breathtakingly beautiful. Muchas gracias a todos!

  16. Helen Read says :Reply

    Was this my third or fourth week with Georgina…? Definitely the best however! A really good mix of cultural activities and walking, lots of opportunities to speak with a great variety of different people and a very friendly atmosphere.

  17. jane chalk says :Reply

    What a fantastic experience! It must have been, because the week flew by too quickly! Firstly, our hosts were so kind, devoting all their time to making sure everything went smoothly. Secondly, a great group, wonderful meals and accommodation, had flavour of all things local and fantastic walks and scenery. Lastly, I revised and learnt so much of the language and am inspired to continue back home, thanks to Pyranean Experience!

  18. Pippa Wainwright says :Reply

    A second brilliant holiday, even better than the first time! Great walks, masses of laughing, excellent food and wine, LOTS of Spanish, extraordinary fiery fiestas with dancing giants and the kindest welcome from Georgina, Inaki and all their Basque friends and neighbours. I’ll be back again……

  19. Karen Bryant says :Reply

    Having read many of the previous comments it is really difficult to find something new to add. I was a bit worried about being a loan traveller, but soon found that there was nothing to worry about because the group of ladies (2 travelling together and 3 others travelling alone) were a joy to get to know and to spend a week with. We soon became the ‘G & T’ club of the Pyrenees!’ We ranged in age from myself (the baby at 47) to sixty something, but all with a common love of the truly magnificent countryside and a passion for improving our Spanish. By the end of the week I felt like I had known the group for many years!
    I must comment on the delicious meals prepared by the lovely Marimar, a delightful young Spanish lady who also accompanied us on the walks. Her layered potatoes are ‘to die for’! She was so patient when chatting with me and having to put up with my truly awful Spanish. She took the time to explain things in a different way if I had not understood the first time round.
    On the ‘free day’ we went with the group to San Sebastien, during which we had a memorable (if rather drunken!) tour of the ‘Pinchos’ (spelling wrong I think?!) bars. It is a beautiful and interesting small sea side city, with stunning architecture round every corner. We really bonded on that day and had the chance to use our Spanish in real situations.
    Yet another highlight was the trip to the water mill and the talk given by the resident miller. I was thrilled to find that I understood nearly everything that he said and am now an expert on the subject!
    Finally……..the music concert given by the local extremely talented musician was just the icing on the cake for me….as they even allowed me to sing a few songs……and for everyone to realise that I can sing a lot better than I can speak Spanish!
    Thanks so much to Georgina, Inaki and Marimar
    PS The week in the Pyrenees has inspired me to do a weekly course at a local college……perhaps I will return sometime to impress them with my new skills!

  20. Irene Martin says :Reply

    Many many thanks to Georgina , Inaki and Marimar for such a fabulous experience . I was very nervous beforehand but you were so welcoming and put everyone at ease – and put up with my daily murdering of the Spanish language! I feel more confident now about being able to move on from just transactional Spanish to having some kind of conversation.
    The accommodation, food , walks- everything were superb .
    I hope to be back next year if you’ll have me!
    Thanks again,
    Irene

  21. Sue says :Reply

    This was a truly memorable and enjoyable week for us. For the first time in years of spasmodically studying Spanish I felt encouraged and relaxed enough to forget about my awful accent and inability to remember tenses and actually engage in conversation. My partner, a complete novice, also soon found himself constructing sentences and hugely increasing his understanding of the language.
    All this against the backdrop of sunshine, walks through the beautiful countryside, spotting shooting stars in the incredibly clear skies and relaxing in the very good company of the other guests.
    Many thanks to Georgina, Inaki and Marimar for their hospitality and patience and for introducing us to a wonderful and unspoilt landscape.
    We’re looking forward to coming again one day!

  22. Dot Rankin says :Reply

    I’d like to thank you all for such an interesting and lovely holiday with you last August! You live in a beautiful part of the world with such friendly people. As I had been taking Spanish classes for only a year the immersion was a bit of a shock, however I feel that we all relaxed into it (eventually!) although it was frustrating for me not to have the confidence or vocabulary to converse anything like freely! When I went on to Barcelona I was able to understand so much more Spanish – and my friends even coaxed some Spanish from me! I have really noticed the difference in my Spanish Class this year and hope to visit you again – why think of sitting in a dusty classroom when it is possible to look at improving your Spanish whilst enjoying beautiful scenery, local culture and great hospitality!

  23. It’s the little things….. It really is, the Pyrenean experience with Georgina is truly a delight. This was my second experience of this hiking holiday in glorious Navarre. From the moment we arrived we were so well looked after by Georgina, and made so welcome by all the locals and different people we encountered. There were so many highlights, from the basque banquet in a local village, to our visit to a “michelin” star restaurant. Photography is a real passion of mine and this amazing countryside never failed to inspire me. So if you want to unwind with great food, wine, walking, amazing countryside and genial company then get in touch with Georgina.

  24. Chris Brown says :Reply

    I never go anywhere twice but .. I have been on Georgina’s walking holidays four times now. The area is beautiful and Georgina creates a house party atmosphere which is so much better than other well-know holiday companies!

  25. Eirian Owen says :Reply

    I recently returned home after a return visit to Georgina’s idyllic home in the hills. It was every bit as enjoyable as last year. Thank you, Georgina and the team, for another fabulous week!

  26. Don Campolo & Marilyn Maney says :Reply

    The week of walking and gastronomy had it all – great scenery, invigorating hikes, delicious food, cultural immersion and best of all, great fun. Georgina is a wonderful hostess who has assembled an enthusiastic array of locals who proudly and graciously share their culture and traditions with her guests. Each element of the experience was unique – from an amble through the nesting territory of the magnificent Griffin Vulture to gourmet meals at authentic, local restaurants. Our week culminated in the feast and parade of the Joaldunak, followed by a community-wide banquet at which we were made to feel like special guests in this special part of the world. The whole week was both relaxing and energising and Georgina’s high spirits and warmth made it so easy to embrace each activity and adventure. This was the first time that we included an organized element in our travel plans and we really didn’t know what to expect. After our week with Georgina we have probably been spoiled for any other walking programs. This was everything a vacation should be.

