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The Ultimate Slovenia Itinerary – A Video!

Our Slovenia itinerary was totally epic. From summiting Triglav, the highest peak in the country, to refreshing swims in the freezing Soča River; From tasting wine in the Brda wine country, to canoeing in the spectacular Lake Bohinj. This is a video compilation of our ultimate trip through Slovenia.

To read about our epic road trip, and see the stops on our Slovenia itinerary, click here and check out this post!

Check out my fave places in Slovenia:

The perfect day in Lake Bled

A Wine Tasting in Brda Wine Country

Spending the day in Ljubljana

Summiting Triglav

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The Ultimate Slovenia Itinerary

Spending Ten Days in Slovenia

When we drove into Slovenia, I really had no idea what to expect. Before we arrived, I had to look up “best places to go in Slovenia” and I only found the beautiful blue Soča river and the quaint little capital city, Ljubljana. Turns out, there are SO MANY other things to do in Slovenia! We began our ten day road trip in Triglav National Park, named for the highest mountain in the country, Triglav. The national park boasts beautiful mountain peaks, stunning mountain valleys, and all the beauty that goes along with such a landscape. Here, you will find hiking, climbing, epic waterfalls, and of course, the intensely blue and crystal clear Soča river!

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - Soca River

There is so much to see and do in Slovenia, I made a list to help narrow it down, make it easier to plan, and inspire a little wanderlust! Here is the ultimate itinerary for a road trip through Slovenia:

 

Day one:

Try an extreme sport!

Among the best places to go in Slovenia, Bovec, I would say, is the capital of extreme activities, and the best place to begin adventures in the Soča river valley. There are so many companies in Bovec offering white water rafting, caving, canyoning, paragliding, and zip-lining excursions. We opted for a white water rafting trip with the company based out of a hostel, Hostel Soča Rocks*. Here, we found a white water rafting trip at a very reasonable €41, and the company runs the trip twice a day, so there is plenty of room and availability!

*I am not in any way affiliated with this tour company

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - White Water Rafting

Day two:

DO go chasing waterfalls!

With so many mountains, and clear, natural springs around every corner, it is not hard to find a waterfall. As you leave Bovec, south on the 203, you will see signs for Slap Boka (in Slovenian, the word for waterfall is ‘slap’). You can park on the side of the road, and take a quick 30 minute walk up through a forest, to the lookout point. The view might take your breath away!

Next, continue your drive along the 203, through the quaint village of Zaga and Sprenica, and take the exit for Kobarid. Here, you will cross over Napolean’s bridge, a beautiful, and super Instagrammable bridge, and find parking for Slap Kozjak. A 45 minute walk through yet another, beautiful forest, will bring you to the very cool lookout point of the waterfall in a cave!

Pro Tip: One of the best things to do in Slovenia is any time you see a sign that says ‘slap’ just pull over and check it out!

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - Slap

 

Day three:

Wander the boardwalks of the Tolmin Gorge and enjoy a Slovenian beer by the Soča river.

Through the town of Tolmin, past the fields, and up into the mountain valley, you will find the Tolmin gorge. Entry is €5, and well worth it. The boardwalk takes you along the river, and then turned into steps up along the cliffs. We had beautiful views, both from down next to the water’s edge, and from high above the river. The water is crystal clear, and the rocks are covered in moss and lush, green, leafy plants. It’s really something else.

After the gorge, head down across the river to the restaurant Labrca. Here, you can enjoy a Slovenian beer – it’s a must on the list of things to do in Slovenia! There are two major breweries in Slovenia, Laško and Union. They are very similar, but Laško is a bit stronger. When deciding which one to drink, we were told to think of how many you want. If you are just going to enjoy 1 or 2 beers, choose Laško. If you want to drink 3 or more, choose Union. Your body will thank you in the morning.

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - Swimming in the Soca

 

Day four:

Do a wine tasting in Brda wine country.

I bet you didn’t know Slovenia has a beautiful wine country! This is a surprise on the list of things to do in Slovenia! The Brda countryside is home to remarkable wines, and delectable cherries. In Dobrovo, you will find Klet Brda, the largest winery in Slovenia. You can do a self-led wine tasting for €12, and have a chance to taste ten of their wines! Read a story about this, the best wine tasting ever, here!

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - wine tasting

 

Day five:

Don’t forget about the quaintest capital city in Europe!

