Dear PMC Members
We continue our journey after disembarking our Scenic cruise, with a flight from Nice to Madrid where we were joined by 6 more PMC members.
Our private luxury coach , driver and a tour director (a colleague of Sharyn’s who has his own travel business and lives in Spain) collected us directly from the Madrid airport and we travelled 3 hours north to Abalos.
Ábalos is a small village situated in the southern foothills of the Sierra Cantabria, in the heart of the Rioja Alta region. The village combines with San Vicente de la Sonsierra and Briñas to form the area known as Sonsierra.
The sunny location adds a special attraction for the hikers who love to wander through this village of ancient ancestral houses. One of its biggest attractions is the centre of the village, together with its fine natural setting, dotted with countless vineyards and wineries, both family-owned and commercial.
The country around Ábalos is divided between the Ebro Valley in the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria, with its native poplar trees and brush, and the actual mountain range, characterised by its various species of oak tree. Local animal life consists largely of river and mountain species of bird.
Like all the hotels on this 19 day tour, this was the first of the small boutique hotels we were to experience and we had the entire hotel to ourselves. We were fortunate to have a cooking demonstration of five typical Spanish dishes provided by the chef. Quite a yummy experience.
An early morning rise next morning for our hot air balloon ride over the area of vineyards, gardens and small churches perched on top of hill tops. An absolutely wonderful experience floating up thru the clouds and setting an amazing scene of the sun streaming down and our balloon gliding smoothly across the clouds sipping on champagne.
Lunch today was a gourmet 6-course degustation menu paired with the wine from this Bodega Baigorri winery.
This was by far one of the finest wineries any of us have ever visited either at home or overseas.
We were also given a private tour of the winery and were amazed at the 6 different floor levels where production took place.
As the days in summer are light for much longer, this allows people to enjoy the long days and not so hot time of the day to do more sightseeing. The small walled medieval town in La Rioja provided us the opportunity to walk around at leisure.
Our tour was at a leisurely pace with two night stays at each destination enabled the group to relax and actually enjoy the villages and cities we visited. Unlike commercial tours , our PMC tour had complete flexibility with our itinerary and with our day tours’ starting at 830am.
Our stop in Segovia was certainly a highlight for many of the group. Our hotel being part of the San Antonio El Real Monastery, a national monument of a beautiful city deemed as a World Heritage Site, near the Segovia Aqueduct.
This aqueduct was built by the Romans carrying the source of the water supply for the city from the nearby mountains. It stretches to a double story as it comes down into the city centre and certainly a magnificent structure of centuries gone by.
Our meals certainly provided us opportunity to be able taste the local cuisine. Our dinner in Pedraza(one of Spain’s most beautiful walled towns ) was a typical Asado dinner. This is their local roasts (pig or lamb or fish) that were slow cooked in wood fuelled ovens (like a huge pizza oven). The entire roast pig or lamb was plated and you selected what parts you wanted and then ate off the bone. This was delicious!!!
The visits to the Alcazar fortress, La Muralla and the Jewish quarter, San IIdefonso Gardens (based on the Versailles in France) all gave the group further opportunities to see historical buildings at their best.
‘Til next time
Cheers, Beers and Sangria!!