  27. Susan Laurina James says :Reply

    I spent a week with Georgina 2 years ago – and was expecting that my second stay would not be as enjoyable. In fact it was even better (perhaps partly because my Spanish was better).
    The whole holiday was brilliant – even though Georgina had to cope with the upset of someone having a nasty fall and having to be flown home early . All the experiences – meeting local people, visiting their homes and eating with them, having demonstations of local cooking, listening to the stories of the ‘contrabandista’ and the great fiesta on the last evening – not to mention the food, the lessons, the scenery – were wonderful and will be long remembered .

  28. Linda says :Reply

    I cannot rate this experience any higher than exceptionally brilliant – otherwise I would! Georgina is a fantastic host… the countryside is so beautiful …. the food is delicious (& oh so plentiful!). I feel really honoured to have met the local people in this beautiful part of the pyrenees – all of whom are extremely welcoming, open & friendly. I travelled alone but soon felt part of a very well bonded group of friends encouraged by Georgina’s house-party style atmosphere. My spanish is much improved by the well delivered classes and the stimulating conversation both during the walks and over many a good meal! I would strongly recommend this holiday to all. My week in Ameztia was a very refreshing boost … a week of wonderful therapy – not that I recognised it at the time of course because I was so busy enjoying myself!

  29. Barbara Boyle says :Reply

    Two weeks have passed since my Pyrenean Experience but the memory remains as fresh as if I was there yesterday. Perhaps because the week was so rich in activity, culture, friendship and kindness. There is so much to remember.

    I was rather worried that I wouldn’t cope very well . I am registered ‘severely visually impaired’. and thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest – that I would hold them back. But Georgina assured me that everything would be fine. And it was! Everyone was so helpful, taking turns guiding me up and down the mountain paths and through the villages. The food was divine, the Spanish lessons fun and stimulating. Even with my restricted vision I was able to appreciate the beauty of the countryside and the charm of the Basque villages. An utterly unforgettable experience!

  30. Lynda Entwisle says :Reply

    As a first time independent traveller I was nervous making the “leap of faith” (Georgina’s words) and heading off into the unknown. However, I was rewarded with an amazing week jampacked with rich cultural experiences, stunning vistas and warm and friendly local people who treated you like a new friend, not a tourist.
    Highlights included: looking out my window across the valley; listening to the sheep bells; evenings on the terrace ; walking, talking and sharing in Spanish; the colourful fiestas and Joxemi’s cooking.
    Georgina worked hard to keep our programme full and to make sure we were happy at all times. Our teacher, Iñaki, worked just as hard to instill the finer points of Spanish grammar in us – fortunately he also had a well-tuned sense of humour too!

    Memories of this adventure will stay with me for a long time.

  31. John Cardwell says :Reply

    Ever since reading Mark Kurlansky’s “the Basque History of the World” I had been keen to discover more about this fascinating people. Georgina’s holidays seemed to offer the perfect introduction to the region, as well as providing plenty of opportunity for practising one’s Spanish.

    Whether visiting fiestas and restaurants in neighbouring villages, meeting local people, or listening to some of Georgina’s tales of her life among the Basques (all in Spanish of course) while tramping through the lovely countryside, it has proved to be a wonderful and most enjoyable introduction to ‘la vida vasca’.

  32. Ethel Sanders says :Reply

    It was a real privilege to be part of the life of Georgina and her lovely neighbours even for such a short time. Georgina is a most generous and warm host for whom nothing was too much trouble to ensure that we had a great experience. It was a far cry from being in a classroom and was a natural way in which to practise our Spanish whilst meeting such friendly and interesting people, and learning about the local culture. I loved the ‘house party’ atmosphere. I now have enduring and happy memories and new friends. Thank you Georgina, Inaki and fellow house mates.

  33. S B Sayre says :Reply

    Georgina is a natural hostess with just the right mixture of structure and informality. We were transported, fed, hosted, walked and watered with charm and warmth. What a gorgeous area of the Basque country to discover whilst walking and talking in Spanish. Iñaki encouraged our language skills along with Arantxia and Joxemi who created delicious meals. It was an honour to share their lives for a week.

  34. Shelley Wills says :Reply

    I’ve been learning spanish for two and a half years at university and I spoke more of the language in my week with Iñaki and Georgina than I had in all the classes leading up to it.

    Reflecting on the experience, I feel far more confident in speaking spanish with others and have already started reading a book about Basque culture. The combination of fascinating people, interesting walks and energetic spanish conversation is a complete winner.

  35. Elaine Tovell says :Reply

    For me in was the best way to learn Spanish – beautiful scenery, open and friendly people and a glimpse of Basque culture and customs. All conversations were in Spanish (admittedly I cheated a bit and also invented quite a few words), but having to search for ways to express myself, while walking the hills and trying to breathe, was very good for my brain. Iñaki’s patience and humour helped the spanish lessons go down well, and Georgina’s enthusiasm and understanding helped my feeble attempts to master the language. I would recommend this week to anyone, both for the spanish learning experience and for the people, scenery, good food and relaxed atmosphere.

  36. Robin says :Reply

    We were traveling for three weeks, mostly in Spain, and the three days we spent with Georgina were the best and most memorable of the trip.

    Thank you for sharing your incredible scenery and company and for your always gracious hosting!

  37. Marcel Agüeros says :Reply

    “Lovely” is the only word I can think of to describe our stay with Georgina. We loved the walks, and the villages, and the fire-jumping, and the music, and the patxaran, and the conversation, and the cowbells, and the Basque arepas.
    We look forward to coming back for a much longer stay!

  38. Islay Fullerton says :Reply

    I had a lovely time, I was made to feel like a guest everywhere I went, and we met so many interesting Spanish people.

    In the lessons, Inaki even managed to make Ser and Estar interesting, and he and Georgina are great fun to be with.

    Of course the food, landscape and local culture were also wonderful, it seemed such an untouristy region – I was there in June – and I came home completely refreshed.

    Finally, the house where I and the other person on the course stayed was very comfortable, and only an idyllic 5 minutes through the woods from Georgina’s house. It was magical walking back at night after a meal on Georgina’s terrace and some lovely local guitar music.

  39. Paul Parker says :Reply

    This is a unique way to experience a unique and beautiful corner of Spain. What a way to learn Spanish, speaking with the local people from the valley, either on the numerous mountain walks, or learning how to cook a proper paella, or jumping through bonfires at a local festival! These are just a few of the cultural activities which complemented excellent formal language classes given by Inaki.

