La Rioja: my cycling, sunshine and wine tasting adventure!

A cycling adventure with sunshine, mountains, new friends and a lot of Spanish wine. What’s not to like?

Cycling by the Najerilla River

Cycling by the Najerilla River – this is one of the most beautiful stretches of road I have ever ridden

With the nights drawing in and everything getting a bit cold, damp and muddy, I’m looking back to sunnier rides!

Earlier this year I was invited to join Exodus Travels Cycling in Rioja  adventure – five days cycling (a manageable 250km in total, on and off road on sturdy 29″ hardtails) from Burgos and following the Najerilla river to the Rioja region and its vineyards, followed by a day in Bilbao.

 

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Empty roads, big Spanish mountains – a perfect combination and a truly awe inspiring ride. I never tired of this road!!

 

More empty roads, much sunshine.

More empty roads, hills and sunshine.

We joined a group of riders from the UK and Australia, and made some fantastic new friends in the process. To be honest before I set off I wasn’t  sure I wanted to go on holiday with a bunch of strangers – but any doubts I had had were blown away by the company of these lovely people. I also learnt some new words from my Antipodean mates – smoke-o (a tea break) and slippery-dip (a water slide) being the only two that are repeatable in polite company. Needless to say, we did a lot of laughing as well as cycling and wine tasting!

Learning to speak Australian.

Learning to speak Australian.

We also enjoyed the knowledge and support of our local (and rather handsome) guides, as well as staying in some beautiful family owned hotels.

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Our lovely guides and their very big map

 

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A big view

Northern Spain is blessed with a warm climate, lots of sunshine (though when it rains, it really really rains!), quiet roads and beautiful mountains. Consequently, as you can imagine, it was a joy to ride there.

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Vineyards, cycling, sunshine – a good combination :).

It was also a pleasure to sample the wines of the La Rioja region at the vineyards we visited. Some are small, some a little more showy – this one, for instance, was designed by Frank Gehry.

A vineyard designed by Frank Gehry.

A vineyard – designed by Frank Gehry.

 

Wine - Spanish, obviously.

Wine tasting – just the one for me, thanks

I’m no expert on wine but some of my new Aussie mates were, and the penultimate night saw us enjoy a ‘taste off’ between one of the finest wines of the La Rioja region, and a wine of similar standing that they had bought over from Australia. That, I can assure you, was a good night (and I would note which wine won – if only I could remember).

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The Guggenheim Art Gallery in Bilbao – possibly the most beautiful building I have ever seen.

Finally a day and night in beautiful Bilbao. The incredible Guggenheim gallery (again designed by Frank Gehry) is a must-see, and I really enjoyed the very moving Louise Bourgeois exhibition that we saw there. We also spent several hours exploring and drinking coffee in the old town. It’s quite a small city so you can see a lot in a day, either on foot or by hiring a bike.

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And the views in Bilbao are pretty good looking the other way too.

We spent the evening by the river too, enjoying a Festival of light and a lot of delicious Pintxos (the region’s tapas!) – this time washed down by lots of Spanish beer!  By the way, the food here is amazing and, compared to the UK, eating out is relatively inexpensive.

What a wonderful adventure, stuffed with so many great memories: if you haven’t ridden in this area or visited Bilbao, I recommend that you do. 🙂

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Festival of Light, Bilbao

 

The Guggenheim in Bilbao at night.

The Guggenheim in Bilbao at night.

Photography by Paul Mitchell, holiday by Exodus Travels, enjoyment of Spain, cycling and wine by me.

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