From Dobrovo to Ljubljana, the drive is about an hour and a half. There is no doubt, that this little capital city is among the best places to go in Slovenia. There is so much to see and do in Ljubljana, but of course, the best way to start your day in any city, is with a free walking tour! To read about my favourite things to do with only a day in Ljubljana, here!

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - Ljubljana

 

Day six:

Go to Lake Bled, as beautiful as it is touristy.

Yes, Lake Bled is touristy. Yes, you will spend your time there walking next to large groups of other travellers from all over the world. Yes, there is a casino on the waterfront. But, you know what? There is a reason it is so busy, and that reason is because it is so spectacularly beautiful, and easily one of the best places to go in Slovenia. Any place that is so touristy is a bit more expensive, but I was successful in remaining a cheapskate while I was there. Read about our perfect day in Bled here!

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - lake bled

Day seven and eight:

Climb to the summit of Triglav

One of the top things to do in Slovenia, according to the Prime Minister of Slovenia himself, is to climb the highest mountain in the country, Triglav. He has said that it is the duty of every Slovenian to complete the hike and reach the summit. With an altitude of 2863m, the trip requires two or three days (one if you are a seasoned trail runner), with an evening spent in one of the mountain refuge huts! There are a number of trails you can take up to the summit, some are easier than others, some are more scenic with better views, but all lead to the same place: the top! Read about how I got to the top of Triglav here!

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - triglav

 

Day nine and ten:

Go to the way less touristy and unimaginably beautiful Lake Bohinj.

Only a 45 minute drive away from Bled is the much quieter Lake Bohinj, less touristy, but still one of the best places to go in Slovenia. Here, you will find a much more wild lake, with way less people. There is a walking trail around the perimeter of the lake, and unlike Lake Bled, there will be very few people on it with you. You can also visit the waterfalls in the area, go up the Vogel gondola, or rent a canoe and paddle around the lake (In Ukanc, at the campground, you can rent a canoe for only €9 an hour!).

Things to do in Slovenia - Best Places to go in Slovenia - Lake Bohinj

 

So there you go, the ultimate list of things to do in Slovenia! Let me know below if you have comments or questions, and if you like this post, go ahead and share it!

 

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Driving through the Dolomites next? Check out one of my fave spots here!

 

At a Wine Tasting in Slovenia

After a few epic days, hiking, white water rafting, and waterfall chasing in the Triglav National park, we decided we wanted to see a totally different side of Slovenia. We hit the road, and drove down south, to wine country! Wine country? In Slovenia? “But I’ve never had a Slovenian wine,” you’re thinking. I know! Me neither! Turns out, they make wine, and the grapes are grown on beautiful rolling hills, very Tuscan-esque. We arrived in Dobrovo, an incredibly quaint little village, and home to the largest winery in Slovenia, Klet Brda. We quickly found it, and parked the van in front.

Inside, we went to the little shop and asked about the wine tasting. The young lady who worked was so nice. She explained that the tasting costs €12, and it is self led. That meant, she would give us a bit of an overview of the winery and its history, give us the tasting notes for each wine, and then let us try the wines at our own pace. She said people often stay for an hour or hour and a half! Sounds like a pretty good deal! We followed her into the tasting room. In the banquet room next door, through a temporary wall, we could hear the chatter of some kind of party, but our tasting room was completely empty. The lady gave us a brief history of the winery, the names of the various grapes, wines, and some of the techniques used. She handed us the tasting notes for each wine, and told us that all ten wines are for sale in the store. Wait a minute. Ten wines? She smiled and left the room. We found ourselves in the tasting room, on our own, just Michael, me, and ten wines to taste. Ohhhh dear.

We started with the two sparkling wines, served straight out of the bottle. We sat near the big, picture windows, and looked out over the rolling Slovenian hills. Gosh, this countryside is stunning, and so, SO different than the mountainous, rocky, and extreme Triglav National Park from where we just came. As we tasted the sparkling wines, the party in the banquet room next door, sang a Slovenian drinking song and cheers’d! We joined them in raising our glasses and cheers’d each other.