    The most memorable thing for me is how intimate and friendly a week it was. We were accepted readily into the family of the mountain community and more especially within Georgina’s and Inaki’s home, where the lessons and much of the social activity happens.

    Georgina has a passion for the region and for Spanish, and she transmits this energy and vitality to her students.

    A brilliant week – I will return.

  40. Swancott says :Reply

    Thank you Georgina for a brilliant week of walking and learning Spanish at the end of September. I shall always remember the lovely walks, stunning views, Izaskun’s cooking, Sagrario’s friendly welcome and Inaki’s lessons and patience. Last but not least your infectious enthusiasm and kindness.

  41. Mary Anne Beech says :Reply

    Just back from a great week, marvellous scenery, good walking, delicious food, very useful language teaching and practise, and all in lovely company.

    A specially big Thank You to Georgina, Izaskun, the miller and all the restauranteurs for managing my gluten-free diet so well.

    Abrazos a todos
    MaryAnne

  42. Cathy Thomas says :Reply

    Had the most amazing week. Didn’t realise the Basque country was so picturesque and spectacular. Really enjoyed getting out and about, walking in the mountains, learning to cook a sweet onion soup (which I have already made since my return), meeting the former smuggler and local miller and spending time with such lovely people – my fab group, Georgina, Inaki and Izaskun …oh and my Spanish improved enormously. Back home, am now thinking of Spanish words all the time – bit of a problem seeing that I’m off to France tomorrow! Good luck Georgina!

  43. Eirian Owen says :Reply

    I fell in love with the beautiful scenery and the peaceful surroundings . Georgina has found the perfect recipe in her paradise in the hills – first class Spanish tuition, excellent accommodation and food, the delightful company of local people and an insight into Basque culture . Georgina’s exuberance, Iñaki’s humour and Izaskun’s warmth provided the icing on the cake. A week to remember and cherish. Eirian.

  44. Elizabeth says :Reply

    The greatest compliment I can give to Georgina, Inaki and Izaskun is that I returned home thinking in Spanish and with a love for their part of the world.

    Gracias for todos

  45. Glenn & Carole Millar says :Reply

    It was nearly dusk when we arrived at Georgina’s house. We had travelled to Bilbao by ferry and driven there following her very detailed directions “… pass through the middle of a farm …” up into the hills above the village of Ituren. Georgina was waiting to welcome us warmly and after a quick wash and brush-up we were ushered on to the patio to meet the rest of the party – our teacher, Inaki, our classmates who had arrived earlier – Jackie from Lancaster, Marie-Luise from Leipzig and Ally from Vancouver Island – and Izaskun, provider of home-cooked food and companion on our walks.

    They were all speaking Spanish. Already. A bit daunting at first but we got used to it, learned to enjoy it and now even do it ourselves at home sometimes.

    The view from the patio was amazing, high above the valley and the villages where the lights were starting to come on. Very soon we were tucking into supper – tortilla and salads, washed down with a few glasses of rosado – a welcoming start to a great week.

    Some memories

    · Enjoying el sonido del silencio – it’s a very tranquil place
    · Waking to the sound of the cencerros (small bells) around the necks of the sheep grazing beneath our room.
    · Being above the early morning mist in the valleys and watching the changes in the mist’s shape and light as the sun strengthened.
    · Dark, starry nights
    · The fun of our daily Spanish classes as Inaki expanded our vocabulary and understanding, proposing and acting out scenarios for us while exploring the mysteries of ser and estar, por and para, to say nothing of irregular verbs in umpteen tenses.
    · Our walks in late summer sun through villages, woods and hills with Georgina, Inaki and Izaskun using the local topography as a visual aid – a fig tree was an introduction to estar en una higuera and a muddy puddle to meterse en un charco, both useful expressions for struggling students of Spanish
    · Wonderful views at every turn
    · Georgina being hailed as we walked past a neighbour’s garden and all of us invited in to admire the flowers and sample the grapes..
    · Touring a working water mill and then having the miller turn up at Georgina’s house next evening to sing Basque and Spanish songs on the patio after dinner.
    · Living in an almost totally Spanish environment and meeting a number of different Spanish speakers, including the miller, farming friends and a friend from Pamplona who joined us for lunch one day. Dinner was usually in English, pretty much everything else in Spanish (with excursions into English when we needed to be sure that we’d got it right).
    · Making an impromptu visit to a local swimming pool on a hot afternoon where we and many of the local families were able to cool off before heading into the nearby town of Elizondo to see the gigantes (giant figures of a king and queen) plus their big-headed retinue (cabezudos) dance in the streets.
    · A once in a lifetime opportunity to join with Inaki and Marie-Luise in helping a local farming couple to make una meta de helecho (a stack of bracken for animal bedding). Very satisfying – it’s in the blood – the Millars were farmers long ago.

    We had an unforgettable time, thanks to the open-hearted Georgina for her infectious enthusiasm and energy, Inaki for his good humour, quick wit and ability to immerse us in understandable Spanish, Izaskun for topping up the food and conversation in a delightful way and last but by no means least, our fellow students, Ally, Marie-Luise and Jackie for the fun and the craic. .

    Gracias a todos
    !Hasta luego!

  46. Paddy Atkins says :Reply

    What an amazing week! I’m back home and the sheep and cow bells are still gently ringing in my ears taking me back to what really is a corner of paradise. Yes, Georgina has some pretty good ingredients to offer us – breath-taking scenery, the Basque villages with their picture book houses and farms, the history, the people – but the really special ingredient is Georgina herself, weaving skilfully, creatively and often spontaneously her detailed knowledge of the area, her total commitment to the Basque culture, her relationships with the local farmers (like a family really) and above all her infectious passion for all things Basque into our week. Each day was unique and very special – leaving me with wonderful memories ( and I include the walk back from San Esteban, Stuart – haven’t laughed so much in ages!) and a sense of being made very welcome, a sense of belonging to a very special community.

    Thank you SO much Georgina!

  47. Meryl Chetwood says :Reply

    My week with Georgina, Izaskun and fellow walkers has been one of the most enjoyable and memorable holiday experiences I have had. A winning combination of the green beauty of the Pyrenees, stunning walks and scenery, excellent food and wine, Basque culture, convivial company and being lulled to sleep by the jangly clang of sheep bells. Unforgettable and very special.

