miércoles, 18 de abril de 2012

Laguardia, a beautiful medieval village in La Rioja Alavesa

It is worth a visit inside Laguardia´s walls to discover its pedestrian streets.  It is a small village  but it is full of interesting buildings and all of them very well kept. Santa María de los Reyes (probably a Templar Monastery), the Plaza Mayor with both the old and the new town halls, the palace where Felix María Samaniego was born, el Convento de los Capuchinos, San Juan,  the Chapel of Santa María de Berberana...
Plaza Mayor
Pedestrian street in Laguardia
Walk surrounding the village walls

While you admire all of these buildings, you are walking over  hundreds of metres of tunnels bellow the surface where villagers use to keep their wine. Some of them are still in use, you can visit the Fabulista or the one in the Hospedería los Parajes Hotel.
I stayed at Hospedería Los Parajes and I just loved it. It is beautifully decorated, very comfortable and service is great. It is just in the middle of the village centre, in the Plaza Mayor, with balconies overlooking the Plaza. Some of the rooms are including a Jacuzzi and it also has a wonderful spa and a very nice restaurant in the underground winery. Breakfas is just perfect.

Hospederia Los Parajes

This is a region of vineyards, so from Laguardia you can visit some of the hundred of wineries in this area. Two of the most famous ones are:
1)      Ysios, the winery designed by Santiago de Calatrava. The idea of the design is to look like a line of barrels. If you do not want to go inside, you can see the building from the walls of Laguardia.
Ysios winery
2)      The Marques del Riscal winery, in El Ciego is one of the oldest wineries in the area it has been renovated including a luxury hotel. The wonderful design was made by the architect Frank Gehry. The colours of the roof represent the 3 colours of the botle of wine, the pink/red of the liquid, and the gold and silver of the label. Really worth a visit to see the design of the building in the middle of the nature. The winery inside is ok but from my point of view the ones in Haro at Barrio de La Estación are more interesting.

Marques del Riscal Hotel

Just two more wonders of Spain, really worth a visit. Laguardia, a lovely medieval village and the outside view of the Marques del Riscal winery and hotel, in el Ciego.


jueves, 12 de abril de 2012

La Rioja, a region of Wineries and Monasteries

A visit to La Rioja Alta, the west side of the region, will transport you to two different worlds both of them shaping the landscape in perfect harmony:
1)      The religious part, marked by the Camino de Santiago and the several monasteries and beautiful churches that you will find at every village. Worth a visit, Santo Domingo de La Calzada and San Millán de La Cogolla. There, you will be able to sleep in a Monastery and really feel the silence and quietness of the place. Try La Hospedería  Monasterio de Yuste in San Millán.
Monasterio de Yuste
Santo Domingo de La Calzada

2)      The wineries, wherever you look it is full of vineyards and there are hundreds of wineries of all kind of sizes. It is worth to visit different ones, as each of them has its unique way of understanding the wine.

Muga winery

From my last visit to La Rioja Alta I would like to highlight the following wonders, 2 places that you should not miss when visiting the region:

-          Monasterio de Suso at San Millán de la Cogolla. I like it because of the  peaceful feeling you have when inside their walls. It was here where San Millan retired and spent most of their years and it was here also where back in 977 AC a monk translated the first sentences from Latin (wrote by religious people) to ancient Spanish (spoken then by the village people). Part of the Monastery is carved on the rock and it is very austere. The place is beautifully surrounded by trees and it has a beautiful view of San Millán de la Cogolla. If you want to go it is worth to book in advance as only 300 people can enter per day.   Info in the following page: http://www.monasteriodeyuso.org/suso/tarifas.html

Monasterio de Suso

 -      The wineries at “El Barrio de la Estación”at Haro. Haro is a beautiful city with wonderful places for eating (I loved the Atamauro, great cooking, good price and beautiful place). The village had a glorious past when France was lack of wine due to a parasite affecting their vineyards, and the wineries of Haro started shipping the wine the French were demanding.

Plaza de Haro

      I visited the Lopez de Heredia winery  (Viña Todonia) and really loved it. I have visited lots of wineries but I have to say that this one really surprised me. It has more than 135 years of history and they are still doing wine in a similar way as when they started. It is family owned and patient is an important element for elaborating their wine. Everything here is natural, from the way they collect the grapes, to how they filter they and how they reach ideal temperature for fermentation. Worth to see the hundreds of meters of tunnels where all the barrels are kept and the place where the most antique bottles are stored. Also to note, that it is probably one of the few wineries of the world where they make their own barrels.

Lopez de Heredia winery (Viña Tondonia)

Visiting La Rioja it is an easy and nice experience, it is a small region so everything is quite close, food is great and there are lots of lovely places for accommodation. The only thing you have to take into account is that you should have your own car because it is not easy to move around by public transport.

miércoles, 28 de marzo de 2012

Best ski resorts

Have you ever thought about Spain as a ski destination? Take advantage of the last days of the season to enjoy the snow in one of the multiple Spanish resorts.

In Spain, you will find ski resorts in several mountain ranges, in total there are more than 800km of runs. The biggest ones are in The Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada, but you can also find several small family ski resorts in Cordillera Cantábrica or Sistema Central.

The ski season usually starts at the beginning of December and ski resorts open on the first or second weekend of December (The 6th and 8th of December are bank holidays in Spain and it is peak season as most skiers are really waiting for this weekend to start the new ski season). Although depending on the year, snow might arrive later on, like it happened this current year. The season usually last until Easter holidays.

The biggest resorts are Baqueira Beret and Formigal, both in the Pyrenees (mountain range that divide Spain and France). Both of them have great infrastructure and modern and fast lifts.

 I wanted to point you out my 2 particular wonders, the 2 resorts that I think are really worth a visit:

 -          Cerler: This is a lovely ski resort, with 79 km of trails, situated in the Pyrenees, in the higher village of Aragón. It is just 3 km away of Benasque. Both places are typical mountain villages with a great environment. I love the wonderful views of the mountains from some of their slopes and the beautiful runs surrounded by trees. You will also have a lovely feeling of being kind of isolated, because one thing is true, it takes some time to arrive there. From Barbastro, there is a distance of 100km of a beautiful although complicated road to arrive to the resort.

-          Sierra Nevada: It seems incredible that in the very south of Spain and close to the sea, you can find a 106 km of trials ski resort. There are several things that make this resort one of my favorite ones, the proximity to Granada (amazing city full of History and with great tapas), the amount of sunny days, the great slopes, the amazing après-ski and the idea that you can even see the sea from one of the peaks. It has it all.

From my point of view, and I have to admit that I love skiing, there are very few things better than a sunny weekday on the slopes with a recent fallen snow. Hope you still have time to enjoy our last snows!

miércoles, 21 de marzo de 2012

Wellcome to Wonders of Spain

I will write here about the little treasures that we find in Spain and that make us love our country. Nice local restaurants, typical food taht you cannot miss when visiting a region. Best natural parks, best places to enjoy our city life. Scenic routes, secluded beaches, family vacation spots, funniest festivals, best places for surfing, skiing, biking, trekking... I will search our geography to offer you the Best of Spain, so you can enjoy Spain like a local!