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This culinary program will really allow you to discover why La Rioja and the Basque Country's food have become so popular. With a few practical classes, of approximately three hours each, and a combination of restaurant meals, tapas tours, and food market visits, a very good knowledge of Riojan and Basque cuisine will be attained during this Epicurean culinary holiday. Visits to unique Riojan wine producers and vineyards, along with professional wine tastings, will allow you to fully discover and appreciate the fantastic La Rioja culinary scenery!
The following are examples of accommodation in Madrid and La Rioja.
This boutique hotel is located in the historic and cultural heart of Logrono, at a walking distance of the main gastronomic streets, where you can find the best pinchos and tapas in northern Spain, numerous churches, and outdoor dining area full of terraces, where you can have delicious meals accompanied by excellent wines. Built in 1911, was known popularly as Posada de las Animas (Inn of the souls). In May 2004, Hotel Marques de Vallejo went through a meticulous work of restoration, interior design and decoration, done with the aim of offering a more comfortable and pleasant stay to the guests.
Nowadays, the hotel keeps on working the innovation and the improvement of its services and facilities, with the aim of satisfying each and every need. The 50 contemporary rooms at Hotel Marques de Vallejo feature parquet floors and air conditioning. They contain an LCD TV, and private bathrooms with a hairdryer. Wi-Fi access, temperature controller as well as mini bar, are also available in the rooms.
Villa de Laguardia Hotel is ideally situated in the capital of La Rioja, Laguardia, 50 kilometers from Vitoria and 18 from Logrono, with the hill upon which the original town stands as a backdrop and set against the Cantabrian Mountains. San Sebastian and Bilbao are approximately 150 kilometers away, about 1-hour drive from both international airports. This charming 4-star hotel is a luxurious but traditional and Provencal style hotel, using only the finest materials and perfectly combining fabrics, wallpaper, color schemes, and furniture.
The hotel brings together in one building all the necessary elements for a state of the art property, with extraordinary quality of service. Its facilities include restaurants, free Wi-Fi, outdoor and private parking. It also has spacious well-groomed gardens surrounding it, and an outdoor swimming pool. The on-site spa offers a range of treatments, based on wine and oil therapies. The hotel also has its own extensive wine cellar and shop, where guests can take part in wine tastings.
Villa de Laguardia has 84 guest rooms, with different exclusive decoration and views to Rioja Alavese wineries. There are 69 standard double rooms, 6 superior double rooms, 4 junior suites, 5 suites. Rooms provide satellite TV, hair dryer, mini-bar and all modern facilities. Besides walking through the wonderful vineyards of the region, it is a unique setting for any kind of activity related to gastronomy, wine, culture, and nature.
It is not difficult to have a love affair with Rioja, not solely for its wines, but for its generous people, gastronomy, and magnificent landscapes. Rioja is a wine area, which includes the province of La Rioja, a part of Alava, in the Basque Country, as well as Navarra. La Rioja is the autonomous government. Castilian Spanish is spoken in this region, located in central northern Spain, 100 kilometers south of the port of Bilbao, lying astride the motorway that joins the north and Mediterranean coasts. The landscapes of La Rioja are beautiful and impressively diverse, with ancient hilltop fortress towns rising from the blanket of vineyards, overlooked by a panorama of the imposing Sierras of Cantabria and the de la Demanda ranges in the west, and those of Pealosa and Yerga to the east.
Being a target of its neighbors at one time or another, La Rioja retains close ties to Castile because it was in La Rioja that the Castilian language was first written down. Clearly, its loyalty lies more in that direction than towards the others, something still evident today. Before La Rioja became an autonomous region in its own right, it was part of Castile, an association that goes back to the unifying of Spain after the marriage of Ferdinand I of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, in the 15th century.
The strength of the family remains key to the peoples lifestyle. This strong confidence building unity is fundamental to their personality, and just so long as they are treated with respect, one will find them both friendly and unnecessarily generous. When visiting many parts of Spain, like La Rioja, it becomes clear that by no means all Spaniards are Latin in character; though they may betray the same love of life at times. They are proud, yes, but also phlegmatic, sometimes reserved but also uninhibited, and both patient and courteous, unless they are driving a car. The new generation is demonstrating an openness their ancestors lacked, probably because the nation was so heavily subjugated during the many years following the Civil War.
The region's history dates back to the times of the Celtic Iberians, in 3000 B.C., before the Romans who landed at Tarragona in 300 B.C., moved inland up the River Ebro, to set up camps in Rioja some several years later. The locals like to think they stopped because of the wines and gastronomy, but it was most likely because of their failure to cross the mountains into the Basque Country, thanks to the very powerful resistance from the Basques. However, their arrival in Rioja was to prove importance to the industrial wine business, when they introduced a degree of good commercial practices.
Though less evident in the north, the occupancy of Spain by the Moors, between 711 A.D. and 1492, had an inevitable impact on the culture, language, and character of the nation, as it is evident from the peoples proud nature and the many Castilian words with Arabic origins. The first written Castilian occurred in Rioja, when in a 13th century Monk, Gonzalo de Berceo, penned a poem at the Monastery of San Millan, writing in the language of the common people - rather than Latin, and for which he hoped he might receive a glass of good wine.
During the Middle Ages, thousands of pilgrims crossed the province on their way to the shrine of St. James in Galicia, and were very appreciative of the regional wines. La Rioja wines history is well covered in that section and it owes its prominence to the fact it has become regarded as Spains flagship wine region, especially since 19th century.
Apart from over 60,000 hectares of vines, other prominent crops are cereals, sugar beet, apples and pears, along with an abundance of sheep. The economy is built around agriculture in general, particularly in the winemaking industry and its allied products, such as oak barrel makers, capsule producers, label printers, and agricultural machinery suppliers as well as engineers and, not least, banking.
The mighty River Ebro bisects Rioja from west to east, and with the mountains, plays a key role in the geology and climate of Rioja; from the cooler, verdant west, where vineyards and population centers are higher in altitude; down to the warmer, arid east, in the Rioja Baja. They influence the micro climatic conditions in the vineyards, both feeding the water table and generating early morning mists across the riverside vineyards, while sheltering them from the worst of the Atlantic influences. More than 2,000 years ago, the Ebro was navigable with sea-going vessels, sailing the 500 kilometers from the Mediterranean to Logrono, the capital of La Rioja.
Locations play a major part in creating just the right ambiance for both wine tasting and dining, on the regional's extraordinary variety of ingredients and culinary styles. During this culinary holiday, the dishes you will create for yourself include canapes, a Mediterranean menu, a traditional Rioja lunch, and a variety of typical region's dishes at Laguardia. The highlight will be an invitation to one of Rioja's oldest gastronomic societies; but between, you will be introduced to the most entertaining Spanish food, including tapas and plenty of authentic culinary dishes.
Feel free to explore Laguardia and Logrono in your spare time. A visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is subject to guests arrival time.
Please arrive at Bilbao International Airport (BIO). You will be picked up by The Unique Traveller's escorted guide, which will take you to your hotel. The pick-up is included in the price.
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