  48. tom says :Reply

    It’s a few days since returning home from my third visit to the Baztan valley and already I’m having withdrawal symptoms and missing the peace and tranquility of the area. Nothing has changed since my last holiday here and her enthusiasm for this green paradise remains undiminished. Once again I was lucky to be in the company of delightful fellow walkers and the enjoyable social interaction of the group every day.

    Georgina introduced us to interesting new walks and a great insight into the Basque culture and its gastronomy. Each day presented different challenges from learning to make tulos in a beautiful ancient mill, climbing in the high rocky peaks above the vultures and culminating in a wonderful last day experiencing the Joaldunuk with all its tradition and pagan ritual. Not forgetting the memorable walk on our free day to Santestaban and back lead by Stuart which will not be forgotten although Merryll and Paddy kept the spirits high during the long ascent back to the house. Although it was not a week for spanish lessons we had some good fun grappling with the language but I think Merryll found understanding the basque dialect easier than my northern vernacular.

    Thank you Izaskun for your delicious cooking and especially for bringing your mum’s tortilla on our picnic in the mountains.

    Lastly a big hug and warm thanks to Georgina, Marion and Inaki for making us so welcome in your home and giving us a wonderful Pyrenean experience.

  49. Stuart B says :Reply

    Four questions were asked last week – only one was answered definitively.
    1. Does a melon taste better if it is carried all the way to the top of a mountain and all the way back down before being eaten ?
    2. Did the bat get into the house accidentally or did Iñaki let it in as part of an elaborate ploy to get Edorta to fix a wardrobe door ?
    3. Just how far up an apparently never ending steep slope will people walk if there’s someone continuously telling them that there is a flat section just ahead ?
    4. If a late change of date means the Day Of The Joaldunak no longer coincides with the week of Basque culture and gastronomy that you have arranged, will the Joaldunak put on a private display for your guests ?

    The answer to the last question is – only if you are Georgina Howard, who is so completely accepted by her local Basque community that, not only did her guests get to see the private demonstration, they were also invited to a meal with the Joaldunak afterwards.
    Whilst the private display will probably be a one-off event, don’t let that put you off coming to one of Georgina’s house parties. She, Iñaki, Izaskun and all the Basque friends and neighbours will always do their best to give you a unique and unforgettable week. Give it a try – you won’t regret it.

    1. Stuart B says :Reply

      For those who are interested the answers to the other questions are
      1. Experiment needs repeating. We forgot to leave a control melon at the house to compare against.
      2. Only Iñaki knows for sure and he will probably take the answer to his grave.
      3. All the way to the top it seems. But I suspect I will never again be asked to take a group for a walk on their free day.

      1. So sorry Stuart about the melon …. it was just that Izaskun’s mother’s tortilla was just too good and no one could eat any more! Next time it may be easier to pick our own figs off the trees en route instead. As for the bat, I too have my suspicions that it all had something to do with getting Edorta into the bedroom and, as for your group leading skills on the free day, don’t be too hard on yourself … few people after a great lunch at Donamaria can make it to the nearest village let alone up a mountain .. I am sure that the bottle of ‘tinto’ should take some of the blame too!

  50. Jeni D. says :Reply

    As I searched through websites looking for the perfect way to introduce myself to Spain on my first trip to Europe I came across this intriguing website. I could not believe that my desires to practice spanish, immerse my self in the culture, and be out in nature had all been answered. I signed up quickly and then wondered what I had done. Could this really be as wonderful as I thought? The answer is…. it was even better! The countryside, the people, (housemates and locals) will always remain in my heart. Georgina worried that I would be disappointed on my first trip… but really my worry is; can any future trip match this wonderful adventure?
    Thanks to all the wonderful people who were part of that splendid week.

  51. Ann Hurman says :Reply

    At the risk of repeating the comments made already, I have to second all those about the welcoming atmosphere, the wonderful food (not to mention the beautiful husky-voiced Izaskun), the splendid location, the excellent accommodation, the varied content of each day and, most of all, the FUN we all had – over drinks, over meals, in classes, on walks, talking to Sagrario, meeting Geogina’s friends……
    And all this fired by Georgina’s enthusiasm for her adopted country. There is nothing quite like a Georgina-style house-party to make people feel relaxed. It is a tribute to the ethos of total immersion that our group, all English speakers, actually spoke Spanish to each other quite a lot when we were alone together! What more is there to say.

  52. David McGee says :Reply

    Using a blend of expert local knowledge, and her own enthusiasm for a not very well known part of Europe, Georgina Howard and her team have the ability to take you off the beaten track, and into a way of life and culture that has existed for thousands of years.

    Staying in traditional farm houses on the outskirts of quiet mountain villages, Georgina offers a variety of different walks in magnificent settings complete with a starring cast of local characters.

    Thoroughly enjoyable-Eskerrik Asko!

  53. Scott Nicholson says :Reply

    Being the first ‘solo’ holiday I’d ever been on, I had a certain trepidation building up to the day I flew out, not really knowing what to expect and slightly worried that my patchy Spanish may not make the grade of the ‘intermediate’ course I’d signed up to.

    However, what a tremendous week. Georgina has a wonderful thing going in this beautiful part of the world and all the individual components of the holiday that she offers come together wonderfully in an intensely enjoyable and exciting way.

    Levels of ‘fluency’ are fairly subjective and, amongst our group, we had a varying level of ‘intermediate’ knowledge which made it incredibly useful to bounce things off each other. Everyone in the group was lovely – we all mingled and chatted with each other throughout our week together and this helped the learning process no end. The fun and laughter we all shared will stick with me a long time.

    For developing your skills in Spanish, this holiday really is fantastic, but don’t confuse it with a typical language holiday. There is so much freedom to learn here – from real people in real situations, in some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. And the glorious photos really don’t do that vista justice.

