Visit to Wine Capital: La Rioja

View of Square of Paseo del Príncipe de Vergar...After Burgos, we visited Logroño (La Rioja). I’ve always wanted to go to La Rioja…I don’t know, maybe because of the wine? 😀 Logroño is a very small city so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I was going to get there and entertain myself with vineyards and wine-drinking because there didn’t seem much to do. Luckily, in Spain there’s always something to do—and this small city was better than what I had expected.

It is a fun little place up there in the north of Spain!

We took a two-hour bus ride from Burgos and it wasn’t too bad. On our way, Chris watched movies on his laptop while I took pictures of the landscapes. What I saw: beautiful mountains, big country houses, and lots of vineyards. I mean lots. It’s almost all there was. I wouldn’t mind staying in Wine Land a little longer, but it’s not just about the wine.

Like every region in Spain, Logroño has an interesting history. It was at one point settled by the Romans. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela passes through this city. It is now the capital of the autonomous community of La Rioja. The economy of La Rioja depends mainly on wine, so no wonder the city of Logroño is literally covered with and surrounded by wine and vineyards. Wonderful, delicious, good-quality, inexpensive wine. Ahh…can we say heaven?

Panel which shows the name of the street where...

Perhaps one of the things I’ll definitely remember about this place is that Logroño’s gastronomy is bombastic. They have some of the most delicious pinchos (skewers) and tapas I’ve ever had in Spain. (And they tell me that it gets better as you go further north to Bilbao and Santander. I can’t wait!) There is a strip of bars and restaurants on a popular street called Calle del Laurel. We even favored a couple of bars on that street. So the first night that’s all we did; just visited a bunch of bars and tried the big selection of Rioja wines and raciones (half portions) of food.

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The next day we walked around and took a taxi to Bodegas Ontañon (a winery and wine museum). Sadly, I didn’t call beforehand and we got there at 1:00pm (just after a tour had ended) and the next tour wasn’t until 2:00pm and our bus to Madrid was scheduled to depart at 4:00pm. AND that just totally reminded me to tell the story of how we completed our own continual “amazing race” in Logroño.

Chris and I decided to grab some pinchos on Calle del Laurel. We went in this bar where, I guess, the owner/cook was Italian. They didn’t have the greatest selection of wine because, as the girl explained, it’s quick eating and people aren’t looking for good wine there. But the pinchos looked — and tasted — really good, it wasn’t crowded and so we stayed. I heard the guy say something in italiano with italiano accent, so I told Chris the guy was Italian. Since Chris is very proud of his Italian heritage (and I saw this coming) he thanked the guy with a “grazie” rather than “gracias” when he handed him the pincho.

Well, next thing we know the Italian guy got overly excited about finally “qualquno che parla la lingua” (finally somebody who can speak Italian) at his bar. The two men exchanged a few words—in SpanItalEnglish. ha ha! The guy sang some happy songs while he cooked…he sounded very excited. He gave us roasted pig nose on the house (yay or nay?) and entertained us so much that when I looked at the time we were suddenly late. We literally ran to our hotel to get the bags.

I called a cab on the run so that it would be at the hotel by the time we got there. Well, it wasn’t and we waited outside for five minutes. It was now 3:50pm and the taxi wasn’t there. I called back and the operator said she couldn’t locate an available taxi driver. I was freaking out. Our best bet now was to run to the station. I went inside and asked the front desk lady how many minutes away la estación was. Before I go on, I have to say that this was the first time we were not aware of our surroundings and how far or near everything was. “It’s right behind the hotel,” said the front desk lady. HAHA! Someone shoot me…

3:55pm, we are running with luggage in hand—and it’s pouring out—like we were chasing the last bus of the night (it kind of was). Right around the corner. The Logroño bus station was right around the corner from hotel Ciudad de Logroño and we went through all we went through? Unbelievable.

You see, we couldn’t miss this 3-hour, 45-minute ride to Madrid because we had to watch the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona soccer game (obviously not my idea) in Madrid at Si Señor, a Mexican bar. When these two teams face each other, the anticipation is high and people are tense—and intense— and we both sort of wanted to experience it all. I didn’t care about the game, but I thought it was unfortunate that Barcelona lost 2-1. Oh well, it ended up being a crazy and fun night.

It was a very eventful, physically tiring and fun weekend, from which we’re still recovering. If I’m going to die because of exhaustion, I’d like it to end this way then! 🙂

This very past weekend we went back to Alicante. Pictures to come…

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My Second Visit to Burgos

I’ve been busy falling asleep everywhere. But I’m back with more stories! Two weekends ago I re-visited Burgos, a beautiful small town-city with yummy food and pretty parks in Northern Spain. Burgos is situated on the River Arlanzón, to the west of Logroño (which I visited that weekend, as well) and southwest of Bilbao.

For the longest, I had no recollection of Burgos other than it being very cold (it was on a February when I visited) and there being a park with “weird” trees by the river. But when I went back last weekend, I remembered. The name of the weird trees, by the way, is still unknown to me but they are everywhere, famously and strategically placed at El Paseo del Espolón forming a tunnel, which ends at the Teatro Principal and the square of the Cid.

Paseo del Espolón

Burgos has many historic landmarks, including the University of Burgos and the Cathedral of Burgos.

The Cathedral is absolutely stunning, in and out. Well, most of Spain’s old-fashioned buildings and cathedrals are to die for. (Where did they find the money to build such hugeness?!) I don’t know, but if I went to a church like that to pray—every time pray was due—I would’ve been all distracted by its grandeur the whole time! It’s hard to keep your eyes from such incredible details.

Anyhow, I’ve been blown away by Sevilla’s cathedral because it is so big and pretty, certainly. But I think Burgos’ is more beautiful. The Cathedral’s Gothic architecture, the style of architecture prevalent in Spain in the Late Medieval period, makes it stand out. Burgos has a couple of good museums, which I didn’t get to visit unfortunately, and I hear that its modern transportation system rocks.

Sometimes walking on the historic little streets of Spain I feel like I’m traveling back in time. They have done a great job preserving their monuments, landmarks and such. Spain really is beautiful.

It had been raining in Burgos the first night Chris and I were there, but that didn’t stop us from going out. The nightlife looked good. We actually enjoyed the nightlife the first night and went to the cathedral and parks the next day.

Catedral de Burgos

For dinner, we went out for some cordero (lamb) and morcilla, typical foods of Burgos. Delicious, simply delicious. Then we walked a few blocks toward Calle de San Juan, area in which we found a bar on every corner. And all this while under the rain. I know, bummer. But I had my little black hat with me so it wasn’t so bad (since the 2, 50€ umbrellas we bought were useless).

Español: Morcilla de arroz - Morcilla de Burgos

Morcilla de arroz - Morcilla de Burgos

We stayed in Burgos for just one night and part of the following day, so time was very limited. The next day we walked around Paseo de la Isla, a big beautiful park with pretty flowers, monuments and trees. (Though I didn’t visit it this time) the Palacio de la Isla is situated in this park; it was Dictator Franco’s headquarters during the Spanish Civil War.

I enjoyed Burgos. From what I can remember, it is the second prettiest city in Castilla y León (the first one being Segovia…or it might be Salamanca). Anyway, it was a good time—two-day stay is more than enough to see Burgos. Logroño was next!