Tag Archives: La Rioja

Things I love about where I live (Part 1)

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Hola! So I know I’ve promised to tell you about all my recent travels, but I think I’ll save those for when I’m back (which is in a mere 3 weeks!?!) What I’d like to do is just give you random travel/culture/Spain/whatever posts until I leave, although I”ll certainly have some retrospective posts as well. Enjoy!

Things I love about Spain/La Rioja/Logroño (where I live)…part 1 of I don’t know how many.

(In no particular order)

1. Everyone is outside and social. I live in a flat above a bustling cafe/street of cafes, and whether it is monsoon-ing, freezing, boiling or what have you, there are people under the umbrellas outside on the “terazza.” There is never a time (outside of the wee hours of the night, and even then, sometimes) that I don’t see people out for a “paseo” or walk, sitting at a café, or just chatting on a park bench. It’s wonderful, it’s healthy and it’s just plain better than sitting inside alone in front of the TV or computer. (Hint hint, America). From babies in strollers to dogs to cute little older ladies linked arm in arm–it’s simply the norm to go out, get fresh air and say hello to your neighbors/friends/strangers. I go a little deeper into my observations of this lovely cultural norm here.

2. Ridiculously amazing Rioja wine (arguably, well, most commonly/famously referred to as the best in all of Spain). From the young ones to Crianza to Reserva and Gran Reserva, I’ve been able to sample them all. Que SUERTE yo tengo! (How lucky I am!) Most conveniently, they are also ridiculously cheap. Oh dear.

Bodegas bodegas everywhere!

3. Tapas/Pinchos/Pinxtos. All of them. Mouthwatering. Scrumptious. We’ve discussed this before.

Pinchoooooooooos!

4. How people say “hasta luego” (see you later) instead of goodbye. And not just to friends–to pretty much everyone, at least here in Logroño. It’s just better that way, somehow.

Lovely cliff/butte things near Nalda

5.The gorgeous rocky/craggy/jutting-into-the-sky geography of La Rioja. Add that to the rolling, terraced plots of vineyards, the lush forests and the winding Iregua River and you’ve got yourself some pretty fantastic landscape-eye-candy.

6. Café con leche. You may say it’s just coffee with milk or a fancy name for a latte, but I maintain that it is a sublime creation unmatched by anything in the U. S. And I’m not the only one. (See what I did there?)    🙂

7. Kids speaking Spanish. Kids are universally cute, but gosh darnit they are stinkin’ adorable when they’re babbling in español, especially the tiny ones.

8. People making an effort to look nice, even if they are only taking a walk, or going to the market. High heels for the grocery store might be a bit much, but I can appreciate the good intentions/motivation.

9. The two air-kisses (besos) instead of a handshake. Seriously. Say what you want about personal space, but I consider this custom to be 1000% warmer and more welcoming. See more of my thoughts on this here.

Flamenco in Sevilla=heaven.

10. Spanish guitar. Call me cheesy, but wow those artists are mad-talented. I could listen to it all day. And don’t even get me started on flamenco guitar/singing/dancing? Madre mía….I’m in love.

The famous bulls! The fact that they began from an advertising effort for Osborne sherry makes me like them even more (what can I say, I was an ad major!?)

11. The giant silhouettes of bulls on random hillsides throughout Spain. So dramatic and theatrical and….Spanish.

Heladdddoooooo

12. Helado (Ice cream) from this one shop in off the main square in Valencia. I know that helps you very little, but if you go there, just get ice cream a lot. I had mandarin and papaya and it might have been one of the most incredible ice cream moments of my life.

13. Trilling of the r’s. Don’t really know why. It also is unimaginably cute when little 4 year olds learning English trill out the r’s in green and red when practicing colors in my class. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEN! RRRRRRRRRRRRREDDD!! Just picture it.

14. The laid-back “mañana” philosophy. (Which if you don’t know, means “tomorrow.” Which I bet you can guess what that philosophy means).

15. REBAJAS (Late winter sales). While it’s true that the weather is quite cold and not the most pleasant (at least in the north) from Jan-early March in Spain, at the same time there are also the most spectacular bargains you might have ever seen in the stores nation-wide. I definitely did my part to relieve the “crisis” during those months. And fill my suitcases.

15. The fascinating cultural diversity of Spain’s many distinct autonomous communities—1) the different languages other than Spanish spoken (Gallego (from Galicia); Catalan (from Cataluña); Euskera/Basque (from Basque Country/Euskadi); and other dialects. 2) the fantastically different geographic features…from forests to mountains to beaches to to plains to rich, green, lush Ireland-esque hills. 3) the vastly different cultures and traditions of every region and even some unique to each town.