    Quite simply, this was one of the best holidays I have ever experienced and I have nothing but the fondest of memories along with the utmost eagerness to return again soon. As well as being with a fantastic group of fellow travellers, our farmhouse hosts simply couldn’t have done any more for us if they tried. Every dietary requirement was accommodated without fuss, the food was wonderful and their company delightful. Our teacher, Alicia, was fantastic. Knowledgeable, friendly, patient (y muy guapa tambien), she helped me in the space of a few hours to get my head around some grammatical concepts that had baffled me after two years of self-study. An amazing teacher. Then there’s Georgina – fun, lively, gregarious and passionate – who welcomes all her guests with such affection, breaking down any shyness or awkwardness that’s always present in a group of independent travellers, she immediately makes you feel part of a very special family. And what a big family. Throughout the week we had the pleasure of meeting so many local people that enriched the holiday even further – friends, family, local farmers, restaurateurs, musicians, random strangers – all of whom were delighted to talk to us. And I can’t possibly get away without mentioning Marion, Georgina’s beautiful 6 year old tri-lingual daughter, who played the perfect hostess, supplying me with an endless supply of wine (“Borracho, borracho!”), secretly helped me out in English during a ‘Spanish-only’ lunch, and will be a friend for life for comparing me to a Hollywood teenage heartthrob. At 37 you take the compliments where you can…

    They say that it’s not where you are, but who you’re with that makes a holiday special. I wholeheartedly agree.

    1. Thanks Scott …. I won’t break confidences but Marion earned 5 euros for speaking Spanish NOT English during that lunchtime. I will have to revise her salary for this year!
      All the best
      Georgina

  54. David Lynch says :Reply

    Finally I have got around to posting a comment.
    I really have to echo similar musings of previous commentators here. Where do I begin?
    Location location location!!
    The Spanish Pyrenees really are something to behold.
    We stayed in a beautiful basque farmhouse, where the hosts prepared wonderful food for us, engaged in lots of conversation and introduced us to Navarran wine.
    We went rambling with Georgina in the mornings and had classes in the afternoon. What a really good mix from the traditional way of teaching in stuffy classrooms. It really was a perfect blend, learning and fun.
    For me as an amateur photographer it really was a perfect mix.
    It was great whilst we were hiking to observe vultures, potxoka horses, manech sheep and the breathtaking rolling valleys and countryside.
    Last but not least a big thanks to Georgina, for her hospitality, organisation and the way she brings the whole experience together, she really has a way with people and from the first day we met her at the airport we all felt so relaxed and comfortable – not always possible when strangers get together.
    During our time in Ameztia Georgina regaled us with so many entertaining stories about her time in the basque country, I feel it is only a matter of time before she puts these tales into print.

    Muchas gracias por todo.

    Saludos desde Dublin!!

  55. Sue James says :Reply

    I was on the same holiday as Cherry and I agree with everything she says.
    We have experienced several other Spanish courses in Spain and they have all had good points – but Georgina’s are something else!! When location,organisation,accommodation,tuition and company are all superb – well!
    What I enjoyed most was the easy atmosphere in the house,
    especially at meal times.To have the company of 3,4 or 5 natural Spanish-speakers all very happy to communicate,help with our struggles and,of course,laugh with us – was fantastic.
    I hope to repeat the experience.

  56. cherry watsdon says :Reply

    Thank you Georgina for a fantasic holiday. It exceeded all our expectations.

    The Baztan valley is stunningly beautiful. It reminded me of the Swiss Alps and I immediately thought of ‘Heidi’!

    It was a house party in the the very best sense of the word. The atmosphere was very relaxed but it was obvious that all the activities had been meticulously organized. The Spanish teaching was exceptional. The lessons with wonderful Alicia were excellent but we were also delighted to discover that whatever we did, whether we were walking, eating, relaxing, there were Spanish people, including Alicia, eager to chat to us. The Basque people we met were extremely friendly, and helpful – they couldn’t have done more to make us feel welcome. They also speak Spanish very clearly!

    The accommodation was splendid and the food was always delicious, often freshly picked from the ‘huerta’.

    Although the holiday seemed quite expensive, it was worth every penny. Not only that, we discovered that there were no other expenses. It would have been possible to spend the whole week without spending another euro.

    Thank you Georgina for a life-enhancing week! I cannot recommend this holiday enough.

  57. Jason Mander says :Reply

    I have had a burning desire to learn Spanish for a long time without really knowing why. Having tried the night classes and OU courses , I thought I would take the plunge and go on a language learning holiday. I booked myself on to the advanced course after Georgina’s advice. I found that being in a totally Spanish environment for a week is a wonderful way of learning the language. After a few days , I began to tune in better to the language and began to think in Spanish not English. The hospitality and friendliness was great throughout the week and we met many different people and characters on our morning walks through the beautiful countryside. The Baztan valley is fantastic and I especially liked Santestaban. The afternoon lessons were great with Carolina ( la profesora ) where we learned in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. Driving home from the airport , I put on a spanish CD and found a immense improvement in what I could understand.
    Overall , a great week which has given me huge motivation to keep learning the language.

  58. grace smith says :Reply

    The previous four comments were made by some of my lovely fellow travellers on a recent walking and Spanish trip. It was pure delight. To learn something while having an enjoyable time is surely the most ideal combination. Cradled in the wonderful hospitality of Georgina and her friends, we could relax and try out (in my case) our precarious Spanish knowing we would always be encouraged and affirmed in what we were doing. Our teacher Alicia was wonderful (and was occasionally called upon to be saintly in the face of our grasp of grammar.) I spent most of August travelling in different parts of Spain and can confirm that this part of the Pyrenees was easily the most beautiful part I visited. With lovely wine and food to complete the picture…well I for one will be back!

  59. Amy Irons says :Reply

    From the moment I phoned Georgina with a vague enquiry about her holidays, I felt instantly inspired to book! The natural enthusiasm she instills in her holidays shone through and I felt confident that this was going to be a great week. Needless to say, I was not disappointed! For me, the combination of Spanish, walking and a beautiful, unspoilt area already made for a great holiday. As those above explain, the farmhouse and hospitality could not be more welcoming! Add to this the bubbly personality of Georgina, our marvollous farmhouse hosts, a fantastic Spanish teacher and a fun, friendly group and you have all the ingredients for a perfect week, full of fun and laughter!

  60. Llinos Rowlands says :Reply

    Stunning place and lovely people – the best holiday I have ever had when travelling alone. We were very well looked after and I left feeling relaxed and inspired, vowing to return for another week next year. Thank you everyone for the fabulous food, great walks, wonderful company and excellent tuition – I never thought I could learn so much in a week! A winning formula and I agree with all that was previously said by Alan and Jennie.

