Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Day 18 Off to La Guardia. Not the Airport, the City on the Hill. With Wine!

Altar of the church of St Mary, LaGuardia, Spain
Vineyards in Rioja

More of that and then some!
Do you know that song Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Okay, I won't blame those of you who think it is a reference to Mr. Parris and me. But my point is, why do people who are not beach people go to the beach...in the late fall when you cannot swim anyway? Good question. And I think I have the answer. So they can LEAVE the beach! Yes, and go looking for adventure off the beach. See, it all makes perfect sense. So we sensibly left this morning to tour the Rioja region of Spain since someone who will not be mentioned (but will ponder at the end of the entry) can explore the world of enology.
We were greeted at 9 am by a wonderful guide, Joseph. We thought this would be a group tour but instead it was a threesome. Fine with me! He lived in the US for 4 years and speaks good English... because he lived in Iowa. Which brings me to another nagging question...Why is it that all these prolonged green card holders/exchange students end up in some strange place like Moline, Iowa or Petrous, Tennessee? We met a really nice man in Zimbabwe who lived in South Dakota! Go figure. 
My aside being put aside, we didn't really know what the "program" was exactly, but it began with a two hour drive to one of the more famous wine producing regions of Spain. Sure enough, when we wet above 500 meters altitude, the whole countryside turned into a bodega. And Paul started to salivate and sniff the air!
Our first of two stops was La Guardia. This is a city on the hill that has literally hundreds of wine caves (bodegas) underground. Everyone has one beneath their house. It is walled city commissioned by the King of Navarre in 1164. And the walls are still standing and in good condition. The narrow streets wind just as they did in the 12th century and no cars!
A look out over the rooftops of La Guardia

The streets of LaGuardia. Kind of like the boarding tunnel at the airport?
The first stop on the tour was OF COURSE in any Spanish town, the church of Santa Maria and the King. This is a really special church though comparatively speaking because they have a portico very well preserved made of carved stone that depicts a good bit of the New Testament, and centers on the assumption of Mary. It's unbelievable that it has weather centuries and stayed in such good condition.
Mary, the twelve apostle and the non-apostolic Paul entering the cathedral next to the depiction of the Apostle Paul. Mary ins in the center. There are biblical scenes above the central Madonna.
The inside was also very ornate. They had a nativity marionette area for Christmas which is a permanent installation and definitely not a standard Catholic church feature. They also have an effigy of the crucified Christ, very deathlike (not life-like at all) that rotates from church to church in the region annually. The guide told us that in order to explain the sacrifice completely, on Easter weekend, they stage a "realistic" crucifixion in the church holding the effigy on Good Friday. The other churches of the area attend. As the guide says, "It's very hard to watch it." I will spare you the
photo, because it would also be disturbing. After the church, we viewed the town tower, a military installation. Then we went to a very local winery. It is the only one still making wine inside the city.
The vat for the grapes at LA Fabulista winery.
The winery was the home of the fabulist, Samsaigo and so the name of the winery is La Fabulista. They harvest by hand, squish em by foot and drink by mouth! Good formula. This is a small production winery.
The bodega. There are over 300 in LaGuardia. They were not originally used for wine. Original use--underground hiding places in medieval times. They connect the city underground.
The tasting
The tasters. The bottles have cartoons of fables on the label.
The wine was really interesting. They have "young wines" that have only in the bottle for about 3-6 months. Their oldest wine stayed in French oak for 18 months and cost about $20. They young wine was $5.
Our lunch spot where the owner chose the menu and fed us like stock ready for the slaughter. He had his own personal bodega which I believe made Paul a bit envious!
After an excess of lunch, we went to one other bodega which we did not tour. But we did get a garner at the hotel designed by Frank Gehry. WOW!

Great architecture. Bet the engineers hate him!

Seriously? This is like building this in White Pine. See next photo.
This is the countryside behind the hotel with a bit of its roof in the foreground.
From here it was back to the hotel and the waterfront for dinner. Hey , even non-beach people can appreciate this sunset!
Sunset around  9pm on Playa La Concha

City view at sunset

Dinner locations--Hotel Londres
Paul's Ponderings:  A great day out in Rioja, a huge wine region.   The medieval town of LaGuardia was a real find and presumably not named after the former mayor of New York City!  We tasted some very local and fabulous wines  and had a great personalized guide to enjoy it with.   Tomorrow it is back to Madrid and we begin to see going home in the distance.

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