16. Festivals. Fiestas. There is always a reason (usually a saint, pero bueno…) to celebrate, and I do not hold that against them. Also, the fact that any time is a good time to parade through the street with a marching band (even a few random dudes who just want an excuse to play their instruments), drumline, group of dancers, or giant statues. Or all four, as is usually the case.

San Mateo. Enough said.

17. Also on the note of fiesta-ing, the fantastic social life/night life in this country. As in you’re having dinner at 10, drinks at 11 or 12, out to the actual bars at 1, then to the discos at 4 or later. They go big or go home around here. One can even spot older men and ladies (I’m talking like 70s age here) out with a vino or a beer at 11 or 12!

Viva la vida Española.

A perfect weekend getaway (without “getting away” too far)

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This is a backtrack post as usual, but I’ve been busy,….so cut me a little slack, eh? 🙂 gracias!

February 26- We had a three-day weekend off from work (imagine that) and though it’s usually our habit to get as far away as we can as soon as we have any time, we (Jake and I, and our friend, Jason) decided to keep it a little closer to home and save up money for when the weather gets better, not that it’s anything like the freezing, snowy weather my home state Nebraska is getting, pero bueno… winter cold of any sort always makes you long for spring.

So instead of taking a mondo bus ride (both distance & dinero-wise) to Galicia, a region in northwest Spain (we’ll make it there another time soon I hope) we decided to get to know La Rioja a little better. We are a little limited in our lack of car —aka basically only able to go to places available by bus, but this weekend we were lucky enough convince our Spanish friend, Gabriel (studying here, but originally from Girona, Cataluña) to take us along on a roadtrip to see a few places. So we packed up in his little car and headed first to Clavijo, a tiny village near Logroño that’s home to the ruins of an old castle. I better just let the pictures do the talking on this one.

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Not a bad view. (Castillo de Clavijo)

Next we drove another hour or so to a little pueblo called Arnedillo….beautiful in its own right, we later found, but we initially were drawn by the allure of some natural hot springs we’d heard were nearby. We weren’t disappointed. 🙂

Hot springs in Arnedillo...hanging with the guys.

Ok, I can't take photo credit for this one....this is actually a photo of a previously-unknown location in La Rioja I had stumbled upon while researching the area...and then we found this same picture on a wall in Arnedillo. It was that very place!

This one I can take credit for....we didn't get to see the spectacular view by day, but nighttime was pretty ok I suppose. 🙂

After a fun roadtrip home, talking a fun mix of Spanish/English/Spanglish and later a fun night out with friends, we were feeling pretty “satisfecho.” Next day? Attempt at going to Pamplona, but foiled (what seems like the millionth time) by bus schedules. Plan B? A little mini-trip to the nearby pueblo of Nalda for a return-trip to our favorite caves.

Not a bad perch for a snack with a view.

Then we climbed to the top of the caves for even more picture-taking goodness.

The Fantastic Trio.

And last but not least, that Monday happened to be a holiday, remember, so more time for trips! This time we FINALLY made it to Pamplona. No bulls this time, obviously, but still a fascinating city for sure.

Cafe Iruña-- of Hemmingway fame. Definitely the classiest place I've ever had the pleasure of sipping a cafe con leche.

Pamplona's beautiful town hall, or ayuntamiento

The closest we got to actual bulls: the "encierro" scuplture in Pamplona.

Y está. Be posting more to catch up on the latest adventures, I promise….

Up next: 

-Castle play-day in Olite

-Wonderful week with my Mom and sister

-Reflections on friend departures

…Y más! 🙂 

Besos,

Brianne

Top 5 Reasons to Visit La Rioja

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Calle Laurel--aka Pinchos (tapas) Paradise

Never heard of Logroño or the Spanish region of La Rioja before? It’s true, while the area doesn’t boast the fame of  tourist hotspots like Barcelona, Madrid, Granada or Toledo, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the North, if only for the world famous Rioja wine and/or a trip to a bodega (winery), the incredibly tasty tapas on Calle Laurel, the beautiful landscape, warm and friendly people and the un-touristy, “authentic” Spanish experience you’ll find there.

In fact, those are precisely the reasons to visit here, live here even. While I know one can’t make it to every city when traveling abroad on a tight time schedule, I understand why La Rioja doesn’t make it on everyone’s list. However, I would have to say it’s probably an even more incredible place to LIVE, rather than visit…just fantastic quality of life (in Logroño, at least) for a city that’s big enough to have a fun/lively night life and amenities but small enough to feel very safe and to be able to get to know lots of people.

But don’t take my word for it: read what mi amiga and fellow Auxiliar, Liz,  has to say about our lovely home in her article for the Spain Scoop. (A note on Liz—she’s rather a veteran at this Spanish living abroad stuff, as she’s called 5 different cities home all over the country, so I daresay she can speak with some authority).  Top 5 Reasons to Visit La Rioja