We enjoyed many wine-based lunch and dinners in a variety of restaurants and tapas bars, including some stunning one- and two- Michelin Star restaurants. On this trip we travelled 2,000km – from Barcelona to Pirorat to Rioja to Ribera del Duero to Madrid.
I arrived in Barcelona on September 18, a day earlier than the rest of the members the club, and checked into Hotel Claris, located close to the main thoroughfare La Rambla.
The hotel features 124 rooms and suites, all individually designed and modern with a fresh look. In the afternoon I took the hop-on, hop-off bus, which is easy to use and stops at various places of interest, such as Sagrada Familia, an unfinished church for the past 100 years, as well as the Paul Guell park and of course the famous museum of Picasso and Miro.
The eponymous Museum of Gaudi is an exhibition that tells us all about the artist’s private life and religious beliefs. Antonio Gaudi lived from 1852 to 1926 and was great at creating sculptures and monuments, some of which are illustrated in various places around Barcelona. His devotion to the church has been displayed in his house, as well as a portrayal of some recreational and private rooms.
On the evening of September 19, I met my new wine friends from Phuket and enjoyed some local bubbly on the rooftop of the hotel. We later adjourned to Bodega 1900 for some mouthwatering, savouring, innovative tapas, accompanied with some, of course, excellent white and red wine from the region.
Any major food and wine consumption needed proper digestion so the following morning I decided to walk down Les Ramblas to the waterfront and took a cable car to the highest hill in the area to capture the overall view of this fascinating and clean city.
The weather was a pleasant 25º Celsius with a light wind, so it was fairly comfortable. On Sunday evening, we met on the roof terrace of the hotel where we enjoyed some more bubbly at sunset before heading to the very popular Catalana Tapas bar nearby. One cannot reserve a table here, so we simply had to cue for 45 minutes to get a table. But, it was worth the wait and some fantastic wine and food was served.
On the Monday, our wake up call was at 7am, ready for our trip aboard a chartered luxury bus which drove us to Pirorat, one of Spain’s oldest wine growing areas. We visited El Llorar vineyard for wine tasting and had lunch in the fabulous El Celler del’Aspic nearby. Later in the afternoon, we arrived at Hotel del Compte, a small country boutique style hotel in a small village with 300 inhabitants, located on a steep slope next to the church in Torroja. It was a mesmerising setting, with the nearby hills covered in vineyards and olive trees. In the afternoon, besides chilling out and enjoying an array of beverages from the region, we had the opportunity to try out and learn some Spanish cooking or taste the various olive oils and its production; another great day had by all.
The following morning at 9:30am we drove through a beautiful landscaped hillside onto the motorway to Zaragoza, where we enjoyed ourselves at the Birolla 4 tapas bar. We started off with some delciois Gazpacho, followed by some Foie Gras and then a rice dish and mushrooms. We had lamb for mains and for dessert, we indulged in some caramel custard with a fig sauce; a happy afternoon in all and we celebrated with a much needed snooze on the bus.
Stay tuned for the conclusion to be published in next week’s issue