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Itinerary Advice: Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Barcelona

Itinerary Advice: Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Barcelona

Old Jan 29th, 2022, 01:01 PM
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Itinerary Advice: Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Barcelona

I'm currently planning a trip to Spain in April and have been amazed at the information I've been able to get from this forum. I've ready through so many posts and trip reports, but find that I could still use some advice. Our current schedule is:

Day 1: fly into Madrid, drive to Ribera del Duero region; (stay at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine)
Day 2: wine tastings in Ribera del Duero
Day 3: wine tastings in Ribera del Duero
Day 4: drive to Rioja region, wine tastings in Briones and Ollauri; (still deciding on hotel)
Day 5: wine tastings in Haro, visit LaGuardia
Day 6: drive to Barcelona, lunch stop along the way?; (stay at Monument Hotel)
Day 7: Food tour, explore Barcelona
Day 8: Cooking class, explore Barcelona
Day 9: Daytrip to cava region, Freixenet Cava tasting / tour; evening concert at Palau de la Musica Catalena (Barcelona Guitar Trio)
Day 10: Daytrip to Montserrat
Day 11: Explore Barcelona or daytrip to ??
Day 12: Daytrip to explore Costa Brava
Day 13: Fly home

Things I need help with:
1. Hotel in Rioja region: I am currently torn between staying at either Palacio de Samaniego and Hotel Santa Maria Briones. I know that Hotel Santa Maria Briones is still being renovated but it looks like it will be open when we are there in April. My concern with both is whether there are good restaurants / bars nearby for a light evening meal. We will not want to drive in the evenings and it appears that most restaurants are only open for the midday meal. Any insight on which one is nicer and has better access to outstanding food?
I have also received recommendations for Hotel Viura (Villabuena de Alava) and Hospederia De Los Parajes (Laguardia)?

2. Costa Brava: We are planning to drive up the coast from Barcelona one day and a friend had recommended going up to Cadaques. Is that too far for a daytrip?

3. Holiday concerns: We will be in Barcelona over Easter weekend and fly home on Easter Sunday. I am concerned about heavy crowds and things being closed on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I can easily rearrange the schedule of our activities in Barcelona. I'm assuming we should avoid Montserrat and the Costa Brava on both of those days? I would appreciate any advice on what to expect and how to organize our time such that we schedule the best activities for those 2 days.

4. Day 6: We will be driving from Rioja to Barcelona. Are there any recommendations for places to stop along the way for lunch and to stretch our leg?

Thanks in advance for any advice / feedback this group can provide!
jeanhall2301 is offline  
Old Jan 29th, 2022, 02:13 PM
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Hotels in Rioja: are you staying in Briones for any specific reason? (it´s the town where my grandma was born, by the way). I would suggest Haro instead for better and a bigger number of wineries. The same goes for Ollauri, a very small town, any specific interests there?

Palacio de Samaniego is a beautiful hotel in Samaniego, at a walking distance of two of my favorite wineries in the area, Ostatu and Alútiz. The town is very small, though. Briones is bigger and has a more lively atmosphere. Hotel Viura is fantastic, in Villabuena, the town in the world with the highest concentration of wineries, by the way, but life in town is very limited. Laguardia is the most relevant town in the area, a medieval walled town, Los Parajes is right in the center of this small town and it´s a very good option, with an underground cellar just perfect for wine tasting (16th century). Lots of restaurant options (also recommended, Posada Mayor de Migueloa, with an underground cellar dating back to the 16th century).
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Old Jan 29th, 2022, 03:19 PM
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Thanks for the response! We really enjoy the wines of the Rioja Alta region and are particularly interested in several of the wineries in Haro and Ollauri. We will have a driver during the day for our wine tasting so we are trying to find a unique hotel that is convenient to both cities. We tend to enjoy smaller towns so I was drawn to both the Palacio de Samaniego and the Hotel Santa Maria Briones (both from Maribel's Rioja guide). My only concern is on whether those 2 towns are too small and as such would be difficult for us to find a light evening meal anywhere except for the hotel restaurant. I think the hotel restaurant at Palacio de Samaniego is supposed to be quite good? Since the Hotel Santa Maria Briones isn't open yet I haven't been able to find out anything about what food will be like at the hotel. Thanks for the insight into the different hotels and towns - it sounds like Palacio de Samaniego or Los Parajes might be our best fits. My main concern with Los Parajes is getting my luggage into the hotel (I am a notorious over-packer!).
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Old Jan 30th, 2022, 03:00 AM
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You´ll be combining both Rioja Alavesa (the Basque part of Rioja) and Rioja Alta (belonging to La Rioja), as Samaniego and Laguardia are in Alavesa and Haro and Ollauri in Alta. Los Parajes may be a bit small if you have lots of luggage, so Palacio de Samaniego or Viura are better options. The best places to have a light meal at night (as you probably know, proper dinner before 9pm is complicated...and that´s early) are Laguardia, with many options, and a couple of places in Samaniego too. This hotel is located on a former palace, so a neat place to stay, but town is too small. Briones offers quite a few options too.
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Old Jan 30th, 2022, 04:14 PM
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jeanhall2301,
Regarding Rioja lodging, the Palacio de Samaniego is small with only 9 rooms, but simply exquisite and owned by the Rothschild family, whose winery, Macan, (that can't be visited) sits nearby. Our friends have dined there, and the baroness has selected a well known chef to supervise the kitchen.
As mikelg notes, the village of Samaniego is tiny but well located for wine touring by car. (We stay with friends each year in the neighboring village and know the area very, very well.) And it's only a short drive to Laguardia for dinner.

