Day 4 – Laguardia, Spain 2012 – May 17, Thursday

Today I woke up at 4am and could not sleep, though I tried. Joey however woke up when I finally got him up around 7am. We were schedule to have breakfast at 8:30am and I did NOT want to keep Maria waiting! Plus I was eager to try her honey :). Last night she had told us that there was another English speaking couple who were scheduled for a 10am winery tour over in Haro (a nearby town), and that she could get us in with them as well if we were interested. Well…since most of the wineries in the are don’t do “walk-in” tastings like we are familiar with in Napa and Sonoma, we thought we’d better take her up on this offer. So after getting showered and ready for our day, we ventured on downstairs to the communal breakfast area. There were two other couples staying here.

Collette brought out some coffee and hot milk for us. I have to say, I have not had one bad coffee since we’ve been here in Spain. In fact, it’s quite excellent! We were also served orange juice with a variety of toasts, unsweetened cream butter, some hard cheese, a fruit spread of sorts?, some little red and white cherries in a sugary juice and of course Maria’s honey. It’s certainly not like the clear shiny filtered stuff you can buy in a little plastic bear jar at home! It was thick and dense and grainy, (kind of like scooping out caramel!), but it was oh so tasty! I would have been happy just to sit there and eat it with a spoon.

Maria then gave us directions to the winery called “R. Lopez de Heredia”, and also suggested we visit the “Museo de la Cultura Del Vino” another nearby hill town of Briones. Soon we were on our way and arrived easily within about 45 minutes. There were about 10 of us on this tour and it was very, very interesting! And I don’t normally like any kind of tour. But the guide was personable and quite charming and funny. We were led through a number of rooms where she explained the history of the Spanish wine making and how this place still family owned today. We went down in under ground caves where there were thousands of barrels lined up on the walls of the caves. She also explained that the walls were covered with fungus which helps keep the proper amount humidity levels…so the wine doesn’t evaporate. Their particular type of fungus is penicillin. It was very musty and moldy smelling! I certainly didn’t want to bump into the walls. At some points the stuff was literally hanging from the ceiling. She showed us some caves that had bottles in the walls and you could barely see them due to being covered in this furry fungus! Anyway, for the fee of $20, you not only got the tour, you got to taste the wines, but you also went home with a bottle of wine as well. Not too shabby! (BTW, I’m drinking it now 😉 )

After the winery tour, we stopped in the hill town of Briones as Maria had suggested. Well….they had a beautiful old gothic church but other than that, it was much too cold to walk around this town. The wind was blowing way up there on the hill and quite frankly, I was tired of being cold! So then we stopped into the museum but being people who don’t really like museums, we opted instead for the wine tasting bar. And this was no typical wine tasting bar. This was a do it yourself kind where you buy a card, put it in the machine, and pick the wine you want and it dispenses it into your glass. Kinda fun. We tasted about 8 of them (we shared the tastes), and afterwards we came back home in time for siesta, which Joey once again took part in. Luckily I managed to get a little shut eye as well this time.

After our nappy time we ventured off to the center plaza again where we sat and first had some coffee and then had a drink and just chilled, watching the people come and go. It was a little more crowded tonight, almost like a tour bus may have stopped in our little village. We eventually decided to have a late dinner at “Hospedria Los Parajes” and it turned out to be fabulous! The restaurant was elegant and the food was presented beautifully. We opted for some of the local traditional dishes tonight. We were given an amuse bouche of Cream Asparagus, which was a small shot glass of a cold soup. Very tasty! Then we had the big fat grilled white asparagus, a bowl of soup with potatoes and chorizo…again, perfect for warming me up! And for our entrée I had the “Traditional Roasted Lamb” dish and Joey had the “Suckling Pig”. Yes….he ate a baby pig! Awful, its little life was cut sooo short!

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Day 3 – Laguardia, Spain 2012 – May 16, Wednesday

Today we checked out of our hotel in San Sebastian, rented a car, and drove off in search of our hill town of Laguardia where we’ll stay in a B&B out in the Rioja wine region in the Spanish Basque area for a couple of nights. We stopped at a mini-mart to pick up some snacks for our road trip…potato chips, salami, sunflower seeds and cookies. Snack time! We had directions printed out but after about half way there, we made one small wrong turn, which got us a bit confused at one point. But luckily there were enough signs that we were able to pretty much feel our way to our destination. The only difference is we ended up taking an off the beaten path road which lead us up and over some VERY tall mountains with lots of tall trees and winding roads, which eventually led us to miles and miles of crops as well. Lots and lots of what looked like leeks! The landscape was amazing! In looking back, it was really the best route we could have chosen, if only for the amazing views.

After many stops to take some pictures, we finally were getting into what was obviously the wine region evident from the never ending vineyards surrounding us. As we neared our destination of Laguardia, we just happened upon a very large winery so we decided to stop in and just have a look around. Oh my gosh, this place was amazing! It had lots of deep caves and dark little nooks and crannies all through it! It was truly beautiful, all lit up by candles and lanterns.

We got back on the road and eventually came to Laguardia, a very old…well ancient…hill town with narrow little pedestrian streets and plazas where the kids play and people sit outside cafes having drinks. The town is only about 3 blocks long with maybe 3 rows of these narrow walkways that tuck in here or there. It is very easy to get lost at first. It was certainly hard to find our little B&B because there are not exactly names on the “streets” and most places are not very well marked. There are a few hotels but you certainly wouldn’t know it. But after we searched for over an hour, we finally spotted the sign to our little place. We were greeted by one of the workers here, Collette, because the owner, “Maria” (a women in her late 60’s), was at work tending to her “bees”. Collette didn’t speak English very well and I was having trouble trying to understand her, but she finally explained the bee situation by saying “bzzzz bzzzzz”, lol. It worked! I then remembered reading that the bees are Maria’s hobby and she really loves gathering the honey and serving it at breakfast to her guests.

Once we were settled into our room and got the wifi set up, we ventured out into the streets in search of a glass of wine and somewhere to just sit and chill. Well…we did this twice, trying another place for our second glass, lol. Actually Joey has been having beer, a Spanish beer that he really loves…Alambra 1864. But once again, more fluffy dogs and their manly owners walking around town! Gotta love Spanish men and their dogs! It was fun to watch the little kids play too. Strange to think kids grow up in little towns like this. After a short walk around the village we went back to our room for our siesta. Joey is really getting a hang of this napping thing! Me, not so much…our room was freezing and I had no clue how to run the heater! Is there a heater? We don’t even know! But somehow at night it’s not so cold anymore.

We finally decide it was time to go find some dinner and being that it was chilly and slightly windy, I didn’t want to walk to far so we pretty much stopped into the first restaurant we could find. It was okay, nothing too special, just a casual little café. They did have a salad on the menu though and as I often do on vacation, I was craving a basic salad. Well, it was pretty basic yet very large, and I ate it all. At least it was fresh and crisp! I also ordered some meatballs and Joey ordered some breaded veal. Both were adequate, though nothing to write home about, ha.