  61. Alan Weingrad says :Reply

    I want to second the positive comments left above by so many of Georgina’s guests, and fellow adventurers. It happens I was on the same week of food, Spanish, and walks that Jennie above was on, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything she has said. I am an instructor at Harvard and I too wondered how I would react to being “closeted” (you really arent closeted!) with 6 or 10 strangers in a somewhat isolated farmhouse in unfamiliar country for a week!!!! Let me tell you, that is like saying you’ve been closeted in paradise with 10 new dinner buddies and a goumet chef. Plus, the language learning never stopped. It kept happening by osmosis. And the formal classes were given by Alicia, who is a native born Spanish teacher who also speaks real articulate Texan English! and is one of the best instructors I have ever seen. Even if you are a beginner in one of her advanced classes you will be entertained and focused on her expressiveness and logical presentation. Really, I dont want hordes of people trying to descend on this little farmhouse in the Basque country, but I would be lying if I weren’t to say it was a magnificent week.

  62. Jennie Rimmer says :Reply

    I have come back from the most amazing holiday I have had in a long, long time. This was the first time I have been on a group holiday, and I was absolutely terrified! But within half an hour, Georgina had made me feel so welcome, and chatting to her was like chatting to an old friend.

    The week in the mountains was incredible – amazing views, walks, scenery, food and company. What a fantastic and inspiriational way to learn Spanish again. Never again will I forget the word for ‘beetroot’ in Spanish (you never know when it may come in handy!!).

    The walks and talks (all in Spanish) were conducted with a large dose of fun and laughter – stopping in a bar for a coffee resulted in lots of hilarity when snippits from the local paper were read out and discussed amongst the group – a subtle but very effective way to learn.

    And the food – oh yes the food – amazing – homemade sausages and sheeps cheese, served to us by the farmers wife who had made them – not to mention the homecooked food at the farmhouse – wonderful, fresh, local food – shared in a spirit of laughter and friendliness.

    Go book your flight! Its all there waiting!

  63. Helen Read says :Reply

    As a (so far) three time participant on Georgina’s courses and a regular visitor to the Basque country I can clearly say that this area has a strong magnetic draw! The ability to meet and talk to people that are much more strongly connected to the land than we are in Britain adds extra dimensions to the format of Georgina’s courses. Talking while walking and ‘having’ to speak while doing every day things means that the language starts to become much more embedded. I found laying the table (optional of course!) a much better way to learn the names of kitchen items than reading a book.

    Talking to other guests (in Spanish of course) means learning about the experiences of others. I will always remember the difference between ‘spoon’ (cuchara) and ‘knife’ (cuchillo)because of a story told by another participant.

    There are so many highlights from the courses that it is difficult to pick one… but perhaps an example that highlights the informality and individual opportunities that these weeks bring was in a small village. We were standing as a group admiring a particular house, rather different to others in the village. While we stood there the owner came out, started talking to us and invited us in. We were then treated to an impromptu tour of his house.

    Looking forward to my next course….(and each one is different!)

  64. Heather Perrin says :Reply

    I was wondering what to do for a holiday, googling Spanish, walking…..when I found a holiday that combined them both!
    If I get over-enthusiastic, forgive me! It was a wonderful week from the beautiful walks, the experiences (cheese, Spanish omelette), the amazing meals we were given, the farmhouse casual atmosphere, brilliant company and the language. The Spanish! Going from someone who could read, yes, but converse? Understand? If I say that on Thursday morning, my first thoughts on wakening were in Spanish, that just about sums up the fantastic progress I’d made in a week of total immersion.
    Just go and have a fabulous time!
    Heather

  65. Veronica says :Reply

    We’ve now been on two of Georgina’s language courses – which as Carolyn says are much more than that. We had a brilliant week this year: the weather was good, our fellow guests were great company and Alicia, our teacher, was a delight. Georgina’s knowledge of this beautiful area and its people is phenomenal, as is her ability to convey her own passion for it. We’d spent three months in the area, and done a fair bit of walking, but had only been on one of her routes before. Every place we visited was the source of an interesting anecdote (we won’t forget the mermaid and her comb!) or a bit of historical information. Her local knowledge also enables her to be very flexible about the programme, changing it at short notice to suit the group and the weather; one day we met a neighbour on the way out, and as a result diverted our walking route in order to coincide with a Basque country wedding, complete with the arrival of the bride in an ox-cart! I have left a little bit of my heart in Ameztia and will certainly be back.

  66. Carolyn Gibbs says :Reply

    I have just returned from a week of peace and tranqulity in Ameztia, where I felt I had been welcomed into a Spanish family, engaged in rich discussions about life, politics, interests and quite a lot about gardening too. And how I loved the huertos with their rich soil and neat rows of vegetables!
    The company was good, the hospitality amazing, the scenery stunning. In addition I practised my new found language skills in a supportive and richly contextualised setting, with an excellent and sensitive teacher, Alicia.
    In addition we lunched in a local village, watched a fiesta and saw a local traditional wedding.
    A language course-no! A life changing experience.
    Thank you Georgina for your innovative approach to language and cultural learning.

  67. Ian Buck says :Reply

    Memories of the Baztan

    It was in 2006 that we first made contact. We were planning extended travel in South America and thought that we should learn some Spanish in preparation. In looking for the most congenial way of doing so, we found Pyrenean Experiences who offered walking as well as learning in a house party environment; perfect!
    We arrived at Biarritz airport with the rest of the party, where we were met and then driven by Georgina over the border to our first experience of the Basque Pyrenees – and nothing disappointed. From the idyllic setting of the house in the Baztan Valley our lasting impressions were of a convivial and congenial atmosphere in which to spend a week and maybe learn some Spanish too!
    We enjoyed the experience very much and were so impressed with Georgina’s hospitality that when it came to a venue to celebrate a memorable birthday milestone with my adult children and friends two years later, Georgina was the first person to whom we turned for ideas on a suitable venue and an organised celebration.
    Georgina’s hospitable and generous nature was the making of the most memorable week. Finding the perfect house in which to accommodate us all and a host who doubled as an occasional walking guide meant that we could feel at home in the area and yet have the undoubted advantage of local friends to guide us to experience it at its best.
    From upland ridges to chestnut filled valleys, our walks were inspiring and unspoilt, taking us to places we could never have found ourselves, punctuated by picnics and pinxos, cider and cava. And not one but two birthday celebratory meals – a marvellous spread in a local notable restaurant one evening and then a surprise afternoon champagne tea party on the stone table on the outskirts of the village after our walk together on the last day!
    We all have very fond memories of the times spent with Georgina (and Marion!) and will return some day.
    Ian Buck Cornwall, UK

