Everyone told us we should go to Laurel Street in Logroño, where you eat "pinchos" (a special type of tapas). So we went there and it was without a doubt the best decision we could have made.
At first, we went in shyly to places that were packed with people. Getting to the counter was something quite complicated and we were not exactly sure about how and what to order; but the very kind waiters were very helpful. Once we knew the tricks of ordering we were the "kings" of the place: one "pincho" here, another there, one beer for you, an aging wine and then to the next place... We went again the next night, and the next day...
The prices are very reasonable: it depends on the place but the average price for a "pincho" is 2€. As for drinks, apart from the usual, you can order "cortos" (small glasses) that can contain been cider or wine, which cost around 50 cents (depending on the wine you order of course).
It is quite difficult to tell you about one place in particular, since you go and try them all and do not remember the names. What I can do is recommend one particular "pincho". For example the "zamburiñas" filled with sea food was to dye for (1,80€), or the ham "zapatillas", something simpler but the ham is very good. Another popular thing is the mushrooms, served with different sauces and condiments or the "Bocatitas del tío Agus" (meat sandwiches), which I also highly recommend, as well as the fried eggs of the Bodeguilla de los Rotos. I want to go back!
The most famous is Laurel Street, but just next to it there is also San Juan Street, which is still a nice place to have some snacks and a good time. They told us that it is sometimes called "The Elephants' Path". This is because in Spanish "to be trunk" means being drunk. Anyway, the important thing is to have a good time and enjoy local gastronomy.
I highly recommend it. It is also a good place to enjoy different specialties of the Rioja's ultimate product: its wine.
La Rioja, cradle of excellent wines and of the Castilian language (commonly known as Spanish). They say that the first written piece of Spanish can be found in a codex of the year 1040, part of the Emilianense Glosses found in this Monastery, and where in one of the paragraphs there are notes of the commentator employing the new language used by the people, the ancient Castilian.
However, we had to wait three centuries before a monk of San Millán, named Gonzalo de Berceo, applied it to his literature.
The construction of the Yuso Monastery also known as El Escorial de La Rioja, started in 1053, even though there is nothing left of this Romanesque building. The new monastery you can see nowadays is of Herrerian style and dates back to the 16th century.
The building consists of a church of the late Gothic, that was re-built afterwards, the cloister, and the monastic rooms.
The church has three naves with a star vault and it was built between 1504 and 1540.
The old chapter house became a sacristy at the end of the 17th century and it is one of the most spectacular in Spain. The frescos on the roof date back to the 18th century. The copper collection started with the abbot Fray José Fernández between 1693 and 1697 with 12 pieces. There are now 24 of them.
The lower part of the cloister was started by Juan Pérez de Solarte in 1549. It is of a Renaissance style, with Gothic vaults and point arches. The higher part is of a classic style with Tuscan columns.
But what definitely strikes the most is the Codex and Choir Books Room, in which one can observe some 30 gigantic books weighing between 30 and 40 kilos. They were hand-made during four years, and used the skin of about two thousand cows to make the scrolls. These books have all the chants the community uses for prayer during the year.
Next to the choir books there is a fabulous collection of facsimiles and, among them, one can find the codex 46, dated to the year 964, which is an encyclopedic dictionary of twenty thousand articles, as well as the codex 60 of the Emilianense Glosses with the first sentences in Spanish.
It must be the greatest and most famous religious building in Logroño. We are in front of the Co-cathedral of Santa María de La Redonda, standing out with its two towers. The porch is really admirable.
It is also very nice to have a walk in the interior, where there are different paintings, such as the Crucifixion, attributed to Michelangelo Buonarotti. There are also very lively sculptures. The day I visited the co-cathedral there was almost no one so we could appreciate the entire church.
I was not surprised at all when I saw the wire netting in the porch so that pigeons would not make the entrance dirty. I had the opportunity to see how they prepared the Holy Week in the city, with many volunteers and curious tourists. During the last week of March, I had the opportunity to enjoy this monument and this quiet village bathed by the Ebro river.
The greatest attraction is the architectural style, being a baroque church, since it was started around the 16th century. A few meters away, there is Laurel Street, one of the best places for pinchos in La Rioja and in Spain. I highly recommend it. If you are looking for another type of tourism and something different, I also recommend visiting the Palomares de Nalda.
Ezcaray, a lovely village on the Oja River, is located at the threshold of the Upper Rioja. The village, very lively and charming, is the perfect place to start a route into the upper valley of the river and into the vineyards, even though I must say that what seduced me the most is the Echaurren Restaurant, the best restaurant in La Rioja and one of the most famous in Spain.
