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Road trip through some northern Spanish wine and food regions

We here at Magnethi are excited to introduce a new segment called “Traveller’s blog” where we share personal experiences we have enjoyed in sunny Spain. 

We are Heidi and Erik Magnethi Dalgaard, two aficionados for everything Spain has to offer who have lived in the Costa del Sol for almost 30 years. Nevertheless, we are keen adventurers and often travel the country to explore new places, tasty food and delicious wines.
Here’s our story of a road trip we did past summer to Cantabria, Pais Vasco, Rioja and Ribera del Duero (both famous wine regions). Here are the exact locations we visited over our weekly-long trip:

From Málaga we drove towards Madrid (capital city), located pretty much straight above Málaga, a 3,5-4 hour drive. After an over night stay we headed towards Aranda del Duero, land of renown Ribera del Duero wines.
The most widely planted grape in Ribera del Duero is Tempranillo, a young piquant red wine. Locally known as ‘Tinto fino’, deep red in color and with a complex palette of flavors. One is sure to taste the perfect blend of mulberries and blackberries within the firm tannin of the wine.

Ribera del Duero Wine
Yes, we tasted and drank wine galore, but not to forget the tapas either. Such a big and important part of Spanish culture, you would be mistaken not to try them wherever in Spain you are.
Not so much anymore in the south of Spain, but in the more northern regions it is still custom to drop your papers (napkins) onto the floor once they are used. Us as citizens of the south were shocked to see this, not only because of the litter, but because it’s a custom that no longer lives in southern areas. Nevertheless, it was a habit you got used to maybe too easily… we all have that kid in us who prefers to clean things to the floor and not the bin.
That said, the tapas were delicious, these images prove just that:

Tapas Aranda del Duero

Lamb Restaurants Spain

Tapas bars Spain
Our next stop was La Rioja, home to the world famous wines. If you had not caught on already, we love wine.
As we drove through La Rioja region, we could not help but notice the amount of scattered vineyards, of different types of grapes and how close together they were placed. It was a beautiful view, even if it was from a car seat.
Travelling in the hot summer month of August we noticed that Rioja boasts of similar Mediterranean climate as in Andalucia. Grapes mostly harvest still by hand, that’s maybe why Rioja wines blossom in such rich and flavorsome bodies.
We stayed in a luxury hotel named Marqués de Riscal, an über modern bulilding surrounded in beautiful vineyards. A place where design, art, gastronomy, wine and the lush landscape all combine together in a perfect way where it all can be enjoyed at once. Frank Gehry, Canadian-American Pritzker Prize–winning architect was the man behind this hotel design.

Hotel Marques de Riscal
Here’s Heidi in the vineyards approachable from our Marqués de Riscal hotel room balcony overlooking the town of Elciego (Eltziego in Basque):

El Ciego Town
Our next stop was Castro Urdiales in Cantabria. We travelled with our two closest friends Pedro and Conchi (soon pictured).
Castro Urdiales is an autonomour communicty located on the bay of Biscay. A modern town with a castle and Gothic-styles church “Santa Mariá de la Asunción”, which actually dates back to Middle Ages. It was this church’s pilgrimage festival, “Fiesta de Asuncíon y San Roque” which we attended, with Pedro’s family, who originate from this region. This celebration was a blast!

Feria Castro Urdiales
Castro Urdiales, with stunning Biscay bay, port and blooming tourism, is a hot spot for fishing and the preservation of fish. Fish likes anchovies and sardines in olive oil from renwon brands such as “Lolin” and “La Castreña”, both that have factories close to the town. Erik could not contain himself, as a big foodie that he is and purchased anchovies of the region. And my god they were tasty!

Cantabria Anchovies best in world

Here some more pictures of the Biscay bay views, local bars with exquisite tapas and cider. And because of the close proximity to the sea, you can imagine how good the seafood was.

Biscay bay

Tapas Bar Castro Urdiales

Tapas & cider Castro Urdiales

Castro Urdiales Port

Sea food

On the next leg of our trip  we headed towards the capital of Cantabria, Santader. Not the bank, but the actual city.
Santander is a city surrounded by sea. Lovely beaches like ‘Playa de la Magdalena’ and ‘El Sardinero’ are two of the most popular, close to the historic center of Santander, it’s much-talked-about planetarium and numerous gorgeous Gothic cathedrals. There is plenty to see, and not only within Santander, but on it’s outskirts too.
Very close to Santander is a city called Laredo; a city with views. We stopped there for lunch, the views were breathtaking… Good company, cold beer and spectacular views, nothing beats that on a hot summer’s day.

West from Santander, we visited two towns: Comillas and San Vicente de Barquera.
Comillas has a spectacular looking Castle. It used to hold ceremonies for the “Marquesado de Comillas”, noble titled men who in 1878, under power of then King Alfonso XII. Nowadays these ceremonies nor social classes exist, but this ‘Castle’ certainly does.

Did you know? Comillas was the first ever Spanish town to install public lighting (lamp-posts) on the streets of the town.

Comillas church
Although it is an elegant and picturesque Castle, there is another building of more peculiar characteristics that stands out more. We are talking about “El Capricho de Gaudí”, an architectural creation by the same Antoni Gaudí responsible for most of Barcelona’s peculiar architecture.

Castle & Capricho de Gaudi Comillas

San Vicente de  Barquera has a fortress that once used to the the King’s Castle, overlooking a an estuary that flows into the river Escudo. The main highlight may be the numerous signs of “Camino de Santiago” (also known as ‘The Way of St. James’), which passes right through the town – a tourist attraction that locals proudly promote.
Leaving the region of Cantabria, we headed to Bilbao. This Basque city is home to the very modern Guggenheim museum, in front of which we happily posed for in the picture below:

Bilbao Guggenheim Basque Country
The Basque country is famous for their amazing culinary, specially in it’s northern regions. La Rioja stays in the southern part, and as we explained before and you already may know, they specialize in wines.
The history of Basque food is very interesting. Despite having access to fish (but scarce access to meat) it took until the death of Franco in 1975, for a new culinary to be born. The famous cuisine we know the Basque to have today – ‘Nueva Cocina Vasca’ – uses traditional ingredients in an innovative, experimenting with new techniques creating exquisite food.
These images may just make your mouth water…

Tapas Bilbao
Tapas Bilbao
On the our way back to Málaga (the closest big city to where we live), we stopped at what had been titled the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy in 2013; Burgos.

Burgos Gastronomie Capital
This city is not only famous for it’s food but for many other characteristics. One of the main attractions of Burgos is it’s spectacular Cathedral form the medieval age, that has been declared a Word Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Cathedral Burgos
As food lovers that we are, we did not hesitate to indulge in the local culinary. We ate very well in Burgos, so well that Erik even made a new friend:

We hope you enjoyed the read,
– Magnethi