  68. Jill van der Kolk says :Reply

    After experiencing Georgina’s Language and Walking holiday (Beginners/Intermediate) five years ago, we returned recently for the Intermediate/Advanced. How slow language learning is when you reach your sixties! The new location at Lesko Borda is delightful, where you are awakened by the calls of peacocks from a nearby property. The hospitality of Joseann and Pili was wonderful and what devoted hosts to provide us with even more tales of the area and Spanish practice at dinner each evening. The Intermediate/Advanced holiday encourages Spanish only from breakfast-time until the end of classes before dinner. It’s a challenge but you do finally feel you’re making progress towards being a Spanish speaker! Georgina’s role on the walks is the ‘language police’, so no shirking. One of the most encouraging things about meeting the locals, including a former contrabandista and a female champion wood chopper, is the realisation that you understand most of what they are saying.
    It’s a wonderfully green landscape with stunning views and pretty villages, with alpine-style houses and perfect vegetable gardens. This is a wonderful corner of Spain to visit.

  69. David Baxendale says :Reply

    I have recently returned from a week at Lezko Borda on an “advanced” conversation and walking holiday. The weather was less than ideal but everything else was beyond reproach. Georgina met the party at Biarritz airport and drove us in Alfonso, the venerable furgoneta, through the hills to our accommodation, where Georgina welcomed us with cava and snacks. I have been studying Spanish as a pastime for a number of years, but had wondered how well I would understand the people. However they speak a nice clear Spanish in those parts, and I understood most of what was said throughout, as well as learning a host of new words and expressions. Our Spanish teacher, who came on all the walks, was very good at involving everyone in conversation as well as putting right our inevitable mistakes. Later in the day she gave us lessons, and these were interesting and easy to grasp.

    I do not want to repeat what others have written on this blog, but the countryside is beautiful, reminiscent of alpine lands rather than other parts of Spain, and the villages very attractive. Among the highlights were being shown round the old water-mill at Zubieta, which is still used to generate electricity, visiting Georgina’s own house and being entertained with tales of smuggling fugitives into France during the dictatorship, listening to Spanish and Basque folk-songs from Edorta, and lunch in a restaurant in Elgorriaga, where traditional Basque soups and main courses were served in generous quantities.

    Perhaps the most memorable thing was the sense of comradeship between the visitors and hosts at all times, promoted by Georgina’s heartfelt enthusiasm. If you like walking and have any interest at all in the attractive and fascinating Spanish language, then this holiday is for you. I returned home with the “music” of the language echoing in my mind, some good memories, and with some of my previous cares banished. I hope to go again before too long.

  70. Peter Zingg says :Reply

    My wife Rachel and I were looking for a vacation that could introduce us to a rural corner of Spain (before heading into the art-and-resort circuit) that neither of us had seen before. We were also looking to get some walking or hiking exercise without having to either go it alone or hire a personal mountain guide. Georgina’s house party week seemed like the perfect solution. This was the first time we had ever booked ourselves into a group experience, so we were a little nervous with making arrangements from California, but Georgina’s help in setting things up made it easy.

    Our stay in the Baztan valley with Georgina, her local friends and her house-party guests was the high point of our trip (OK, maybe Velasquez’ paintings and the Sorolla Museum in Madrid were also pretty good). We had a wonderful few days walking the foot paths of pilgrims, shepherds and watermill keepers, learning about the Inquisition of Basque witches and the vanishing lifestyle of transhumance sheep and goat herding, among other things. We carried on in English or Spanish depending on how much wine and cider was consumed during the delicious lunches and dinners, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole stay.

    Since we were traveling by rental car rather than with Georgina’s aiport pickup, we also used the Baztan as a base for a day trip to nearby San Sebastian-Donostia on regatta day (also a very Basque experience), and as the launching pad for a drive through the French half of the Basque region and back over the high Pyrenees into Aragon.

    But the Baztan is the place we’ll remember longest now that we’re home; Georgina’s high spirits and generosity, her careful accommodation to each of her vistiors, and the companionship of her other guests, her great staff and friends from the Pais Vasco, made us feel so at home. I’d highly recommend this party to anyone looking for an off-the-beaten-path escape.

  71. David Boadle says :Reply

    I had a wonderful holiday with Georgina and friends in 2009. Learning to read or write a language is one thing, but to hold a conversation you need to speed up the connection between an idea and the words that express it. The week in the Baztan was ideal- having to communicate in Spanish all day long gave me a confidence that no amount of classes could supply. Plus walking in the beautiful Pyrenean countryside and delicious meals in the evening. And entertaining company!

    I am hoping that in September I can persuade enough people in my local U3A group to try in Yorkshire the same combination of Spanish and senderismo that worked so well in Navarra.

    ¡Buena suerte! Georgina

    David Boadle

    Leeds

  72. Richard Jarman says :Reply

    Georgina Howard’s holidays are a tonic for the soul and a feast for the discerning walker and Spanish learner. The infectious enthusiam, the genuine care and shared feelings of enjoyment we all had were memorable as were the magnificent landscapes of the Baztan and Navarra. And so uplifting; Georgina has a winning formula. As I write this from a little Shetland Island (I am sailing here with a friend) I feel the Pyrennes are a world away; and that’s just it: you are in a different world! My Spanish got kick started in the Baztan and I have never looked back. Bravo Georgina; cant wait to come back!
    Richard Jarmen
    Shetland Islands

  73. John Beech says :Reply

    If anyone had told me as a teenager that at the age of 61 not only would I be learning Spanish but also that I would be jumping over festive street bonfires in a Pyrenean village (Arizkun), dancing with the locals in the village square and dodging out of the way of the rather scary Joaldunak as they stomped down the road, enormous bells a’clanging (Morris dancers they ain’t), I would have said they were nuts. Had they added that in another village I would be taking part in a wheelbarrow race, sprint and tug-of-war at the local school’s deportes rurales, I would have asked what they were on and please could I have some. However, this was all part of the fun Georgina offered her guests during a magical week in the Baztan valley last June. Taking part was optional. Indeed there was no compulsion to do anything other than relax and enjoy yourself in the beautiful mountain scenery and imposing accommodation with its more than ample supply of food and drink. But meeting local people and walking and talking with your teacher, fellow guests and Georgina herself is a great way to improve your Spanish and you hardly realize it’s happening. Even the (not too long) lessons were good fun. My fellow guests were a joy to be with and some of us have remained in touch. A great holiday with a difference; highly recommended.