Founded in the 10th century by the kings of Navarra, Ezcaray served as a Basque redoubt until the 14th century. Afterwards, it remained isolated for some centuries until tourism made it famous again at the end of the 20th century, mainly because of Valdezcaray, the only ski resort in La Rioja and very close to Ezcaray.
Beyond skiing, Ezcaray offers many other nice options: hiking in the Oja Valley, a visit to the monasteries of Suso and Yuso, the vineyards and the charming villages of the Rioja Alta, the villages of Nájera and Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Finally, do not forget about the gastronomy and the amazing products sold in the village (do not miss out on the handmade blankets and El Colmado).
Looking to my right, I saw a child ve was picking beautiful flowers from the grass and from the other side, I could see a beautiful image of a horse walking on the flowers, so I didn't wait another minute to take this picture, which I think is very beautiful.
This is a fortified village surrounded by vineyards just next to a hill in upper Rioja, It is worth walking through the medieval streets, visiting the two churches (the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and the Chapel of Santo Cristo de los Remedios), as well as its civil architecture (House of Gadea, House of the Díaz-Lizana, and the house-palace of the Marquis of San Nicolás, which today is the city-hall).
I recommend getting to the viewpoint in the northern area of the village, where you will be able to see the sea of vineyards surrounding a lovely part of the Ebro River. In the surroundings, you will find the Wine Museum in the Dinastías Vivanco winery.
There are many reasons for which we decided to include this city in our journey through La Rioja: the gastronomy, the heritage, the landscape and, above all, the appreciated and famous wine cellars.
Our visit didn't run smoothly because most of the old part of town was in restoration. But we decided to make the best of it and enjoyed as much as we could, especially the wine and tapas.
The best is to forget about the car and to start walking into the remote streets, enjoy the palace-houses and the lovely Paz Square, center of the village, as well as the Herradura area with bars and restaurants for all tastes and budgets ;)
Wine cellars like Cune, Darían and a large etcetera can all be visited. We will go again for sure in order to enjoy a new restored Haro. But the landscape around is impressive... With the Ebro River running in the background and the vineyards.
It is one of the cathedrals with most history in Spain. The original one, romanesque, was built in the year 1098. As you can imagine, the one we can see today has suffered many alterations. The church is very famous not only for its beauty, but also because it is a key point on the pilgrimage of the Road to Santiago. You can actually see many pilgrims if you stay there for a little while.
On the other hand, it is also known for being the place where the popular "hen miracle" happened (how the hen sang after they had grilled it, in summary). During my visit, it was a great surprise to bump into a great exhibition that perfectly combined the interior and the exterior.
The visit of San Millán de la Cogolla was something I had wanted to do for a long time. It might be because I have it internalized since I was a kid, when we learned at school that this place is the cradle of two vital languages in Spain: Castilian language (commonly known as Spanish) and Euskera (of the Basque Country).
Or maybe because it has a legacy protected by UNESCO, who declared the monasteries (Yuso and Suso) as World Heritage.
Or maybe, because, despite its fame, San Millán is still humble, small, silent and beautiful. It is crammed in a valley where they say the hermit Emiliano decided to stay, impeding his transfer to the Monastery of Nájera.
Legends, silence, peace, cradle of languages. All of this is to be found in a "small" corner of the wonderful Rioja.
Puente de Hierro crosses the Ebro River in Logroño, from Sagasta Street, in direction of the North and it ends just in front of the Bodegas Franco-Españolas. Its name simply comes from the fact that it is made out of iron, but its the type that is characteristic of those post-Industrial Revolution buildings, such as the great train stations, markets, the Eiffel Tower...
From there you can see the Stone Bridge (Puente de Piedra) and in between them there is the Science House (Casa de la Ciencias), the old slaughterhouse of Logroño transformed into an exhibition and scientific culture building.
Two people had told me about the blanket factory of Ezcaray and they both recommended it as a something worth seeing. Moreover we were lucky it was just four minutes away walking from our hotel, Palacio de Azcarate. I always like to know the history of a place that has so much tradition like this one: "The Valgañón brothers are the heir of this business that has passed from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, all of them learning when they were kids and they still weave. The factory is a museum, where you can learn about how they still work with the wool."
A perfect place for two things: learn about part of our history and something much better, buy a blanket of impressive quality and very good price. Apart from the blankets you can also buy some accessories like scarves. If you go to Ezcaray, I recommend it.
