Logroño, Rioja Spain : September 2107
We left the apartment in Madrid after an epic pack! Somehow this ‘ light’ pack gets heavier each stop. Chris had arrange to collect the rental car in Madrid, anywhere except the airport which meant we were now shlepping our bags onto the metro , 2 stops and then a train to …..not sure where we were going but it was a long way out of Madrid. BUT I’m not a princess I can lift bags and carry them upstairs etc. Luckily( for Chris) we took an Uber from the station as it was a good distance away from the station. So all in all in the middle of surburbia no where near any place any tourists would go to pick up rental cars.
Enough about that moving on..
We set off to Logroña with Tom Tom (I’ve named her Annabelle) leading the way. It’s quite a long drive to Logroña so we took the highways. At one stage Chris needed a break to stretch his legs and I chose a rest stop. New experience! It was an old man and his father on an old style spanish hacienda serving delicious coffee and baguette. Cheap and perfectly good except Chris complained they don’t use butter on the roles so they are dry, dry dry! Ok darling you choose the next place.
We continued along the highways admiring the scenery. It’s like the Karoo( a semi desert natural region in South Africa) very beautiful and really different to Italy.
We decided to stop again , this time Chris chose the spot. He was excited as it was an Autogrill.. back ground to this is that we stopped at many Autogrills in Italy and Austria and they are super sized one stop rest stops, with great food and lots of chocolates and biscuits for Chris to buy, hence excitement when we stop at one! But alas this one was not disappointing.. the prices were ridiculous, water €2.20 and lemon San Pelegríno at €2.70, even the lovely fresh donut we chose was a crazy €2.25( .80c we paid subsequently in a decent shop) well Chris is cured of autogrill in Spain as his booodget is still recovering.!
We checked into our airbnb with no hiccups. It was not in the best area of town, but it was within walking distance of the centre and well located so we were happy.
Logroña is the capital of La Rioja in Northern Spain. It’s famous for a few things, wine of course as it’s the centre of the wine trade, the Camino goes through it as well, so you have many pilgrims staying there overnight, and also it’s was the main seat of the Basque witch trials ( part of the Spanish Inquisition) watch out!
It’s has the requisite beautiful churches and plazas( village squares) and of course a market.
Also a really interesting array of architecture. I love the old mixed with new and so stylish.
Our first afternoon we did a lovely paseo and ended up having a drink at one of the bars. FYI, my Spanish is getting better and I’m feeling more relaxed. Logroña has 2 main areas for eating, the famous Calle(this is spanish for street) Laurel, which is mega popular with the tourists ; and then Calle San Juan which has more locals as its customers.
Both Monday night and Tuesday night we did a combination of both places. You walk from one bar to the next ordering the speciality tapas or pintxos of the house and a drink. You soon learn to order a pequeño (small) beer, and a wine as otherwise you would be quite drunk after the 4 tapas bar ( they call it the elephant walk, when the tourists drink too much)
I’m going to try and describe to you how delicious and amazing these bars and tapas are, but it’s quite difficult to imagine just what a fantastic experience it was. We walked into each bar and most of them have a picture of the house speciality to order, but otherwise you look at the counter or better yet all around you to see what other people are eating! The feeling is one relaxed and social with most people standing at the counter, or at the window opening or resting your food on wine barrel tables. The places are littered with serviettes thrown on the ground and at first glance you think it’s a mess , why don’t they clean but we soon learned you throw your napkin on the floor to show you liked it. So the messier and more napkins on the floor the more popular the bar! Also interesting is that you don’t pay on the spot, you order eat relax and when you ready to move on you ask for the bill( la cuenta).
We enjoyed the Calle San Juan more because it’s less touristy but not to say we do not spend a lot of time eating on Calle Laurel. We recommend do both!
Here are some of the types of tapas or pintxos we tried.
Of course if you like quantity you can order ‘raciones” at all of them which is a bigger portion. We had some calamares fritos and it was served with a delicious tarter type sauce and sensational.
Bar Charly in Calle Laurel served a house speciality for the adventurous (like me) , Morritos , which is a pig nose deep fried. It was really good and I’m not just saying that. Also one of the bars Bar Lorenzo serves 99% one dish, unbelievable that they make a living and they are busy serving a pork skewer. You have it pintxos style just the skewer or bocatito, which is on a roll with a delicious green secret sauce. OMG! The best ever taste.
Ok enough about food. When it comes to wine we did not even touch the surface as we did not really get a chance to wine taste. The wine tasting relies on tours and bits you need to book and you know Chris and I are not good at planning ahead. We are in the moment people!
But each bar serves an amazing array of the wines and you can choose between a crianza or a reservation, or a gran reserva. This is not the post to go into detail but needless to say I tasted a lot of them as each time you order a tapas, you have to order a glass of something, don’t you? lucky the glasses are fairly small…..
Apart from eating , we did visit the church, the market and a fascinating tour of the ancient wine cellars, this one called the Calados. These are the caves or cellars under some of the houses where they made wine. On the street where the Camino runs though they have a house where the cellars are well preserved. For €6 we got a wine tasting and tour and a plate of meats. The lovely tour guide explained to us how the wine was made in these cellars in the 16th century. The grapes were first fermented and then pressed, so a different process. And wine as kept in the barrels below the houses where the temp was constant cool. As a customer,you would take your skin(no bottles in the 16th century) and you would go to the house and the winemaker would fill up your skin and take your money. We also heard a lovely story of how these caves connected many of the houses , and also they went right down the the river Ebro that surrounds the town. When the French army was trying to take the town they camped outside and tried to starve the village into submission. But as they could go underground to the river, they could fetch water and fish and this together with the wine they had kept them from surrendering. Eventually the French went away. They celebrate this every year with a festival of San Bernabé.
And so we move on again, pack the bags which are now heavier , not sure why? And of course Chris has to misplace his mobile phone so that I have to search the entire apartment ringing it 6 times and not finding it. Oh we discover it’s in his bag all along.
Surely he could hear it ringing on his back! D😍😍s!
And now off to San Sebastián , or Donastia as it’s known in Basque. See you soon….