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Feb 12th, 2014, 09:11 AM
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I am musing about a visit to Spain later this year (thinking October, although I have had back luck in recent years with weather in that month..)

Looking at various options, beginning with idea of flying into MAD, spending perhaps two nights there, and then heading north with first stop in the lechazo (baby roast lamb) mecca of Aranda del Duero. If anyone is familiar with this city, please let me know:

Is the city pleasant for walking around? Sights? Lechazo? Favorite upscale hotels?

I then thought I would head to Burgos, a city I have not visited. How many nights there, and which hotel?

Would like to dine at Extebarri, in Axpe. So perhaps spend one night there, after long lunch? How far in advance must I book, assuming date will be October?

Then, Bilbao for a couple of nights. (I've been there only on a day trip, on a Sunday when city was shut tight). Drop car off there, if it's been rented in Madrid. (I know I need car to get to Axpe)

Question: Might it be best to go by public transport (train or bus..which is better?) from Madrid to Aranda, and then to Burgos and Bilbao, and then rent a car in Bilbao for the next part of the trip, driving from Bilbao to Axpe? Alternative would be to do the whole trip by rental car, beginning in Madrid and driving north to Aranda (1.5 hours).

After Bilbao or Axpe, would like to meander east with San Sebastian likely last destination. Probably spend 3-4 nights there. (I have been several times but travel partner has never visited) Would concentrate on pinxtos but would like to also include 1-2 of the legendary restaurants, perhaps Mugaritz and/or Akelarre? Please comment on these if you have been.

What a I leaving out here? Have not included wine areas, as I have been to so many over the years (travel partner was in wine business), and am more interested in food than in wine. Needless to say, food is major interest and determining factor in most of this itinerary. Any small towns with great restaurants I should include? Great food markets in those towns? Great rural hotels with nearby great food in Basque region?

Would like to spend up to 2 weeks but am flexible.

Any and all comments and answers are very welcome! Thanks!!
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Feb 12th, 2014, 10:48 AM
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Ekscrunchy, just a quick thing regarding transportation. If you want to travel by public transport, your only option to Aranda is the bus. Right now the train goes Madrid - Segovia - Valladolid - Burgos - Miranda, and then either Bilbao or SSebastian.

I would rent a car in Madrid because it will give you an extra flexibility to go to other interesting places away from the N1, such as Covarrubias or Santo Domingo de Silos.

Have a look to the website of Turismo de Castilla y Leon

There is a parador in Lerma, not far away from Aranda de Duero. Right now I cannot think of upscale hotels in the area, you might have to look into Casas Rurales

At the end of the trip I would drop the car either in Bilbao or San Sebastian and get back to Madrid by train.

Bye, Cova
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Feb 12th, 2014, 11:10 AM
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Aranda del Duero is an interesting city, but can be very busy and street parking nearly impossible. Myself, I would continue north to Lerma, which has some of the best lechazo. Try Casa Brigante (the best in the area). Another option would be to drive over to Roa and have Lechazo at Asador Nazareno, or Restaurante Raiz (http://www.disfrutaraiz.es), our second favorite stop. You can spend the night at the Parador in Lerma. It's always comfortable.

In Burgos you have the option of the AC Burgos, or the NH Palacio De La Merced. Both are basically in the center of the city and a short walk to the cathedral, a must see.

Etxebarri is very popular, people drive in from all over the Basque country, and even Navarra, for lunch, so I would book as far ahead as possible. The best place to spend the night would be Mendi Goikoa (www.mendigoikoa.com), just across the plaza from Asador Etxebarri, otherwise you might as well head on up to Bilbao.

Having a car for the first part of you trip would be best. You can set your own pace and enjoy it more. Taking the bus from Bilbao to San Sebastian-Donostia is easy and inexpensive. Taxis are available as you step off the bus in SS.

We've had the pleasure of meeting both Andoni and Pedro Subijana, they are two of the best, and have enjoyed lunch and dinner with both. If you have the time, I would make reservations for lunch at both, but not one after the other. There are a few other excellent places in Donostia to choose from, including Kokotxa, Narru, Rekondo (on a Sunday night), Zuberoa, Xarma and even Urbano.