In addition to the Palacio de Samaniego, in September we saw the new luxury option that will open in March in Briones, the Hotel Santa María (adults only), housed in a seignorial mansion typical of these towns. Briones is also well located for the wineries in the Rioja Alta and is a slightly larger town, but all these villages are rather sleepy and small. Maybe too small. Briones has two dining options: Los Calaos in the underground cellars and the dining room of the Museo Vivanco but the latter is only open for lunch. I suspect that the Santa María will hire a noted chef, as the American couple has put a great deal of time and money into this project.

The Viura is very contemporary, not a nobleman's mansion, and in Villabuena one is limited to the Viura's own restaurant for evening dining.

As my friend mikelg notes, the dining options are more extensive in larger Laguardia but the Hotel Los Parajes, in my opinion, isn't as special/unique/refined as the Palacio de Samaniego, again, just a short drive away. And parking outside of the medieval walls is at a premium with parking lots below, and one needs to walk up steps to reach the medieval gates to enter the village

If you've read the guide, you know the best Laguardia dining options:
Sugar on Calle Páganos for grilled meats, Amelibia for updated Riojan fare and a nice wine list, Eguren Ugarte just outside of town for a typical, hearty Riojan winery lunch (Pantagruelian!) and Héctor Oribe in tiny Páganos, a short drive away, only open for lunch.

About the Abadía Retuerta: our 3-night stay there in September was heavenly--the Michelin starred cuisine in the Refectorio, the lunches had at the Vinoteca, the breakfasts that can go on forever, the special wine tour by jeep, the gorgeous spa and its wine therapy program, the 12th century abbey building itself and the services of our personal butler. We've toured over 25 wineries in the Ribera del Duero, and Abadía Retuerta (technically outside of the D.O.) offers one of the best wine tours. We loved our stay so much that we're returning for another 3 nights in mid-March.
Other special wineries close to Abadía Retuerta: Mauro, Finca Villacreces (next to Vega Sicilia), Aalto, Dehesa de los Canóngos and Emilio Moro on the north side of the river and Pago de Carraovejas in Peñafiel.

For your day trip on the Cost Brava, I would only drive as far north as Begur-Aiguablava rather than more isolated and time consuming Cadaqués. I would certainly avoid the trip to the Costa Brava on the holidays, as many Barcelona residents will be headed there to their weekend homes or just for a mini vacation.

For the 5 hour, 15 minute La Rioja to Barcelona drive on the AP-68 and AP-2, I would only make a quick stop (certainly not try to stop in the large city of Zaragoza, which with the traffic will be time consuming). Perhaps much smaller Alfaro, famous for its storks's nests and churches.
https://lariojaturismo.com/en/poblac...1-52d6a136e3fa

Hope this helps!
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Old Jan 31st, 2022, 06:21 AM
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Thanks Maribel and mikelg! I really appreciate the guidance and am now super excited about our stay ay Abadia Retuerta! They have been so helpful and it looks like an amazing property.

Rioja: I've decided to stay at the Palacio de Samaniego for our Rioja lodging - thank you both for the insights. I'm amazed at the number of wineries within walking distance and think we will enjoy the village. Since we will be spending a week in Barcelona we really don't need much nightlife during this portion of our trip so I think Samaniego will be perfect. The Hotel Santa Maria looks incredible, but I think we'll save that for another trip when the dining situation is more known.

Thank you also for the other pointers - I was especially worried about how the holiday weekend would impact things. I will make sure to schedule our Costa Brava trek for a day during the week to avoid the local holiday crowd!
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Old Jan 31st, 2022, 12:59 PM
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jeanhall2301,
I think you'll be very pleased with the Palacio de Samaniego, now owned by the Rothschild family. They've done a lovely job in making this a luxury property.

And as you note, several outstanding wineries are within easy striking distance: In Samaniego itself, across from the hotel there's the excellent Remírez de Ganuza, Ostatu on the highway across from Baigorri, Amaren on the road south to Villabuena, which gives a very nice tour, its "sister" winery Luis Cañas in Villabuena and one of our very favorites, Bodegas de la Marquesa (Valserrano), whose family we know well, inside the village of Villabuena.

If you do go to Valencisco in Ollauri, please tell Luis and Carmen that we say hello.
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Old Sep 28th, 2022, 11:27 PM
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Palacio de Samaniego or Santa Maria Briones or marques de riscal Rioja

Jeanhall2301
Just wondering about your thoughts on your stay at the Palacio de Samaniego and your view of the other two hotels
Originally Posted by jeanhall2301 View Post
Thanks Maribel and mikelg! I really appreciate the guidance and am now super excited about our stay ay Abadia Retuerta! They have been so helpful and it looks like an amazing property.

