This is day 6 for me in Spain, and it´s been an incredible journey so far. There will be photos to post later of the great folks I´ve met and things I´ve seen. First impressions: Loved Madrid, it´s a grand capital with wide avenues and graceful architecture. The Prado is beautiful and I loved exploring the galleries, like my college art history class come to life. So far the advice I have gotten from Ryan and Gabriella of Catavino has been spot on. Ryan told me to head to a specific street in the city for tapas and sure enough, they were great and the scene was lively. I met three fun Madridlenas and enjoyed a debate with one about French vs. American oak. I still prefer French, but like when it is not too heavily applied, i.e., not all new oak, and sure mix in some American too.
Driving up from Madrid I was stunned to see snow-covered mountains. My next stop was Aranda de Duero in the Ribera del Duero wine region. This is a small town that has seen way better days. Even the historic archtitecture is crumbling. However, it has lots of bars and restaurants, especially ones that serve the speciality of the area, roast baby lamb, a juicy, super tender dish that pairs so well with the Ribera del Dueros. While in the area, I had the good fortune to have a personal tour of Abadia Retuerta, a sensational modern winery where the wine is truly treated like gold. Nothing every shakes up the wine, no pumping here, every process is acheived through ingenious operations that allow gravity to remove the wine from the tanks and barrels.
I spent the afternoon in Valladolid a lovely city with so many interesting styles of architecture represented that it should be on every aspiring architect´s list of places to visit-I saw a baroque university, a Spanish gothic church, a palace with a platteresque window and more.
Driving out of the area, I was advised to avoid the shorter route as the snow was bad there. Snow? Oh, yeah, 3 hours of driving in it to get to Rioja. And in the mountains. Mountains with jagged black rocks looking down menancingly at me in my little car. Then, when the driving should have gotten better, I got thoroughly lost in Logrono. Thanks to my Iphone´s GPS, I finally made it to my hotel. I´ve grown to like this town very much, which is a stop on the Pilgrim´s route to Compostala. Well, apologies for the typos, etc., it´s rough blogging from the road.