For great food markets and restaurants, Gernika comes to mind. It's where you will find another one of our favorites, Restaurante Zallo Berri and the famous Gernika market. Another great market town in the País Vasco is Tolosa, south of Donostia. Casa Julián is the most famous asadors in the city, but there is also Asador Casa Nicolás and Fronton de Tolosa, to name just three. Casa Julián Tolosa also has a presence in Madrid at Cava Baja, 18.

And of course there is the famous Elkano in Getaria.

Remember, Bilbao also has some outstanding restaurants to choose from including Zortziko (Dani García), Etxanobe, Yandiola and of course, the Restaurante Martin Berasategui (in Lasarte-Oria), plus another dozen or more.
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Feb 12th, 2014, 12:46 PM
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WOW! Amazing info....muchisimas gracias!

We can rent car in Madrid and drive right to Lerma, booking in advance at parador there.
We could skip Aranda if Lerma/Roa has equally good lechazo.

Would it make sense to stay in the Lerma parador two nights, and make a day trip to Sto Domingo de Silos and one to Roa?

Then drive to Burgos and spend ? nights in that city?

Would we make a big "mistake" leaving out Logrono or Vitoria en route to Bilbao? (please forgive lack of appropriate accent marks..not sure how to make these!!)

Will absolutely plan to seek out great restaurants in Bilbao, and certainly will want to include Elkano and Gernika. Should I plan to visit both of these on daytrips by bus from Bilbao? (one day visit Gernika in morning to go to market, another day bus to Getaria and have lunch at Elkano?

And here I thought this would be an easy trip to plan and already my head is spinning with the thoughts of all these amazing restaurants, IN ADDITION to the lechazo!!

I cannot thank you both enough for all of the help so far!!
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Feb 12th, 2014, 03:02 PM
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Lechazo two days in a row can be overpowering, but the grilled lamb chops are just as good for the second day.

I think a visit to Santo Domingo de Silos is worth spending one extra night in Lerma.

If you arriving in Burgos in the morning, then two nights should do fine. Don't forget to try the traditional blood sausage, considered one of the best in Spain.

You can visit Getaria and Gernika by bus from Donostia, but the Euskotren now has direct service from Bilbao to Gernika in 38 minutes (http://www.euskotren.es) for €1,38 one-way.

You can check the bus schedule on Lurraldebus (http://www.lurraldebus.net/ ) for the times from Donostia to Getaria. It's an easy trip. The bus drops you off near Elkano.
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Feb 12th, 2014, 04:54 PM
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We stayed at Silken Gran Teatro in Burgos..about 80E and they have underground parking but if I remember correctly we had to pay. The hotel is just outside the old area and on the river across from the museum of Humanity. Very nice and good location. Burgos is interesting and the cathederal and bells are awesome. You might be interested in reading Grernica. It gives a good look at the civil war problems and the first ever carpet bombing of the Nazi airforce.
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Feb 13th, 2014, 05:46 AM
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Once again, thank you for all the information! I will do some research and return here!!
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Jun 9th, 2015, 08:03 AM
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I've begun to work on this portion of a trip to include these destinations, followed by time in the Basque regions. (More on this more recent thread here:


So just to start me off on the right path, so to speak, what is the opnion of those (very few here!!) familiar with the area about this plan so far? Please keep in mind that the designated driver hates to drive in foreign cities. I want to keep stressful driving to a minimum to please this person, who will return the favor by traipsing along to all the restaurants, markets, and other food stops on the itinerary.

Day 1:Arrive in MAD early morning; rent car and drive 1:30 hour north on A1 to Roa. Check in to Hotel Restaurante Raiz and have lechazo lunch at Asador Nazareno in Roa.



Day 2: Explore Roa, drive to Campaspero for lunch at Mannix; explore around that area (which villages or small towns to see??) Spend second night in Roa.