In these wineries, apart from making a visit, you can take courses on wine tasting at various levels. I took the introductory one: you enter a room conditioned for this purpose along with other people, all of them sit down at the table where there are various glasses full of wine. One of them has white wine and the rest are red wines of the year, "crianza", "reserva" and "gran reserva", according to the different stages of the age of the wine. Next to the wine there is a spittoon because although you taste them all, you only drink the good ones.
Every table has a fluorescent tool used to analyze the colors of each wine. In the beginning, the teacher of the course made us smell an essence to see whether we could guess which aroma it was, and afterwards we started the analysis and the characteristics of each one of the wines.
You learn some interesting things about wine harvest, the varieties in La Rioja, the elaboration and the ageing of wine, especially some little tips to taste wine, like the phases of tasting, the reasons why wine should not fill more than one third of the glass and many other curious information.
In the end you get an information folder and a diploma. It is a lot of fun and very enriching. I recommend it to everyone who goes to La Rioja.
As for the museum, it is a journey through the culture of wine. You have to book it beforehand because it's very popular, especially during the weekend. You can do it via the internet or calling +34941322323.
The museum has five permanent exhibition rooms and another one for temporary ones. In total it has a surface of 9.000 square meters. There is a free parking lot and a children's playground. Apart from the beautiful structure, the Rioja landscape surrounding it is striking, with large vineyards.
The visit is about two hours long and ends with a nice surprise: the tasting of a "crianza" of the winery. You can choose to have a guide but you can also do it by yourself, since there is enough information on the boards. If you ask for it, you can get the tour in different languages. You can also eat in their restaurant. Like most of the museums, it remains closed on Mondays. It is worth it.
As we were near the river and we saw the tower jutting over the horizon, we decided to go and look for it. It wasn't hard, we simply followed its tower and within minutes we were stood in the Plaza de San Bartolomé. We were surprised as its walls are joined with other buildings on one side and some of the area is currently under construction, making the view not as good as we thought. However, we could see the Moorish tower, which was formerly used for defense purposes and its main entrance doorway which portrays, among other passages in the Bible, the martyrdom of St. Bartholomew.
I was in the Yuso Monastery, which is the bigger monastery of the two: the Yuso one (below) and the Suso one (above). You can visit the monastery with a guided tour, it is worth it. You can buy the entrance right there. There are visits every 40 minutes.
You can also visit the Suso Monastery, which is smaller. From there, there is a path that leads you to the Yuso Monastery. It is a 40 minute walk, which is very nice. Not to be missed.
This is without a doubt one of the most fantastic places I have ever visited. Viña Tondonia is a hundred-year-old wine cellar located in Haro. It has something magical inside, especially if you discover it in company of the future heir, who tells you about the history of her family and her passion for wine.
You can walk through the huge wine cellars, visit such an incredible place like the wine cemetery or taste one of the wines with an aperitif, but there is also a lot more you can do there. During the weekend it is open to the public, and I swear you should not miss out on it.
Inside, what fascinated me the most was the wine cemetery. It is a place where they preserve the best and oldest bottles.
A special place that has something mysterious, with the spiderwebs and the darkness. It is like a time tunnel.
The place is now closed, except on special occasions, since it is being restored. It is maintained dark and closed so that the spiderwebs regenerate and eat the woodworms, the great enemy of good wine.
I had never seen so many storks together in one place, and I’m not exaggerating. In fact, this city is known as one of the main colonies for these peculiar birds.
It was, for sure, one of the strongest memories I recall when thinking of Alfaro, but not the only one. I did not spend much time in this charming village since I was just passing by, but I had a good impression, especially of the bell tower of the Colegiata where you can enjoy some incredible views surrounded by the famous storks.
Right after entering, one understands it is a wonderful place. The elegant royal stairs, the impressive model in the entrance and the door to the Caballeros cloister are just an anticipation to the magnificence of this royal place.
Pantheon of the kings of the old kingdom of Nájera-Pamplona, built at the beginning of the Middle Ages from the cave where king Don García found the image of the virgin. A cave that you can also visit by the way and it is one of the most secluded places of the monastery.
Different styles: from the Roman or the Gothic to the beautiful Plateresque offer their splendor, without forgetting the exceptional cloister, full of filigrees, made by wise hands reminding me of golden spiderwebs. The shape of the capitals allude to the wine area around.
In many place you can see the monastery was looted and was almost left abandoned since there are statues without a head, others half destroyed, traces of battles. During those days of visit of different places in La Rioja I always heard the same: the French invaders and the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizabal did great damage to the heritage. Luckily, it has been rather preserved.
I could enjoy a visit almost on my own, intimate and it is something I was grateful for in the summer. The monastery gives some fresh air in the summer heat and at the same time it gives you some spirituality, which is not bad sometimes ;)