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We moved onto the whites, the six whites (!), that were served from a machine. Each bottle was connected to two buttons with an icon next to each button — one was a half full wine glass, and one was a full wine glass. You can guess which button we chose. We pressed the full wine glass button once, twice, three times. We read the tasting notes of each wine, and half pretended to follow along. I have never been that good at tasting the notes and nuances in a wine, and today was no different. Sure, after I read notes that the wine smells like kiwis and tastes like wood, the wine smells and tastes just so, but until I read it, it really just smells and tastes like wine. Every time someone walked through the room, to go to the banquet room, or through to the wine shop, we stuck our noses deep into the glasses and rambled on about tannins, the subtleties, and the tones.

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By the time we moved onto the reds, again served in bottles, we were happily pouring very healthy portions. The first red was delicious, and I opted for a second ‘taste’ before moving onto the last wine. We thought those who spent an hour and a half in that tasting room must be crazy people, but, there we were, two and a half hours later, stumbling into the wine shop.

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We paid for our tasting, and bought a few big bottles of our favourite wines. We left the winery, and went back to the van. We knew that after that much wine, neither of us could drive, so we went for a hilarious, drunken stumble around the vineyards.

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We arrived back to the van after an hour or so. There was a big parking lot across the road from the winery, and it looked flat enough, like a decent place to sleep. So, because neither of us was fit to drive, we pushed the van across the road into our perfect little parking spot. The beauty of having your bed with you at all times is that after having way too much wine, you can just fall right into it. Thanks for the epic wine tasting, Slovenia!

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At a Wine Tasting in Slovenia

(the best wine tasting I’ve ever done!)

After a few epic days, hiking, white water rafting, lake hopping, and waterfall chasing in the Triglav National park, we decided we wanted to see a totally different side of Slovenia. We hit the road, and drove down south, to wine country! Wine country? In Slovenia? “But I’ve never had a Slovenian wine,” you’re thinking. I know! Me neither! Turns out, they make wine, and the grapes are grown on beautiful rolling hills, very Tuscan-esque. We arrived in Dobrovo, an incredibly quaint little village, and home to the largest winery in Slovenia, Klet Brda. We quickly found it, and parked the van in front – it’s time for a wine tasting!

Inside, we went to the little shop and asked about the wine tasting. The young lady, Nina, who worked there was so nice. She explained that the tasting is self led and costs €12, and that people often stay for an hour or hour and a half! We followed her into the tasting room. In the banquet room next door, through a temporary wall, we could hear the chatter of some kind of party. Nina gave us a bit of an overview of the winery and its history, and handed us the tasting notes for each wine. “All ten wines are for sale in the store,” she said. Wait a minute. Ten wines? She smiled and left the room. We found ourselves in the tasting room, on our own, just Michael, me, and ten wines to taste. Ohhhh dear.

The sparkling wines…

We started with the two sparkling wines, served straight out of the bottle. We sat near the big, picture windows, and looked out over the rolling Slovenian hills. Gosh, this countryside is stunning, and so, SO different than the mountainous, rocky, and extreme Triglav National Park from where we just came. As we tasted the sparkling wines, the party in the banquet room next door, sang a Slovenian drinking song! We joined them in raising our glasses and cheers’d each other.

Wine tasting- white wine

The whites…

We moved onto the whites, the six whites (!), that were served from a machine. Each bottle was connected to two buttons with an icon next to each button — one was a half full wine glass, and one was a full wine glass. Guess which button we chose. We pressed the button once, twice, three times. We read the tasting notes of each wine, and half pretended to follow along. I have never been that good at tasting the notes and nuances in a wine, and today was no different. Sure, after I read notes that the wine smells like kiwis and tastes like wood, the wine smells and tastes just so, but until I read it, it really just smells and tastes like wine. Every time an employee walked through the room, we stuck our noses deep into the glasses and made something up about tannins, the subtleties, and the tones.

Wine tasting- the wine machine!

The reds…

By the time we moved onto the reds, again served in bottles, we were happily pouring very healthy portions. The first red was delicious, and I opted for a second ‘taste’ before moving onto the last wine. Surely, we thought, those who spend an hour and a half in a tasting room must be crazy people, but, there we were, two and a half hours later, stumbling into the wine shop. We paid for our wine tasting, and bought a few big bottles of our favourite wines. As we left the winery, we knew that after a wine tasting like that, neither of us could drive. The responsible thing to do would be to wait, and so we went for a hilarious, drunken stumble around the vineyards.