Day 3: Drive 1 hour to Burgos; spend two nights at Landa Palace (easier to park there than negotiate driving to hotel in Burgos center (??) Spend remainder of the day exploring Burgos by foot and/or taxi. Lunch or dinner at Casa Ojeda (good choice for local fare?)



Day 4: Drive 35 minutes to Covarrubias? Explore. (Clearly I have much more reaing to do on daytrips from Burgos). I've left out Lerma; big mistake? Lunch outside Burgos? Tapas in Burgos? (Must research food ofo this area, beyond morcilla and lechazo….best part of planning)

Comments are most welcome, and much appreciated!
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Jun 9th, 2015, 09:08 AM
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First of all, plan on doing a lot of walking the first few days. Lunch at Asador Nazareno followed the next day by lunch at Mannix is going to be a chore. Two lechazo lunches in two days can be overwhelming unless you're doing a lot of walking, and Roa just isn't that large. I'd park near the bullring at the end of C/Santo Dominogo and walk to the restaurant. Being it's your first day, it will help.

As nice as the Landa Palace is, it is not in Burgos, but locate along the highway as you approach from Madrid. It's on the west side, so you'll have to get of the A-1 as you approach it, or you will not be able to turn around until you go into Burgos.

I'd stay in Burgos at the AC Burgos or NH Palacio de Burgos. Both are within easy walking distance to Casa Ojeda, which is the best Asador in the city.

We've always liked Lerma, and except for during Semanta Santa, stayed at the Parador with lunch at Casa Brigante. From there, you're only a 40 minute drive from Roa, but nearly two hours from Mannix in Campaspero. When we last had lunch at Mannix, with stayed at Hotel Restaurante Raiz, and used it as a base for four days.

Raiz, by the way, also offers an excellent menu beyond lechazo. The grilled lamb chops are excellent.

Covarrubias is due east of Lerma and is an interesting little village. You'll want to visit the Roman village of Clunia Sulpicia, which is a little further south. It dates from the 1st century.

A little further south is Peñaranda de Duero, another very small village worth a stop, a few minutes at least. And if you want to continue the loop, head for Peñafiel and have lunch at Hotel Pesquera AF. But actually, I would do Peñafiel and the rest from Roa, before heading to Burgos.
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May 21st, 2016, 09:20 AM
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To Iberian Traveler, and Robert and the others who were so generous with their time in responding to my questions here:

I neglected to update this last yea, when I had to cancel this planned trip to Spain due to medical problems. I'm hoping to take the trip this year, with more or less the same itinerary. Before I go plan more (maybe I should start a new thread..??) I have one question:

Mendi Goikoa told me last year that they were not open from October through Easter unless a group books 5 rooms.

So: Are there any interesting places to stay between Burgos and Axpe? We could either spend one night after the lunch at Exteberri, or even arrive the night before and spend two nights. The town of Durango sounds decent for an overnight..maybe there, or any upscale rural hotels in the general area?
This trip will be at the end of October, so I have to be prepared for less-than-ideal weather.

Please give me your thoughts and I will work up a detailed plan for the first part of the trip, and return for advice! Thank you again.
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May 21st, 2016, 12:18 PM
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I’m assuming you plan to have lunch at Etxebarri rather than dinner (dinner served only on Saturday nights), I would go to your lodging the night before and possibly spend two nights in the area.

We’ve spent two nights (for an anniversary) at the Country Hotel Etxegana in Zeanuri, on the edge of the Gorbea Nature Park. It’s a member of Relais du Silence. It gets an 8.7 guest rating on booking.com. Very nice owners who gave us a 4x4 tour of the park. From Zeanuri it would take you an hour to reach Axpe.

Or better still, if you want to explore the Urdaibai Nature Reserve, you could stay at the Aldori Landetxea or the Urune, both south of Gernika. The Urune has just two stars but gets great reviews and is a selection of i-escape. The Aldori Landetxea is newer and more contemporary and a member of both Nekatur (a Basque casa rural) and Rusticae. They both sit in the countryside and the Urdaibai merits a day or two of exploration.