Rioja: I've decided to stay at the Palacio de Samaniego for our Rioja lodging - thank you both for the insights. I'm amazed at the number of wineries within walking distance and think we will enjoy the village. Since we will be spending a week in Barcelona we really don't need much nightlife during this portion of our trip so I think Samaniego will be perfect. The Hotel Santa Maria looks incredible, but I think we'll save that for another trip when the dining situation is more known.

Thank you also for the other pointers - I was especially worried about how the holiday weekend would impact things. I will make sure to schedule our Costa Brava trek for a day during the week to avoid the local holiday crowd!
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Old Sep 29th, 2022, 04:15 AM
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You might try and fit in the Torres wine tasting instead of the Cava visit but up to you
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Old Sep 29th, 2022, 03:02 PM
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We enjoyed the Palacio de Samaniego but would likely try Santa Maria Briones if we go back. Palacio de Samaniego had outstanding service, excellent food and a lovely spacious room (we stayed in the Verdjo Junior Suite). Samaniego was a great location to visit Ostatu and Remirez de Ganuza. The only downside was the lack of dining options in the area. There were literally no other dining options within walking distance of the hotel so we "had" to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant both nights. The food was fabulous but prefer more options.

Abadia Retuerta was off the charts outstanding. It was such a unique facility (an old abbey set in the middle of a vineyard). The service, food, room, spa and grounds were fabulous. The associated winery was also great. We hired a wine guide for one of our days and so we were able to get a really good sense of the Ribera del Duoro region. We will definitely go back again one day.

Hope this helps!

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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 01:08 PM
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jeanhall2301 (and for others),
This July we had the opportunity to visit the Santa María in Briones, to see rooms and to talk with the manager and were very impressed. The chef has worked in 3 area Michelin star kitchens. While we didn't have the chance to dine there, our friends, the owner and chef of a nearby lodging, did enjoy their recent meal there and recommended it to us. (They no longer recommend the Viura in Villabuena for dining.)

The other dining options in tiny Briones are the atmospheric Los Calaos (within walking distance), 2 rustic asadores (roasting taverns) and for lunch only, the restaurant of the Dinastía Vivanco Museum.

I'm glad you enjoyed Abadía Retuerta, which is our favorite (splurge!!) lodging in Ribera del Duero. We've stayed there twice in the last year to celebrate our milestone birthdays (Covid delayed). It's wonderful in every way and the Vinoteca and the Calicata in the winery provide guests with less expensive options than the spectacular Michelin-starred Refectorio, the refectory of the abbey (and the breakfasts there are delightful).

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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 04:11 AM
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Thank you for your amazing insights Jean and Maribel. Do you have any thoughts on staying at the Marques de riscal as another couple we are travelling with are keen to stay there?
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 07:56 AM
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Marqués de Riscal is in Elciego, a small town kind of in the middle of nowhere but at the same time not that far (with a car) from Laguardia, Labastida,..., and other towns in Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta wine regions. The building is magnificent from outside and it´s a Michelin star restaurant, and it´s top lodging, but it may be a bit too far from places you could go walking to enjoy a stroll in any of the nearby towns. If you have a car, it´s a yes. If you don´t...well, the town of Elciego is across the road, but nothing much there. You are entitled to a free visit of the winery, if you stay there. Not very fond of their wines, but of course it´s my very personal opinion.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 03:53 PM
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I'm just not that overly fond of the Marqués de Riscal, although the building, as mkelg says, is magnificent from the inside.

When it first opened, the GM gave me a tour of all the rooms (Frank Gehry, he said, doesn't stay in the Gehry suite and instead he prefers the spa annex).They do have all the bells and whistles. We also dined in the Michelin-starred restaurant.

The winery tour, once a day in English for a large group, for me is rather generic (we did have, though, an enthusiastic young tour guide). The tasting at the end is (or was) of a Rioja reserva and a white from Rueda, served with peanuts, so nothing special. Only if there is enough demand for a group can a more special tasting be arranged (I've tried).

For me there are far more informative Rioja wine tours and more elevated tastings, but the tour is extremely popular.
I understand that many are very keen to stay there because of the architecture (and it's a Marriott luxury property). They do have a Caudalie spa, which the other luxury properties in the Rioja wine region don't offer.

I would prefer to stay in the much smaller Palacio de Samaniego, closer to Laguardia or the family-run Santa Maria de Briones but I just prefer smaller properties with more personal attention from the staff.

Last edited by Maribel; Oct 2nd, 2022 at 03:57 PM.
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Old Oct 8th, 2022, 02:19 AM
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Thank you all once again for your well informed advice. I would really like to read Maribel’s Rioja guide however I’m not sure where to find it - is it possible to send a link for it here?
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Old Oct 8th, 2022, 11:59 AM
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If you'll send me a PM, I'll send you the link.
Maribel
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