Wine tasting- drunken stumble

We arrived back to the van after an hour or so. There was a big, flat parking lot across the road, and it looked like a decent place to sleep. So, because neither of us was fit to drive, we pushed the van across the road into our perfect little parking spot. The beauty of having your bed with you at all times is that after having way too much wine, you can just fall right into it. Thanks for the epic wine tasting, Slovenia!

Wine tasting

Check out the Klet Brda website here!

Like wine as much as I do? Read a story about bicycling around wine country in Rioja, Spain!

Six things to do in Porto, Portugal

Going to Porto?

Porto is a totally beautiful city in the north of Portugal. Built alongside the huge Douro river, with views of the ocean, Porto is a perfectly picturesque place in Portugal you won’t want to miss (pardon the alliteration, but I couldn’t resist).

Here are SIX things you can do in Porto:

1) Learn too much on a free walking tour

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As always, I am a huge advocate for free walking tours (Madrid, Valencia, Florence…). The best way to see a city is to walk around it, and on a free walking tour, you get stories and fun historical facts to accompany the views. Your tour guide works on tips, so you decide how much they deserve at the end of the tour. I tend to tip €5-10 (because I am traveling for an extensive period of time and have a SUPER tight budget), but it’s up to the attendees what they pay. I like that.

We did our tour with Porto Walkers, check their website here!

 

2) Indulge in a Francesinha sandwich

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How could you go to Portugal and not eat the Portuguese food? About 50 years ago the Francesinha sandwich was invented at a cafe in Porto, and now, has become a staple dish in the city. Vegetarians and vegans look away! This is a sandwich of bread, meat, sausage, bread, meat, and sausage, wrapped in melted cheese, topped with a fried egg, served floating in beer sauce, with fries on the side. Oh. My. Gosh. It is amazing! Trust me you are probably going to want to share this sandwich. I ordered sauce on the side so I could decide how submerged I wanted my sandwich.

Cafe Santiago on R. de Passos Manuel serves an authentic Francesinha for €9.

 

3) See Porto from a different angle

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Porto is a beautiful and super colourful city. They say the buildings along the river were painted bright colours as an attempt to cheer up the women whose lovers and husbands left on the fishing boats for weeks and months at a time. My favourite view of Porto is actually from Gaia, the city across the river. It is said that the best thing about Gaia is the view of Porto from the Serra do Pilar. You can either walk across the top level of the Luis I Bridge, which is dazzling, OR walk along the bottom level and make the trek up the hill on the other side. For a view of Porto you won’t forget, head here.

 

4) Go to the beach!

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Porto is right on the Douro river, and very close to the Atlantic coast. Matosinhos is a beautiful little beachy neighbourhood that is only a 15-20 minute metro ride away from Porto. Here, you can try your hand at surfing some perfect beginner waves, have a beer on the patio of Lais de Guia, or just buy a bottle of wine and some olives at the nearby Pingo Doce, and bring it to the sand to watch the sunset!

 

5) Find out how Port Wine is made (and then drink a bunch)!

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Porto, and more specifically, the Douro valley, is the home of Port Wine. In fact, in order for wine to be classified as Port Wine, it must come from the Portuguese side of the Douro valley! The grapes are grown and processed at the vineyards, about 100km away from the city of Port (see next thing to do), and the wine is brought to the wine lodges in the city to age. Porto Walkers does a great Port Wine tour for €20 a person. You’ll see three wine lodges and taste seven wines. This is absolutely the best bang for your buck!

For more information, check out the website here!

 

6) Go to the Douro Valley (where Port Wine grapes are grown)!

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Now that you know where the Port Wine is aged and stored, it’s time to check out the vineyards where the grapes are grown! When looking at going to the Douro Valley from Porto, there are so many options online for tours you can book — a big bus takes you to the valley, you do a tour and a tasting, maybe hop on a boat and cruise down the Douro river — and the cheapest one goes for about €100 per person. The other option, is to hire a personal driver to take you and yours out to the valley for a private day. This is what we did. We booked through Maia Tours (their website here) and Ricardo gave us a personalized tour. We didn’t want to do another Port cave tour (we had done so many with Porto Walkers), and were more interested in lunch and multiple tastings, so he made that happen. He called a few wineries and made all the reservations for us. We were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! For the day with Ricardo, it was only €250 (€62.5 each for four people)!

 

Bonus activity:

Eat Port Wine ice cream at Porto Cruz!

