This summer I'm making a trip to Spain with a few select friends. I'm calling it my Spanish 'dream' journey and invite those of you interested to come along. Let me share the highlights with you.
The trip is planned for August 14th thru 28th, precisely 14 days and 13 nights. The journey starts with 6 nights in Galicia, on the rugged northwestern coast of Spain above Portugal with the best seafood in the world, a breathtaking coastline and dozens of beautiful beaches with cold, rich waters that chill the body and refresh the soul!
Another 4 nights in the high Rioja wine country in a little bed and breakfast owned by my good friend, Jose Joaquin Sanz, in Torrecillas en Camero (Google it) and from there visits to some of the most prominent wineries in Spain (including the famous Gehry designed 'Bodegas Marques de Riscal'), as well as a day trip to San Sebastian a beautiful, regal city on the coast of the Bay of Biscayne in the Basque country.
And 3 nights in Madrid. The Madrid portion of the trip includes lunch in Segovia under the famous aqueduct at Casa Candido where they brag about cooking the best 'Cochinillo' (roast suckling pig) and 'Cordero Asado' (lamb) in all of Spain, that is so tender you can cut it with a serving plate. Also included is a day trip to Toledo, the home of El Greco and cradle of the 3 most important Iberian cultures - Moors, Jews and Castilians.
We leave directly from Dulles non-stop to Madrid (Iberia has just inaugurated direct flights at very good prices) and from there transfer to a one hour flight to the coast of Galicia. In Galicia we land at Vigo airport and rent a vehicle (largest self-chauffeured, rental vehicle fits 8 so we will limit the travelling group to that number).
The southern Galician coast is broken down into 3 "estuaries" ('Rias Baixas') which are similar to bays yet more like the fjords of Norway or the coast of Maine. They reach out into the sea for kilometers (see map) with marvelous, clean, sandy beaches interspersed with rocky shorelines and all along them excellent eating places right off the beach. The 3 'Rias' are: the 'Ria de Vigo, Ria de Pontevedra and Ria de Villagarcia'. During our stay we'll visit all 3 of these estuaries and travel the length and breadth of their extension out into the sea. Activities will include a trip to the castle and Parador in Baiona, a meal at the 'Mercado de la Piedra' in Vigo where elderly ladies shuck oysters while you order the most spectacular seafood platter you've ever tasted. At the foot of the 'Ria de Vigo' is the Castle of Sotomayor which, for a time (in the 1600s) was owned by my family, and the town of Arcade where they take your order for oysters and bring them directly from the bay waters that surround the town.
Also as part of the itinerary is a trip to the Island of Cies which boasts one of the finest beaches in all of Europe. On the northern side of the Vigo estuary (past Cangas de Morrazo) there is a magnificent wild nudist beach (attendance optional!!) with sweeping vistas (of the coastal scenery!!).
My family is all from the 'Ria de Pontevedra' which, to my mind is the most beautiful of the 3 'Rias'. On the south side are sheltered smaller beaches with warmer waters and cozy restaurants under grape vines within stepping distance of the sea. My father was born on the north side of the 'Ria' from the town of Sanxenxo in what was once a fishing village and is now one of the major resorts in the north of Spain.
I grew up in the town of Sanxenxo and my grandmother had a hostel and marketplace on the beach. The home has been razed to make way for an 8 story apartment, but the town still keeps its charm. 'Playa Silgar, in the town center remains an impressive beach and in the summer is flooded with tourists.
Further out facing the Atlantic Ocean, at the very edge of the Ria de Pontevedra, is La Lanzada beach. There are a number of convenient and comfortable hotels for under $100 a night on this coastline where we can book rooms for our nights in Galicia. Close to La Lanzada beach is El Grove and La Toja island. El Grove is a quaint fishing village with renown cuisine and La Toja is famous for its casino and the soaps it exports worldwide. On the other side of La Toja begins the Ria de Villagarcia. The primary beach on the edge of that Ria is 'Las Dunas de Corrubedo". This is another wild ocean beach surrounded by grass covered dunes. The beach is various kilometers long and ideal for hiking and swimming. At the base of the Ria de Villagarcia is the town of Carril where they specialize and are famous for their clams and clam dishes. From this 'Ria' it is a short haul to the town of Padron which gives its name to the famous peppers, "Pimientos de Padron", also a famous delicacy from the region. And from Padron it's a short hop to Santiago de Compostela. No trip to Galicia is complete without a stop in the pilgrim's capital.
So that's what this trip is all about. A tour of lower Galicia and the 'Rias Baixas', a stay in the high Rioja with hikes, visits to wineries, a day trip to San Sebastian and small town festivities along with visits from Madrid to the 2 most iconic towns on the Castilian meseta, Segovia and Toledo.
All of this must be finalized by the end of February so reservations can be made and airplane tickets purchased. The cost of this 2 week vacation will range somewhere around $4 to $4.5K depending on a number of variables. There are already 3 or 4 people who have signed up to go. If you like the idea, are curious or just want to inquire, contact me off line.