We’ve found no lodging yet in Durango that really appeals. That’s why we stay either in the Gorbea or the Urdaibai.
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May 22nd, 2016, 01:55 AM
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Go for lunch in Elkano when you stay in San Sebastián, Getaria is just a short bus ride away. Great intro to both Elkano and Getaria from 7.30 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqdjeGqnVKc

I second the idea of going to the Saturday food market in Tolosa, just South of San Sebastián. October is mushroom season de luxe, had plenty of fantastic mushroom pintxos in open air here last October. http://www.euskoguide.com/places-bas...olosa-tourism/

And the steaks in Casa Julián are to die for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOaLtnbKOos

... or you could of course have the Tolosa beans (alubias de Tolosa) in El Frontón: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAoT3fPIACc
One sol in the Guia Repsol: http://www.guiarepsol.com/en/gastron...11090-fronton/

Have never been to Mugaritz, but had a memory for life lunch in Akelarre (means witches' sabbath!) a couple of years ago for about 100€ pp. We had the "Sea garden" appetizers, the traditional and local fish and shellfish soup "a la Donostiarra", Hake and its Kokotxa with Oyster and Oyster Leaf, Grilled Iberic “Secreto” with Pepper seeds and Garlic in three different versions (we had two half main dishes on their suggestion), chocolates and a couple of glasses of wine.

I will especially remember the Akelarre version of the fabulous San Sebastián fish and shellfish soup (which usually is excellent also in "normal" restaurants up here), and the Hake and Kokotxa is perhaps the best thing I've ever eaten. This page gives you an idea: http://driftingepicure.com/2013/03/28/akelarre-review/

And pehaps have a lunch down in the Ibai basement if you can find a table: http://www.andyhayler.com/restaurant/ibai

And two Soles Casa Urola is my favorite in town since the late 80's. Last year it was voted best restaurant in the region by the major local newspaper El Diario Vasco, ahead of all the Michelin places: http://www.casaurolajatetxea.es/es/b...a-2015_11.html

And the pintxos bar on the ground floor is now perhaps the best in town: http://allaboutfoodmag.com/de_pintxos-en-casa-urola/
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May 22nd, 2016, 02:09 PM
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Thanks a million to both of you.

Robert, yes, I planned on a Saturday lunch at Extebarri. I was thinking of driving there from Burgos but I like your idea of staying in the countryside the night before. We are not hikers, though, and there is a good chance that weather will be bad, so will take that into account. Both of the hotels in Mexika look lovely, and sound like a good stopover between Burgos and Getaria. (I take it that the Grand Hotel in Durango is not as nice as you might like (???)

For starters, does this seem about right, even if rushed?

Day 1: Tuesday: Arrive MAD; rent car at airport and drive to ROA. Lunch at Asador Nazareno. Relax and sleep early at Hotel Raiz.

Day 2: Wednesday: Relax in am; leisurely drive to Campespero for lunch at Mannix. Continue on to Burgos for overnight; sleep at AC Burgos or NH Palacios hotel..any thoughts on both of these and which to choose?

Day 3: Thursday. Burgos. (Possible daytrip; Gregorian chanting only at 7pm in Covarrubias, so may not be possible if want to avoid driving after dark. Will discuss with driver of car.) Lunch or dinner at Casa Ojeda in Burgos.

Day 4: Friday: Morning in Burgos, lunch at Casa Ojeda if did not do this day before, then drive to ?Muxika; overnight at one of two hotels mentioned above, Urune or Aldori.

Day 5: Saturday. Explore rural scenery; drive to Axpe for lunch at Asador Extebarri. QUESTION: Overnight again in Muxika or drive on to next stop: GETARIA (??)

Day 6: Sunday. If arrived the day before, visit Balenciaga Museum in morning, lunch at ELKANO. Sleep just outside Getaria at Hotel Iturregi.

Day 7: Monday. Getaria. Lunch or dinner at IRIBAR (??) Sleep at Hotel Iturregi.