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In Gaia, amidst all the Port Lodges and wine tours, is Porto Cruz’ ice cream shop. Here, you can sample an incredible and delicious 10 year tawny Port mixed into a perfect sorbet. I promise you will not be disappointed!!

 

Need more? Check out Five Places to Eat in Porto here!

Ten Things to do in the North of Spain

My first time in Spain, I  travelled the south and the Mediterranean coast — Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid. It was all so beautiful! I fell in love with the food, the weather, the beaches, the architecture, and the history. Spain is gorgeous! That being said, there is a lot more to Spain than the south. In fact, the north of Spain has some of the most breathtaking landscapes I have seen. The north is stunning, and I would argue wildly underrated (and under-visited).

In 2017 I spent two months driving along the north cost of Spain in a van named Vinnie. We drove into Spain along the west coast of France, and drove next to the ocean (almost) the entire way through to Portugal! Along the way, I discovered that the north of Spain is amazing; breathtaking landscapes, beautiful architecture, and rich cultures.

Here are ten things to do in the north of Spain:

 

1. Hike through the Picos de Europa

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On top of the Torre de los Horcada Rojos

The Picos de Europa is a super stunning mountain range in the north of Spain. The mountains here are perfect for hiking, bicycling, climbing, and more! The roads are beautiful to drive, the scenery is out of this world, and what better way to see a country than from the top of a mountain? We did a few different hikes while we were in the Picos de Europa. We did an easy day along the Ruta del Cares, a quick hike up to Bulnes, and a bigger hike up to the summit of Torre de los Horcados Rojos near Fuente Dé. We also did a via ferrata, which was a totally killer experience.

For more information about hiking in the Picos, check this out! And read about my via ferrata experience here!

 

2. Wander the streets of old Bilbao

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Bilbao is the capital of the Basque country. It is the home of beautiful architecture, great shopping, and delicious food. Home also, to the infamous Guggenheim museum. What? But I thought that was in New York? Yes! So did I! Turns out there is a Guggenheim in Bilbao too, and I might argue the architecture of the Spanish Guggenheim outshines that of New York (sorry to offend the beehive fans). There is much to do in Bilbao, wander around the shopping district of Indautxu, drink a tinto de verano while sitting along the too-cool street, Erronda Kalea, or just sit on any bench by the river and watch the people go by.

 

3. Eat Pintxos and drink wine in Logroño

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Logroño is the capital of the La Rioja wine region in the north of Spain. La Rioja is home to wineries that export their wine so far and wide, that I can buy a bottle in the local wine shop in my hometown of Calgary, AB, Canada. There are some big wineries here. Which means, there are lots of people, and lots of good food. Take an evening to stroll down the street of Calle San Juan and try a pintxo (pronounced peen-cho) from each place. Pintxos are tapas in the Basque language. Start at Bar Angel with a tower of garlic mushrooms and a glass of red, and at each place order a pintxo and a wine, pintxo and a wine. Then you’re doing it like a local!

4. Bicycle the wineries of Rioja

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As I mentioned, La Rioja is home to some big, beautiful wineries. There are plenty of small wineries too! Sure, you can go winery hopping by car, but what fun could that be for your sad friend who has to drive? Bicycle is the only way to get around wineries. Now, a disclaimer: some of the wineries are on top of hills, some wineries are far away from each other, we planned our route accordingly — knowing that we would have a few glasses of wine at each place, and add weight to our backpacks with the bottles purchased. We rented bicycles from Navarent (their website here), and went to as many wineries as we could in half a day. Seven tasters and five bottles of wine later, we called it a successful day!

(More tips and tricks about Rioja and wineries here).

5. Take a nature walk by the Rio Urederra

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As much as I love eating decadent food and drinking delicious wine, I feel like I can’t really get to know a place if this is my only activity. Just an hour outside of Logroño snakes one of the most beautiful places I think I have ever been, the Rio Urederra, or “The River of Beautiful Water.” This place is a magical getaway from the crowds, the bustling of the towns and villages, and the perfect place to spend a day. The walk is easy and takes about 3 hours, maybe more because if you’re like me, you will want to stop at every lookout point to take pictures.

(For more information about the Rio Urederra, read this!)

