The Writing Life · Travel

Rioja Day One

At breakfast, I told our server we were planning to visit the town of Elciego. She informed me that we would be able to circle the entire town twice in twenty minutes. So, we stopped at the front desk to ask the concierge for advice on how to spend the day.


She recommended we visit the walled town of Laguardia about a 15-minute drive from the hotel.

We got a late start to the day and didn’t consider the Spanish tradition of siesta in the afternoon. Consequently, the shops in town were closed when we got there. We walked around the outside of the walled city so I could take some pictures. Michael found an ATM, and then we went to Los Parajes, the restaurant the concierge recommended.

The restaurant hostess suggested we take a look at their sixteen-century wine cellar while they prepared our table.

The cellar had a wine bar of sorts set up. You could grab a glass and walk through the caves. We passed on the wine. To be honest, cellars freak me out. I always have these worst-case scenario thoughts.

The cellar had three smallish rooms, so we saw the entire space in a few minutes. Once we come back up to the restaurant, our table was ready.

We decided to share several starters rather than ordering any entrees. We ordered croquettes, Iberian ham and toasted bread with tomato and grilled octopus. We also had a bottle of Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva. I was too busy enjoying the food and our conversation to take any pictures.

We hoped that once we were done with lunch, the shops would reopen. But no luck. It was also Monday, and most things had limited hours.

So we just walked around looking at the views and architecture. There was a really cool sculpture that consisted of one table with a variety of shoes and another with bags called Escultura Viajeros(Sculptor of Travelers). The description of the meaning was in Spanish. I looked it up later but couldn’t find anything about it. Nonetheless, I took several photos.

Our next stop was the even smaller town of Elciego. We popped into the pharmacy to pick up a few things. The pharmacist didn’t speak English, but we were able to put together enough Spanish to make it work.

We both needed to use the restroom, so we went into this bar called Restuarante La Florida. We thought that was pretty funny since we live in Florida. Michael bought two glasses of wine as a “restroom tax.” The wine wasn’t very good. No great loss. Both glasses only cost 3 euros. While we sat and drank our wine, I noticed a Spanish version of Sweet Home Alabama playing on the radio. We got a good laugh because we didn’t see how the translation made any sense.

Before leaving the town, we walked over to the cathedral that’s visible from our hotel. It wasn’t open. I tried to take a good picture, but it’s difficult to capture such massive buildings up close.

While we were standing in the courtyard, a little boy about seven or eight approached us and asked our names. When Michael responded in Spanish, the little boy began to talk to us. Michael told him we only spoke a little Spanish. The boy nodded and started speaking to us in English. We told him his English was very good.

“I know,” he said as he road off on his scooter.

It made us both laugh. It also made us realize we needed to up our Spanish speaking game.

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