Day 8: Tuesday. Drive to San Sebastian. Return car and check into hotel for 5 nights.

I've not gone further than that in the planning, but probably will head for Bilbao from there, by bus or train. Stay at Hotel Carlton (??)

Kimhe: I did not yet delve into the massive amounts of reading I need to do on eating in SS. I do have Ibai on my list and I will certainly look into Casa Urola on your recommendation. I'm not sure about those the two others you mentioned; will not go to both Akellare and Mugaritz, but might get to one of these. Have to discuss with partner/driver.

I will definitely plan on the market in Tolosa on Saturday.

Please let me know what you think about the above....many thanks, yet again!!
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May 22nd, 2016, 02:10 PM
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sorry, not Mexika, but Muxika. The above post is probably riddled with more errors like that one; please forgive.
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May 22nd, 2016, 02:58 PM
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Hi Ekscrunchy,
It's that Durango is just not as charming a place to stay. It's surrounded by heavy industry, and we find the countryside not as pretty.

The Muxikda area inns, the Aldori and the Urune sit fairly close to each other as you can see by checking their locations on the map at booking.com. They both have with fairly easy access down the BI-635 that runs from Gernika to the A 8.
The drive from Aldori or Urune to Axpe would take around 30 minutes.
The views at both can’t hope to match the majestic views from the Etxegana, but both sit closer to Axpe (views being better at the Urune perched atop a hill than at the Aldori).

The Aldori’s exterior is classic Basque caserío, but with very contemporary interior décor.

The Urune also appears in Sawday’s Special Places to Stay/Spain, which we use often in our Spain wanderings.

We had a fabulous lunch at Boroa near Amorebieta with mikelg in January. One Michelin star, unforgettable views, beautiful caserío, and a fixed price weekday lunch for only €39.50. Put Boroa on your list for a return trip.

About your itinerary so far:
Day 1: fine, Nazareno is a true "lamb palace" that must be experienced
Day 2: Our lamb at Mannix was the best we've had (thus far, and we've tasted a lot of lechazo). Decor is kitsch but lamb superb.
NH Palacio has nicer interiors. AC is contemporary. Chose NH
Day 3: Lunch better at Casa Ojeda than dinner. There's also Casa Avelino with a great wine list. I'd do tapas for dinner.
Day 4: Drive to Muxika area (inns aren't in the village itself)
Day 5: Drive to Getaria
Day 6: Balenciaga museum in am. Maybe a visit to Urki txakolí bodega next door to Iturregi. Iturregi/Elkano are perfect
Day 7: Monday not good for seafood grills, as you know, since Elkano and cousin Kaia Kaipe are closed. Owner of Elkano has opened Elkano Txiki for pintxos but may not be open on Mon. I might try Asador Astillero above the gourmet shop down at the pier-family run, bookable on The Fork.
Day 8: SanSe best bay view rooms are new ones on top floor of the De Londres
After SanSe, in Bilbao we prefer the Carlton.

For Donosti dining we recommend all of kimhe's recs above, especially Urola. We haven't tried Ibai because it has no written menu, just a "carta cantada", so the final check may be a surprise given the high quality ingredients.

Urola is always our final stop, where we meet our local friends. Chef Pablo Loureiro is a member of Sukatalde, young Gipuzkoa chefs, the new generation. He used to be at Bokado. Since he's taken over Urola, it's just the best, we feel, in the Parte Vieja.

Another one soon perhaps to grab a Michelin star is Xarma, also a member of Sukatalde.
Urola, Xarma and Narru (in the Niza) are fine bets for dining that won't break the budget, especially for Xarma's weekday lunch for around 25 euros and Narru's Tues/Wed./Thurs. lunches and dinners for around 27.
Another very reasonably priced and now in the hands of the IXO group (Mugaritz) is Bodegón Alejandro. Adoni's supervision shows, and lunches are a steal.

