Hola! Welcome to Spain. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. For those who arrive early, perhaps explore the streets of the old Gothic Quarter, check out the Picasso Museum, wander the tree-lined pedestrian boulevard of La Rambla, or take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for some incredible views. After the meeting, jump straight into your Real Food Adventure by feeling the rhythm of Barcelona, sipping a locally produced cava or vermouth in a local bar then perhaps continuing on a tapas crawl, tasting rustic bite-sized Catalan dishes.
This morning, get ready for a truly authentic introduction to Catalan cuisine with a passionate Barcelona local and respected chef. Taste your way through the stalls of Santa Catarina Market and pick up some fresh ingredients for a cooking demonstration. Hang out with the stall holders as you select the best piece of meat, feel for the crispest vegetable and choose the freshest seafood. Afterwards, your host will show you how to whip up some Catalonia specialties, like salt cod salad or crema catalana, then sit down to a leisurely lunch accompanied by a glass or two of wine from the nearby Penedes region. Spend the afternoon exploring more of the city's food hotspots or get cultural with some Gaudi at the Casa Mila or La Sagrada Familia. Maybe get lost in the mysterious alleys of the Gothic Quarter and finish the day with a sip of red wine from a Porron – a traditional glass pitcher.
Ride the rails east to the prized vineyards of the La Rioja wine region and Logrono (approximately 3.5 hours). Logrono sits on the banks of the Ebro river and is the capital of Spain’s most renowned wine region. It also boasts one of the most distinguished culinary traditions in the country and is home to some of the best tapas bars in the whole of Spain, all crammed into its small medieval centre. Logrono is a charming city of medieval fortifications, where much work is being done to restore it to its full glory. This evening you’ll go on a walking tour of the Old Quarter, wandering down Calle del Laurel and the 60 or so taperias (tapas bars) that line the way. This is the perfect opportunity to sample a bit of everything, as each bar has its own speciality – taste your way through some grilled chorizo or wild mushrooms, and wash them down with a glass of the region’s famous red.
This morning you’ll stop past the Logrono market where you might like to pick up some treats for a picnic lunch later. Then take a local bus (approximately 30 minutes) and go back in time in the historic walled town of Laguardia, perched atop a rock foundation. The entire centre of Laguardia is traffic free as underground lies a maze of tunnels, used to make and store wine for centuries. Here you’ll tour Laguardia's wine caves and then enjoy a guided tasting through some of the region's distinct varietals. Later in the afternoon, transfer to the stunning seaside San Sebastian – jewel of the Basque country and a city obsessed with food (approximately 2 hours). Take an orientation tour of the Parte Vieja (Old Town) – a mix of alleyways wedged between the bay and the Urumea River. This evening perhaps join your leader for an optional tour of the neighbourhood streets for a txikiteo of pinxtos, a Basque-style tapas crawl that will fill the senses – and stomach – with the unique flavours of the region. Don’t forget to wash them down with txakoli – a slightly fizzy white that’s the region’s signature wine.
One of the secrets to the success of San Sebastian’s food scene is the obsession with high quality, local, seasonal ingredients. The best way to experience this firsthand it to visit the traditional food markets of La Bretxa or San Martin, and you’ll do just that this morning before a masterclass in Basque cuisine. In this hands-on cooking class, you’ll learn how to prepare some of the signature dishes of the region, and you’ll also taste Basque products including idiazabal – a local cheese, and txakoli – a lightly sparkling dry white wine. The afternoon is free you to explore the town or surrounding area more. Perhaps catch a cable car to Monte Igueldo for some truly spectacular views or take a trip along the winding coast to the nearby small fishing village of Getaria. Maybe discover San Sebastian’s beaches, shops and charismatic streets, or dive into pinxtos bars that range from the traditional to the experimental.
Continue east to Bilbao (approximately 1 hour) – a city that was revitalised by the arrival of the Guggenheim Museum. Spend some free time perhaps visiting Frank Gehry’s sweeping metal building and the artistic treasures housed inside and out. Afterwards, climb by bus (approximately 3 hours) up to the Picos de Europa National Park. The park is not what many people picture as Spain – it’s an alpine landscape, high, cool, lush and green, with forests, deep gorges through the cliffs, and grassland dotted with photogenic toffee-coloured cows. Covering some 647 square kilometres, Picos de Europa is Spain's second largest national park and spans across the three provinces of Asturias, Cantabria and Leon. For dinner, a classic Cantabrian dish is on the menu – Cocido Lebaniego. Cocido Lebaniego is a rich, hearty stew of black pudding, pork shoulder, chorizo and locally grown chickpeas. Enjoy a cooking demonstration followed by your own cocido tasting. Be sure to enjoy your dinner with some crusty bread and a glass of cider.
This morning, enjoy a walk through the stunning Picos de Europa National Park (approximately 2 hours), working up an appetite for the day's tasty activities. Head to the small mountain town of Potes, nestled in the National Park. Bordered by ancient monasteries, Potes is brimming with centuries of history, and is a quaint tapestry of bridges, narrow streets and old houses. You will arrive in time to experience the wonderful weekly food market, where you’ll enjoy a market brunch. Depending on the season, you may get to savour locally grown apples, cherries, tomats, olives, asparagus, or walnuts. On the way to Oviedo, the ancient capital of the region, drive to the charming hillside village of Arenas de Cabrales (approximately 1 hour). Here there’s the opportunity to taste famous Cabrales cheese – a natural blue cheese produced by farmers using a traditional artisan method. Next, stop past an Asturian cider house – the traditional drink of the region. Enjoy a glass in the local style, poured from a bottle held high over the head into a glass at the knee to produce natural carbonation. You will then arrive in Oviedo by late afternoon (approximately 1.5 hours).
Take a walk around the handsome city of Oviedo, with its unique personality, quaint pre-Romanesque churches, elegant streetscapes, fine monuments and grand houses. At the heart of the town sits the impressive Gothic San Salvador Cathedral. You’ll also enjoy an introduction to wonderful local products of Asturia at El Fontan market, home to excellent fish stalls beneath a canopy of wrought-iron and glass. This afternoon is free for your own exploration. Perhaps take a trip up to the port city of Gijon for fresh seafood and sweet-filled bakeries, or the fishing village of Luanco for a relaxing drink on the promenade. For dinner, consider heading to Calle de la Gascona, which is lined with lively sidrerias (cider houses) serving a wide range of raciones (tasting plates).
This morning, take a bus to A Coruna in the region of Galicia (approximately 4 hours), taking in some of the spectacular Galician coastline during the drive. Here you will visit the impressive fish market in the Praza de Lugo and marvel at the range of seafood on offer. Lunch on fresh seafood at a nearby café, with other delicious non-seafood options available. Then, like thousands of pilgrims before you, end your journey in the capital of Galicia, believed to be the final resting place of the apostle St James (approximately 30 minutes). The beautiful old city of Santiago de Compostela holds many delights within its walls, all overseen by the mighty cathedral. Take a walk around the Old District lit up at night, through the arcaded stone streets, the spacious Praza del Obradoiro and past the Archbishop’s imposing palace. Santiago is home to more than just pilgrims, with the large population of students from the university enhancing the city’s nightlife. Perhaps spend the night in one of the cafes, bars or tapas restaurants in the Old Town.
You will finish this Northern Spain adventure on a gastronomic high with a morning tasting tour around some of the city's best food gems, including the celebrated Mercado de Abastos. Toast the end of the trip with a cheeky pre-noon glass of wine. The Northern Spain Real Food Adventure will conclude at midday.