Allison Larkin is a Tour Director for International Seminar Design (ISDI) in Washington, D.C. She joined the ISDI team in 2007 after spending three years in Japan as a high school English teacher. She is fluent in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Japanese and has lived in Spain, France, and Japan. Her love of foreign cultures and travel has taken her all over Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Click here to read more about Allison.
Since I was young, my stereotypical images of Spain were of sandy beaches scorching under the Andalusian sun, dark-haired flamenco dancers enveloped in enviable multicolored layered skirts, and lazy afternoons of long meals and even longer siestas. But when I ventured to the Basque Country of northern Spain with Smithsonian Journeys, I was lucky enough to discover a different Spain, intrinsically distinct from the one a typical traveler might encounter.
The Basque Country is unlike any region I’ve visited, and this particular adventure would take us through the contemporary arts of Bilbao’s Guggenheim, the vine-clad valleys and hills of La Rioja, and into the seaside town of San Sebastian. But the highlight was traveling through the green, sinuous valleys and pine forest where Basque sculptor and artist, Agustín Ibarrola, has his home, studio, and enigmatic Bosque Pintado (Painted Forest).