The Basque country is a region situated between the South West of French and the north west of Spain. It is split into 7 provinces: 4 in Spain (Alava, Biscaye, Guipuzcoa and Navarra) and 3 in France (Labourd, Soule and Basse-Navarre).
The French Basque Country, known as the "Northern Basque Country", is situated in the extreme South West of the Aquitaine region, and covers more or less the same area as the Pyrénées Atlantiques Department (64). The Atlantic coast forms the west side of the region, and Spain borders it in the south. Most of the region is situated in the Pyrenees mountain range, which extends across the border with the Spanish Basque Country.
Overall, the Basque Country is a touristic region due to its rich heritage, history and culture. The natural landscape is characterized by both mountains and coastal areas. The Basque coast is an important tourist area and includes towns like Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye. Both French holidaymakers and tourists love the area and its famous beaches and Atlantic ocean waves.
The region is steeped in tradition, with respect to both culture and gastronomy. Agriculture, farming and fishing are all prevalent in the region, offering an extremely varied cuisine, based on simple products, with a mix of French and Spanish influences. Local charcuterie is a gastronomic must, especially Bayonne ham, and cheese is also important. The region specializes in charcuterie and includes such produces as blood sausage, Basque sausage, chorizo and ventrèche.
In Basque cuisine, Spanish influences come through with the use of olive oil, tomatoes, peppers or chilies, giving a typical color to recipes using the description "à la Basquaise" such as chicken or tuna, but also to the distinctively local "piperade", made with scrambled eggs. The use of spices and chilies is indeed a strong characteristic of Basque gastronomy, and Espelette pepper is a veritable regional culinary symbol. Basque houses are also frequently decorated with these chilies. The Basques also enjoy stuffing small, pointed Piquillo peppers (grown in the Spanish Basque country) with salt cod. The ocean provides the Basque Country with a continual supply of fish (horse mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna) and seafood (spider crab, shrimp, baby calamari, langoustines, etc.). Pork and lamb are often used in local cuisine.
Black Itxassou cherries are also something the Basques are proud of, particularly black cherry jam, traditionally eaten with ewes' milk cheese.