6. Challenge yourself with a surf

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The north of Spain has some of the best surf in the world! Mundaka is home to a big, sandy, consistent wave, Bakio has multiple surf schools, and Loredo has a totally HUGE beach. Surfing may not be your strong point; it isn’t mine (though I did try river surfing in Canada and didn’t make a total fool of myself), but when mother nature presents you with some of the best beginner surf in the world, you kind of have to give it a go! Plus, I wanted a good picture of me wearing a wetsuit and holding a surfboard. In almost every village and town along the north and west coasts, you can find surf schools. Some, you can stay at for a week and take lessons, and some offer one day at a time. You will, most likely, stand up on your first day. Make sure someone has a camera ready, because you’ll be back down really quick.

7. Eat the octopus in Galicia

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If there is one thing I know about Galicians, it’s that they know how to prepare octopus. Salt, pepper, paprika, and oil, grilled to perfection, and served with fresh bread. It is a definite must try! We shared a big plate in Razo, on the west coast, and the octopus was delicious. It is a really rich flavour, so I suggest ordering just one plate to share.

 

8. See a zebra at the Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno

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This wildlife park and natural reserve is built in a reclaimed mine, and unlike an ordinary zoo, gives the animals SO much room to roam. It is really beautiful. For the entrance fee of €23 (which kind of broke our daily budget), you can enter the park, drive the entire way around to see the animals, and, if you choose, take the gondolas to have a bird’s eye view of the entire park! We saw so many animals. The day we went was a bit cloudy, definitely sweater weather, and it wasn’t nearly as busy as I imagine a beautiful summer day would be. We had the gondola to ourselves!

 

9. Wander through a prehistoric cave

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The cave of El Castillo is a cave boasting prehistoric art. Man, these caves are cool. I love wandering through and imagining the human that painted the art we are looking at. El Castillo is a great cave to see. You can go through the actual cave! The tours are only in Spanish, but our guide was able to explain a bit in English. It only costs €3 to enter!

The other cave we went to is the Cave of Altamira. This also costs €3 to enter, but is just a replica of the real thing. It is still very cool to see the art and learn about the mysterious people who painted it. On Friday mornings at 10:30am, there is a lottery and the five winners get to go into the real cave! We tried our luck and didn’t win, but maybe you’ll be luckier!

10. Drink cider in Gijón

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Spain isn’t all sangrias and tinto de verano. In the northern beach city of Gijón, cider is the drink of choice. All throughout downtown are siderias, special bars that serve only cider (and food of course). It is brewed naturally and so has no carbonation. Because of this, the cider is always poured in the glass from arms length to create bubbles, and is consumed immediately while the cider is still frothy. We had no idea this was the thing. We just thought the bartender at the first sideria we went was an absolute maniac. Until we went to the next sideria, and the server poured our cider the same way.

Looking for more things to do in Spain?

Read about my Spain adventures here!

 

Bicycling around Wineries in La Rioja, Spain

If you’re like me, you like to drink wine. And if you like to drink wine, chances are you enjoy visiting wineries and enjoying wine straight from the winery itself! The La Rioja region is home to both the big, international, and the small, family-run wineries of the north of Spain. But, what’s the best way to take it all in? What’s the best way to do it? How can you make sure you drink the most wine possible? Here are some tips and tricks for the La Rioja wine region.

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Reserve a spot

All wine regions are different. In the Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada, you can just show up to the winery, pay $5 to taste the wines, and if you buy a bottle, you get your $5 back! In Tuscany, Italy, you have to book wine tours ahead of time and must plan your route according to when they are open and available. In La Rioja, it’s a mix of both. To go to the bodega (wine shop) and taste a few wines to buy a bottle, you can just show up (this will not be a full tasting one would get at the end of a tour, but would be a more casual tasting of wines you are interested in buying). If you want a winery tour and an official tasting of the wine, you must reserve ahead. Most winery websites have a “contact us” section where you can book online. It’s way easier to make a reservation over the phone! Just call and ask “habla englais?”

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Getting around

Sure, you can go winery hopping by car, but what fun could that be for your sad friend who has to drive? In my mind, biking is the only way to get around wineries. Logroño has a city bicycle system and the tourist office allows tourists to take a bicycle for free for a day! Great deal, right? Except that the bicycle system hasn’t been upgraded probably since its inception, and the bicycles are not AT ALL maintained. No pedals, no brakes, no seat, no tire. No. Just no.

