Haro – Capital of Rioja Alta

I know I’ve said it before but it always amazes me how you just drift on over the Border and into Spain, no whistles or bells! Boom, you’re in another Country!!

The scenery on the northern side looks neither French nor Spanish. It’s mountainous and the road networks are nothing short of amazing. How the heck they built some of those bridges over incredibly deep ravines and gorges beats me. We hung a left and started heading inland just after San Sebastián. It was a toughie not stopping off for at least one night to sample the delicious Pinxtos (Basque style Tapas), my all time favourite food. We had to be strong! This route through the middle of Spain can be quite bleak and boring once you get over the scenic high bits. It’s just miles and miles of flat, barren looking land with evidence of industry here and there. You can veer off to the left and see Pamplona if you fancy or just stick to the quickest route down to Portugal which is via Salamanca. We’re going off piste a bit and into Rioja country today. We’re aiming for Haro, northwest of Logrono, a town completely devoted to the wine trade. I’m quite excited about seeing a new place and this spot comes highly recommended. The landscape suddenly changes dramatically from the dull, dusty plains to dramatic rocky outcrops with green hillsides and lines of colourful red-gold vines. The vines are wearing their Autumn jackets now, it all forms a pretty spectacular picture. The Rio Oja that gives its name to Rioja is running far below the road to our right, it’s almost like entering a film set. As you approach Haro, you see evidence of the wine trade almost immediately. We had been warned that it’s mainly a modern, working town these days with a few lovely reminders of its grand past if you look beyond that. Their wine harvest is in September so things have started to quieten down now in preparation for Winter. We would love to come here for their annual Batalla del Vino Festival when thousands of locals climb to the top of the Riscos de Bilibio mountain on the edge of town and drench each other in wine!! Probably not one to get dressed up for. Just wear your scruffs and stand with your mouth open!

We drove in past a couple of large Bodegas with huge impressive sculptures outside and found the campsite easily. It’s a nice little site. Bear in mind just before ferry days from Bilbao/Santander it gets very busy as it’s an ideal stop off on the way home. We were quite lucky to get a spot. It’s worth booking ahead if you can. We paid €20 a night with the ACSI card.

Met lovely folk, Angela and Paul in their humongous (very handsome) RV. This lady sure can drive, she manoeuvred that beast into the tightest spot ever without even batting an eyelid. Respect to you girl!

My first job, as mundane as it sounds, was laundry. I did a huge load and piled it in the industrial sized dryer, looking forward to sweet smelling, fluffy bedding. Always a bonus on a good campsite. Ten euros and 2 hours later it was still flippin soaking, (Fellow travellers note, very dated laundry facilities!!) Anyhoo, not to worry, I soon had a washing line hitched between two trees. A few pegs and we’re sorted. Could have saved my tenner. (Threatened to nip it round to Paul and Ange’s uber posh van as they have plumbed in appliances, how cool is that!! I have serious van envy!!).

It was late afternoon by this time, it was still warm and sunny so we decided to have a walk into town. We hung a left over the bridge and up the hill to the main square, Plaza de la Paz. Smashing little place.

It’s on a fair slope, with a bandstand in the centre, overlooked by rather grand, balconied, mansions. The small, old quarter is attractive if not a bit faded. The narrow backstreets lead up to the Renaissance church of Santo Tomas with its tower that resembles a big wedding cake. There are a handful of restaurants and a few small, typical bars. The main town outside the historic square has a few decent shops. One very nice dress purchased and another hat. Result.

The main attraction of Haro is of course the wine. If you are genuinely interested, (in anything other than supping it!), the Museo de la Cultura del Vino is definitely worth a visit. It’s at the Dinastia Vivanco Bodega just outside Haro, you pass it on your way in on the route from Logrono. You can easily spend half a day here. It does guided tours as well as tasting ( don’t panic Captain Mainwaring, you do get a drink!) and has a well stocked shop so you can purchase a few of your favourites. If you can only fit one Bodega in, this is the best choice for an all round experience. There are plenty of Bodegas to choose from though. Just hang a left out of the campsite and head towards the train station. Some need booking but others you can just drop in at. I was well impressed by the quality of the wine. I’ve obviously been buying the wrong stuff!! We purchased a couple of Crianzas to glug and a more expensive reserve Rioja to save for when I can get my hands on some decent steak.

Back to the van then, one step forward, two steps back, just a tad worse for wine. Thank heavens I’d prepared dinner earlier and left it in the slow cooker. It’s Halloween! We’re all trimmed up and spooky like. I’ve carved my pumpkin already, good job really as I can’t feel my fingers right now, I might lose a digit🤣 He’s perched on the dashboard looking mighty fine (he’s had every hat I own on so far, such a stylish 🎃). We’re dining on lamb, potato and pumpkin curry tonight. Yummy. Need to soak up some of that booze, let’s dish up.

Hitting the road again in the morning. Two nights here has re-kindled our passion for ‘real’ Spain. Can’t wait to see some more of it. Sending Mark out trick or treating now though as we’ve run out of chocolate.

Catch up with you guys somewhere down that road. For now I shall bid you Adios, and Buenas Noches. 😴 Thanks for following friends. Hope you enjoyed Haro ❤️🍷🍷🍷

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