Just got back from an eleven hour day... Where to start, oh yea, the car. We saw a lot of the car and a lot of Rioja villages. We started the morning traveling to Haro, the capital of Rijoa wine country. The road from the coast to wine county is stunning - amazing mountain peaks and beautiful valleys. In retrospect we will ask why Logrono also calls itself the capital, but that's for later. Rioja has many Bodegas and Haro itself has like 12 or 16 right within it's limits. Many a cellar door is open, but call in advance. The town is delightful with many market shops filled with produce and meats. There are also many vinotechas or wine stores. We were astounded by the vintages some of these stores had on hand for sale. Riojas from the 70's and 80's but also some amazing old vintage ports, the oldest we found dated back to 1937 (380 euro).
There were many good tapas bars and restaurants in Haro, including a couple we had researched to be good, unfortunately a late breakfast sabotaged the temptation (big mistake). We bought some provisions and headed on to Longrono, yes, the capital of Rijoa. In comparison to Haro, Logrono was a very large city. We did not locate the landmark where the rough guide indicated we should park, instead we parked somewhere outside the city center. After many driving mistakes and failed attempts to find the appropriate location we settled in to the city at the heart of siesta. We were getting hungry. After some gelato we took a time out in a relaxing park.
We departed Logrono and headed to the cute town of Briones. Here is where the Rioja museum of wine is located. It is a very large place situated next to an operating Bodega. We thought better of a tour and headed in to town. Still to early for tapas and no dinner in sight we took in the town's beauty. There was the smell of Chorizo in the air but no purveyor to be found. We headed back to the car and settled on Vitoria to take in the Basque food experience. We were certain that the size of Vitoria would warrant some early evening tapas. Boy were we wrong. After really bad parking karma and a whole lot of town strolling we only came across one place, an Irish pub that had some plates. Dozens of bars and cafeterias serving only drinks. How long ago did I mention hungry?
We headed back to Deba, the town near where we are staying. We were now relieved that our arrival would coincide with a lovely Basque dinner. Someone angered the parking gods, then, after a thorough canvas of the village of Deba we ran into three ladies, one who seemed to be broke down on the very top of the village road, another looking for parking and us finding ourselves backing down a narrow path of parked cars in either side of us, at least 1/8 of a mile. After making it off the top of the village area we headed back to safety near the town train station, thinking we would make the simple walk back in to town - wrong again! A traffic pile up in an area of construction that had only a single lane for passing. Both directions of cars were released at the same time and we were at a full out Deba-Spanish-Mexican standoff!
After too long the traffic gridlock ended and we parked as planned near the train station and headed to Bar-Restaurant Urgain. After negotiating a menu in English we had a bottle of wine from Toro along with Ox Carpaccio. An amazing steak with frittas and huevos as well has Hake and clams in a big garlic, parsley and pea sauce with white asparagus. A warm raspberry tart and the dinner proved to be quite the reward for a day of missed opportunities.
Off to the Guggenheim tomorrow and reservations at Astador Extebarri, so we won't go hungry!