  74. frank kirwan says :Reply

    Georgina’s USP (‘unique selling proposition’ for non-geeks) is twofold – her encyclopedic knowledge of unmarked tracks and paths in her region; and the chemistry she engenders amongst her guests which triggers good conversation, a delightful ambience – and surpisingly edible collective cuisine. Most USPs are misnomers, being far from ‘unique’. Georgina’s is the exception.

    Frank Kirwan
    Edinburgh

  75. I look back on the week I spent in the Baztan valley last September with great fondness.

    The sun shone – well most days! – the scenery was spectacular, the accommodation clean and comfortable and the walks were taken at an easy pace as everyone wanted to take it all in.

    We met Georgina’s Basque friends and learned some of the Basque culture. The people in the group who wanted to practise their Spanish – and Basque – did so as we walked along or around the table at the end of the day. The food was delicious, the wine plentiful – and the local liqueur Patxaran – well that’s an experience in itself!

    One day we walked part of the ‘Camino de Santiago’ – it was raining heavily and we took shelter in an old wood store along the way.Sitting on old sacks and logs, we shared a picnic of local cheese, bread, nuts and fruit. Certainly not 5 star luxury – but the companionship of my fellow guests and the ever smiling Georgina made it a memorable experience. That evening we returned home, soaked to the skin and having dried off, made our way downstairs to another hearty meal. After this, sitting by a roaring fire, drinking warming Patxaran, we listened to the soothing music of Edorta, a local musician. Perfect.

    I would particularly recommend this holiday to single people as there is no surcharge for your accommodation and it is a great way to meet people.

    If your idea of a holiday in Spain is a sunbed by the pool and English breakfasts – think again! For a unique experience – in the Pyrenees – I would thoroughly recommend this company.

    Ruth Evans
    North Yorkshire

  76. Cath Nettleton says :Reply

    One of the best weeks of my life! The weather and surroundings were fantastic ,the walks enjoyable in beautiful countryside,the Griffin vultures awesome,plenty of good food and wine and Georgina such a font of knowledge and good fun. It was a real week of therapy for me .

  77. Sonja Read says :Reply

    My week in the beautiful Baztan valley last year proved to be an unforgettable experience: the accommodation, the food, the walks, the teaching, the atmosphere, the way everyone in the group quickly gelled together although we had never met before, all added up to a fabulous holiday. And thanks to our wonderfully warm and generous host, Georgina, we were introduced to local people, customs and culture which was an added bonus. I can’t wait to return one day to see and experience more of this wonderful part of the world.

    Sonja
    Hertfordshire

  78. PETER HALL says :Reply

    Do you ever have trouble in getting to sleep? Have you tried counting sheep?
    Try my infallible method which has served me very well over the last few years.
    Imagine you are sitting in say row 21a on a scheduled flight from UK to Biarittz. You can hear the steady hiss of the engines and the air flow in the cabin. There is the sound of quiet conversation, dulled by your expectations. Then you see them through the window as they rise from the plain of France. Some are snow covered, hence the skis you remember being loaded. Others are green, hence the walking gear many of your fellow passengers are wearing. The Pyrenees…… you are nearly there.
    The airplane is banking and the undercarriage has locked into place. No need to panic, Georgina will be there to meet you and whisk you to the Bastan valley. Just relax.
    And this is where my method always takes over. I have never landed yet. I always fall fast asleep at this point.
    Knowing how unbelievable the Basque experience is, is enough to put me into that fully relax mode. The real trips I have made have proved to be truly relaxing in the most awe inspiring countryside you could ever hope to experience. Whatever time of year it exceeds my dreams. Early in the year cold, snow and pagan carnivals; later flora de primavera and walks in lush green meadows; even later warm autumn evenings picking figs whilst you walk and almost knee deep in sweet chestnuts. Wide spread chestnut trees or castanas, to make castanets of course, surprising what you learn!
    Whether learning the language or just walking, the culture of the area widens your experience. Indeed Georgina’s Pyrenean Experience is so aptly named.
    The Lonely Planet Guide put the Basque Country at No. 2. I put it at No.1! Don’t just take my word for it dive in and experience it. You won’t regret it. Then you can use the above method to get to sleep. Two worthwhile things to do in one!

  79. Paul Sander says :Reply

    My Spanish was going nowhere really. I was attending my weekly class diligently, doing the homework, taking and passing the exams, moving on to the next level but somehow I felt I wasn’t learning Spanish. I decided that I needed time in a Spanish speaking environment but with family and work responsibilities I was limited in what I could do but a opportunity came through an Open University publication: The Pyrenean Experience. Somewhat impulsively I booked myself onto a course and then wondered what I had committed myself to. Somewhat nervously, I headed out to the Baztan Valley for a week that was to change my learning of Spanish, my progress in Spanish and my understanding of Spanish history and culture for ever.

    The courses are wonderful. They are supportive but challenging. Perhaps the best thing for me was the fact that most of the learning was based in the natural environment. Whilst there are classes to go over issues from the day, the language learning happens as you stroll through some of the best countryside and mountain areas I have ever had the good fortune to walk in, meeting warm and friendly people along the way.

    Aside from the language element, my memories from the times I have been with the Pyrenean Experience include the friendly and relaxed opportunity to meet like minded people and the wonderful opportunity to watch vultures gliding on the thermals, looking after their chicks and, well just being vultures. That was a wow! moment.

    I couldn’t recomend this magical part of Spain too highly. Give it a try!

    Paul Sander
    Llanharan, South Wales

    1. Lorna Tyson says :Reply

      There is only one word for Georgina’s Pyreneen Experience – estupendo – it was even better the second time! Thanks to all concerned. Lorna Tyson.

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