Adoni Aduriz of Mugaritz is opening this month or soon his Topa Sukaldería, a casual restaurant featuring the Basque cuisine from the Americas. It will be in Gros on Paseo de Francia. We'll check it out next month.
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May 22nd, 2016, 03:05 PM
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Casa Urola's chef, Pablo Loureiro, used to be at Branka, not Bokado. At any rate his torrija dessert is just the best in the Parte Vieja.
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May 24th, 2016, 08:26 AM
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Thanks so very much, Robert! Somehow I missed your latest responses and neglected to thank you! Will study and return with questions…

Also, any comments on IRIBAR in Getaria? (open Monday lunch and dinner)

Kaia Kaipe seems to be open for Monday lunch, according to the Academia Vasca site (thank you so much for that mention; I had never seen the site before). If KK is, indeed open, is this a "must/" I imagine that all of these places are terrific but you have so much experience I thought I'd ask.

Astillero seems to be open Mondays…so many options!!

I've already got Xarma marked and underlined on my list. Same with Urola.

And Mirador de Ulia also caught my eye.

Carlton it will be, in Bilbao. I will check out the rooms at de Londres; I think we discussed this before when I was planning last year's trip.will try to dig out that thread so I do not duplicate questions.. I know that I can get breakfast included at the Maria Cristina via Virtuoso; not sure how valuable that perk is since we will be eating so much later in the day, but partner likes the "free" breakfasts.
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May 24th, 2016, 10:46 AM
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We've eaten at Iribar when others have been closed. It has a more upmarket decor than Asador Astillero, which is more rustic, but Astillero has water views from the front dining room. Can't say that the food is any better.

Our sources tell us that the new Elkano Txiki is closed on Mondays and off-season is only open on weekends.

Yes, you're right. Kaia Kaipe is open on Monday for lunch but closed Mon. night, according to Repsol. I remember now that we ate there for lunch on a Mon. when Asador Elkano was closed. Elkano and Kaia Kaipe are owned by the same family. KK has an upstairs dining room, plus outdoor terrace right at the pier (where we ate) and an impressive wine list.

Maria Cristina sent out a press release that from June 8-Oct 30, 3 Michelin starred Helene Darroze (Paris, London) will create a "pop up" restaurant in the hotel.
Another option for Donosti dining. So many options, so little time.

The Maria Cristina renovation was great. We haven't seen the superior rooms, but the new attic rooms at the De Londres do have sit out terraces, the only rooms that do.

A current price check for Donostia Michelin stars-Repsol suns:
Akelaŕe - 3 Michelin stars, 3 Repsol suns
Tasting menus: €175 + 10% vat

Mugaritz - 2 Michelin stars, 3 Repsol suns
Tasting menus: €185

Zuberoa - 2 Michelin stars, 3 Repsol suns
Tasting menu: €130

Martín Berasategui - 3 Michelin stars, 3 Repsol suns
Grand tasting menu: €210

Arzak - 3 Michelin stars, 3 Repsol suns
Average price: €199 + drinks and v.a.t. Tasting menu: €205

Less expensive-
Mirador de Ulía – 1 Michelin star, 2 Repsol suns
Tasting menu: €99

Kokotxa- 1 Michelin star, 2 Repsol suns
Market menu: €58 + v.a.t; Tasting menu: €82 + v.a.t.
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May 24th, 2016, 11:22 AM
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Great info Robert, and I know I have to get out of the Donostia, Getaria, Bilbao, Tolosa triangle - it almost is - and experience some new things and places in the region. Only problem, so many things that always draw me back in here...

And to all: If you haven't done it yet, take your good time for 75 minutes of fabulous and fun Munchies documentary about the Basque food culture. Starts here (five parts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Jbipbzoc1Y
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Jun 4th, 2016, 05:32 PM
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For ekscrunchy,
Every year the professional food critic, Carlos Maribona, of Salsa de Chiles (whose blog we follow) publishes his "best places in Castilla-León to eat lechazo" list.
This year's number one, Mannix
Number two, Nazareno
Number 8 is new, outside of Aranda.
It appears he prefers Casa Azofra to Casa Ojeada in Burgos, but these lists of his are always personal and subjective.

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