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RIOJA WINE AND CORK TREES

We crossed the Pyrenees through the long Somport tunnel and could not believe how the country on the Spanish side is so arid in comparison with the lushness of France. The dryness was suddenly relieved by the incredibly turquoise blue water of the Yesa Dam. We wondered whether it was radioactive, as there was hardly any sign of human habitation along its shores!
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We passed Pamplona, with only days to go before the annual Running of the Bulls Festival.
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Villages such as this one, Berdun, are built on hilltops.

Villages such as this one, Berdun, are built on hilltops.


IMG_2913.jpgLots of windpower in N Spain although La Mancha is much further south!

Lots of windpower in N Spain although La Mancha is much further south!


Our first campsite in Estella had a swimming pool, which was a great relief after the long, dry and hot drive.

We then had 2 days in Logroño, the capital of the Rioja wine region. Our campsite was conveniently located, 10 minutes walk from the centre of the old town, next to the sludgy river Ebro. We visited the cathedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda to try to escape the oppressive heat.
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The highly ornate wall behind the altar was awe-inspiring, and worth paying 1 euro to light it up.
IMG_2944.jpgIMG_2947.jpgBeautiful statues but no tombs like the English cathedrals.

Beautiful statues but no tombs like the English cathedrals.


An artwork attributed to Michelangelo is kept securely barricaded behind the altar, but we declined to pay to light it up.
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A meal at a pavement cafe was good value [€9.90 for 3 courses with bread, a bottle of water and a bottle of wine] and enough to lay us out for the rest of the afternoon. Oh, la siesta is a wonderful idea!

The next day we wanted to visit a bodega [winery] to sample the renowned Rioja wines. In Spain one has to make an appointment to taste wines! The first two bodegas David phoned only had tours in Spanish that day, and “no” we couldn’t just come and taste! We were given an appointment at Bodegas Ontanon for 12.00, and arrived to find an extremely plush, family-run establishment.
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Our guide gave us a fascinating tour for an hour.
The cellar where the Gran Reserva is left to mature in bottles for 3 years, after being in oak casks for 2 years.

The cellar where the Gran Reserva is left to mature in bottles for 3 years, after being in oak casks for 2 years.


The many beautiful sculptures and stained glass artworks throughout the cellar were specially created to reflect the Greek mythology of viticulture.
IMG_2955.jpgA Centaur, with Oinopion, son of Dionysius and Ariadne, on his back.

A Centaur, with Oinopion, son of Dionysius and Ariadne, on his back.

Persephone is credited with giving birth to the first grape pip, and this beautiful statue shows her breast-feeding it.

Persephone is credited with giving birth to the first grape pip, and this beautiful statue shows her breast-feeding it.


Both sides of her face, light and dark, representing summer and winter seasons, are reflected around her on the marble walls.

Both sides of her face, light and dark, representing summer and winter seasons, are reflected around her on the marble walls.

The love story between Dionysius and Ariadne.

The love story between Dionysius and Ariadne.


IMG_2971.jpgBacchus

Bacchus

Ganymede, the cup-bearer of Zeus, provides the link between the cellar and the outside world.

Ganymede, the cup-bearer of Zeus, provides the link between the cellar and the outside world.


The wine-tasting itself was an experience to be remembered; our guide, Jesus, showed us in detail how to taste their Reserva 2001 for 30 minutes, then produced some tapas, after which we had to taste again and see how differently the wine tastes. We only tasted two wines, but how heavenly they were! We could only afford to buy three bottles of the good stuff, which we decided to keep for our birthdays.
Relaxing with a beer later in Plaza San Augustin to beat the heat.

Relaxing with a beer later in Plaza San Augustin to beat the heat.

We still had two days of hard driving before we reached the Algarve. Central Spain is very arid and the roads very straight and long.
Vineyards in the Rioja district.

Vineyards in the Rioja district.

Poppies amongst the wheat.

Poppies amongst the wheat.

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Our Molly [GPS] again let us down by taking us around in circles, looking for our campsite near Plasencia, which was our half-way stop between Logrono and Albufeira. When we eventually found it, more by luck than persistence, we were pleased to find a shady pitch and a large swimming pool. That night we both got massacred by mozzies, and David started the runs for the next 5 days.
Millions of cork trees in Spain and Portugal along our route. Many have been harvested, the lighter the colour the more recently harvested.

Millions of cork trees in Spain and Portugal along our route. Many have been harvested, the lighter the colour the more recently harvested.

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Ubiquitous olive plantations.

Ubiquitous olive plantations.

Storks are everywhere, and structures are often erected to encourage them to nest.

Storks are everywhere, and structures are often erected to encourage them to nest.

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Finally, at the end of the second day we arrived in Albufeira, in the Algarve region of south Portugal.

Posted by davidsandi 10:40 Archived in Spain

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