For starters: Shout out to Kristen for coming up with the title of this post. I wish I was that creative! [Translation: Logroño in the Fall]
I have been so bad with keeping up with this blog! Sorry! The temperatures have drastically dropped this past week in Madrid. Today when I told one of the teachers I work with that I was freezing, she said, “winter is coming.” Dun, dun, dun…so maybe that means the hibernation period will begin and I can start writing more! (Probably not. There’s no way I can hibernate while I’m here!)
Anyways, a few weeks ago, my friend Kristen and I took a trip to La Rioja, Spain, a small region in the north. Before I came to Spain, this was one of the places I really wanted to see because it is essentially the Napa Valley of Spain AKA wine country! It is best known for producing the famous wine, Rioja. We stayed in the city of Logroño, the capital of La Rioja, which was named the gastronomic capital of Spain a couple years ago. Needless to say, we had a great weekend ahead of us!
After work on Friday, we hopped on a bus for 4 hours headed for Logroño! When we arrived, we walked not to our hotel, not to our hostel, but to our DORM ROOM. Yes, the university in Logroño actually rents out dorm rooms as a lodging option. Since Logroño seems to be lacking in available hostels, we pounced at the chance to stay in a Spanish dorm room! It was everything we could have ever wanted and more. It was spacious, had comfortable beds, came with it’s own bathroom, kitchen, and there was even a gym in the building! (Not like we used the gym during our weekend of indulging in yummy tapas and vino).
That night we hit up Logroño’s main street for pinchos, Calle del Laurel. Pinchos are what tapas are called in northern Spain. Calle Laurel consists of bar after bar serving amazing tapas and cheap wine. This street is PACKED with locals during all meal hours. The food was just incredible! And the wine….well, it just kept flowing.
The next day was ROUGH waking up for our wine tour after only 4 hours of sleep, but it was so worth it! We took a government funded tour bus called the “Vinobus.” We drove through the beautiful Spanish countryside to Haro, the wine capital of La Rioja, where we toured a bodega (winery). Afterwards, we toured 2 museums and got to explore a little bit of Haro’s center. I loved seeing the winery (even though the entire tour was in Spanish so I can’t say I learned that much from it), but the museums were soo boring. But the Vinobus was definitely worth doing because it allowed us to see Haro, a city that we probably would not have seen otherwise.
After the Vinobus, a long siesta was definitely needed. After our siesta, we returned to Calle Laurel for more tapas! The most delicious tapa I had can be found at a little bar called Blanco y Negro. This tapa consisted of jamón (ham that was cooked perfectly to taste just like bacon), queso de cabra (goat cheese), and frambuesa (a raspberry sauce) on top of toasted pan (bread). HEAVEN. It was just the right amount of sweet vs. salty and it left me wanting a second round! The most interesting tapa I had was at a little bar called Plan B (yes, the name was half of its appeal haha). The tapa was Foie Gras on top of bread. I thought eating it before finding out what it was was the better choice. I was right. I ate goose liver. And it was surprisingly delicious! Very tender and a little salty. Also, the server at this bar was hilarious. He asked where we were from and when I said “Philadelphia” he responded with, “Como el Príncipe de Bel Air!” (Like the Prince of Bel Air) hahaha the amount of American culture that the world knows about truly surprises me on a regular basis.
After tapas-hopping, we returned to a club we went to the night before where we made some more Spanish friends. That’s one of the things I enjoyed most about Logroño. It was so easy to meet Spaniards! And that was almost entirely due to the fact that we seemed to be the ONLY foreigners in all of Logroño. There were times when we felt almost like a nuisance at the bars full of regulars because we were apparently too slow to order and we were obviously newbies. But for the most part, we almost felt like celebrities because people knew we were foreign and therefore were curious about us and wanted to talk to us. Consequently, making new friends was no problemo!
After another 4-hours-of-sleep night (who needs sleep when you’re traveling?!), we spent the last day of our trip exploring the rest of Logroño. Logroño is a stopping point on the famous Camino de Santiago, so we were complete frauds and walked on the path that the real pilgrims walk on!
Before we knew it, our weekend was over and we were back on the bus to Madrid. I was very sad to leave La Rioja because it is a beautiful, peaceful, and authentically Spanish region. Although it’s not a tourism hotspot, it is definitely worth a visit. If you like amazing food, delicious wine, and gorgeous scenery, then this is the place for you! I would love to return someday, hopefully for the wine throwing festival called La Batalla de Vino (wine battle) that happens in Haro every summer! (Yes, it’s a festival dedicated to just throwing wine at people!)