Instead of wasting time with a free death trap, head to Navarent (access their website here). The man who helped us speaks great English, was so accommodating, incredibly helpful, and gave us a few pointers about our route. The cost for a full day was a bit out of our budget, but a half day was €15. For a bicycle that worked, I felt like it was great value.

***Disclaimer: some of the wineries are on the top of hills, some wineries are far away from each other, we planned our route accordingly — knowing that we would have a few glasses of wine at each place, and add weight to our backpacks with the bottles purchased.

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Which wineries?

My absolute favourite tour was to Campo Viejo (this is the aforementioned winery on top of a hill). This winery is built inside the hill for engineering and sustainability reasons, and has won awards for design and architecture. It really is something spectacular. The tour of Campo Viejo costs €10, and you get to see the building, how the wine is made, and enjoy five (!) tastings of wine (their website here).

The must-see in Rioja is the Marques de Riscal. Next to this winery is the hotel Marques de Riscal, an absolutely stunning building designed by Frank Gehry. This alone is worth the trip to the winery. It is really a beautiful piece of art, and, if you have €300+ sitting around, you could spend a night here! The tour was great, super in-depth about the winery and the winemaking process, and of course, ended with tastings of two full glasses of wine. This tour is €12 (their website here)

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I hope this article has put a few ideas into your head. Have a fun time in Rioja, Spain! And as always, comment below with questions or your favourite wineries to visit!

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The Perfect Bicycling Day in Tuscany

May 18, 2017

You know, we’re not ‘cyclists’ by any means, we’re just going on a really uncomfortably long bicycle ride through the rolling hills of Tuscany: Siena to Montalcino to Pienza, and back. That’s why we don’t use the word ‘cycling’, and instead, we say ‘bicycling’. It’s different. Cycling is with Lycra and teeny tiny thin tires. Bicycling is with Lululemon outfits and batteries to help us get up hills. I can’t imagine this bicycle ride without this electric bike. We were going uphill at 20km/hr!

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We bicycled and bicycled. Today felt like a total breeze compared to yesterday. Knowing we were only going 30km today (as opposed to yesterday’s 50!) made everything feel just a little easier. We arrived at San Quirico d’Orcia and decided that this would be our place for lunch. We pulled up to the old town wall, where we saw an unassuming stone staircase leading up to one of the turrets. We parked our bikes, locked ‘em up, and brought our picnic lunch up to the top. There, we sat and ate our €15 lunch with our €1million view. The prosciutto, the pecorino, the fresh bread. The orange, the banana. Oh my gosh, it all tasted so much better sitting on top of a fortress wall, looking out over ALL OF TUSCANY! Everyday is an adventure. And every meal can be five star.

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Photo by @mikeyquicky

We stopped again when we arrived in Bagno Vignoni, with hopes of finding a hot spring to swim in! This place is known for its huge Roman bath, and all the blogs and reviews celebrated the free hot springs open to tourists! We bicycled up the long, windy hill, and arrived at the top, only to find that no, in fact, there is no swimming allowed in the bath. If we couldn’t partake in any free hot springs, we would have expensive gelato instead! I had stracciatella, a sweet milk-based gelato with chocolate pieces swirled into it. Oh boy, I do love some gelato.

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We left Bagno Vignoni and after a breezy bicycle uphill (thanks electric bike!) arrived in Pienza. We found our AirBnB quite quickly, as it is right on the edge of the old town and the old town of Pienza is teeny tiny. This evening, we decided we would have a picnic for dinner. We went across the street to a market and bought some meat, cheese, the most beautiful tomato you’ve ever seen, and some antipasto. We asked the man at the market if they sold porchetta, a pork dish Pienza is famous for, and he laughed, “no, we do not have enough room.” Huh? He told us where we could buy some in the old town.

We found the place and when we went inside, the salty smell of cured meat filled our noses. There, behind the display glass, was an entire pig, roasted, cured, salted, and cut in half. Ohhhhhh, that’s why he didn’t have enough room at the last place, because porchetta is an ENTIRE PIG! We ordered our porchetta and the old Italian lady working behind the counter hand sliced three beautiful pieces.

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We had the most perfect picnic ever this evening. The tomato, the cheese, the meats, the antipasto, the wine, the view! Oh, the view. I may have a sore butt from bicycling, but I have a glowing heart. I’m truly having the time of my life.

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