jueves, 27 de noviembre de 2008

A week in Rioja

PICTURE YOURSELF IN RIOJA. You are on holidays and a whole week of experiences lies ahead.
What can you do and see, where should you absolutely go, what are the "musts" for your first stay in Rioja?

A suggested itinerary for a week in Rioja:

Day 1-Arrival.
Land in Bilbao or Logroño.

Bilbao is the nearest international airport, merely 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Casa Josephine (highway).
There are direct flights to Bilbao from most European airports.
If you are flying from America or elsewhere, you will land first in Madrid or Barcelona, from where you can fly to Bilbao or Logroño (25 minutes from Casa Josephine).

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an absolute gem for architecture and art lovers. Frank Gehry simply changed the looks and the course of history for the city of Bilbao, which was dull, grey and unfriendly before the Museum existed.
Please note: the restaurant at the Museum is outstanding.

Check-in at Casa Josephine and relax. We will meet you at the house with a bottle of red Rioja (how else?).

Day 2-
Simply RELAX.
Believe us: there is no better way to start your holidays. Dont plan anything for today. Just take a break and enjoy your leisure at Casa Josephine. Linger in bed, chat with the neighbours, walk in the hills around the village, read, try cooking a local recipe....experience the pleasure of the slow life. Time is luxury.

Day 3- Wine and wineries.
Drive among vineyards to Haro, capital of Rioja Wine, 30 minutes away from us. All over the area, on both banks of River Ebro, there are dozens of outstanding wineries that are worth visiting....from 15th century cellars to 21st hi-tech striking buildings.

(Please scroll down for a list of our ten favourites, or simply ask!)

Because that area has been traditionally aristocratic and wealthy, there are lovely palaces, churches and churches in the area: Abalos, Haro, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Briñas.

Day 4- Dinosaurs al fresco.

Did you know that Rioja has the biggest palaeontological site with dinosaurs' footprints IN THE WORLD?

If you are travelling with children, this excursion is a must. It is a full-day excursion to a series of valleys in the Eastern part of Rioja.

1 hour 30 minutes from Casa Josephine you will find the village of Igea: at its Palaeontological Centre, you can find out details on the 40 sites in the area. These include Valdecillo, one of the most straightforward sites to interpret; Conargo, where it looks like the dinosaurs have just passed, its prints are of such good quality; and Era del Peladillo, in Igea, which is the Europe's no.1 and the world's no. 3 site in terms of number of prints. In Igea, you can also visit the La Rioja Palaeontological Centre. English-speakers at the centre are available (must be advised in advance)

This can be a real treat for children. As there are hundreds of footprints scattered over several hectares, you will be provided with a map and you can discover the sites on your own.

There are many nice villages in the area. Finding a place to eat (and to eat well) is also easy.

Day 5- A quaint Medieval capital.

You may use this day's morning to get familiar with the city of Logroño, a small wealthy capital by river Ebro with a lovely Medieval quarter and a beatiful cathedral. Camino de Santiago (pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela) crosses the city. It is also worth visiting the food market and the small streets around, where locals meet for tapas.

There are excellent choices for lunch in Logroño.

In the afternoon, visit Laguardia, a lovely fortified Medieval village just six miles South of Logroño, on the other bank of the river where Santiago Calatrava recently built a winery.

(Please note: The bests spas in Northern Spain are, for some reason, in Logroño).

Day 6- World Heritage monasteries: the birthplace of the Spanish Language.
In the middle of the Cárdenas river valley sits San Millán de la Cogolla, a Rioja town founded by the saint of the same name and linked for centuries to the Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela. The deep-rooted monastic tradition of the town can be seen in the beautiful collection of historic buildings it houses, where the Monasteries of Suso and Yuso, both declared World Heritage Sites, are outstanding. The importance of San Millán de la Cogolla is also due to its status as "the cradle" of the Spanish tongue, since the first documents written in this language are preserved here.
San Millán de la Cogolla is 35 minutes away from Casa Josephine.

Day 7- Beach and bulls: San Sebastian and Pamplona.

A full-day excursion to San Sebastián is highly recommended. It is 1h45 minutes from Casa Josephine. San Sebastián is a charming elegant city, with the finest beach in Northern Spain. 19th century aristocracy chose San Sebastian as their favourite seaside destination.

Halfway between Casa Josephine and San Sebastian is Pamplona. You may want to make a quick stop on the way back for an afternoon walk in downtown Pamplona, as the city will be getting ready for the big celebrations of San Fermin (beginning of July, when they do the “running of the bulls”).

Bienvenidos a la Rioja!
Bienvenidos a Casa Josephine!

Rioja tops the list!

Is Rioja the new Tuscany?
(The answer is yes, but you may want to keep on reading to find out why).

The secret is not totally out yet, but is somehow in the air. According to trend-hunters, the discerning traveler has had enough of the touristy, market-oriented experience that Tuscany provides and is setting his/her avid eye on new European destinations. Rioja tops the list.

1- Perfect location to discover Northern Spain. Just between Bilbao, Navarra, Castilla and Zaragoza, you are less than one hour away from some of Europe's major highlights (Guggenheim museum, Marqués de Riscal, Laguardia Burgos Cathedral, Pamplona....).

2- Most visitors are Spaniards, independent travelers, hikers or families. As Rioja is not on the tour companies' itineraries -and we keep our fingers crossed for it never to be-, you will not see huge buses or crowds of people being herded from monument to monument. A relief, isn't it?

3- People. You will find Riojanos to be warm, personable, relaxed, open and generous people, who are keen on visitors. When a Riojano opens his doors for you and uncorks a bottle of wine, he means well and does it wholeheartedly (in case you doubt, you should never forget that this very, very wealthy region does not need tourism...)

4- Stunning striking modern architecture for wineries has put Rioja on the map for modern architecture lovers. In number of major works by major masters, this region is second to none in Europe.

5- Art: Camino de Santiago, the pilgrims' route that religious hikers follow on their way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, crosses the region, accounting for Rioja's outstanding artistic wealth since the Middle Ages. Monasteries, castles, fortified villages, cathedrals....

5-Nature. Seven different valleys, one after the other, with mountain rivers that empty on big Ebro: that is Rioja. This means an amazing natural diversity, from ski resorts to fertile plains.

5- Food: several of the best restaurants in Spain are in Rioja.

6- Wine. Do we need to say more?

Word is going round that Rioja is to be the next secret destination. And this time -pun intended-, you did heard it through the grapevine!


Casa Josephine in the press: Casa & Campo

Casa & Campo, the most prestigious decoration magazine for country homes in Spain, dedicates a 10-page special to Casa Josephine in its December issue.
Here's just a glimpse.

We are immensely grateful!


lunes, 3 de noviembre de 2008

Hei, hvordan har vi det?

Hei, hvordan har vi det?"

Yes, we are feeling very Norwegian lately! This is because Casa Josephine is recommended by Tourspain-Oslo in this month's bulletin, a magazine that is sent to travel agents, magazines and tour operators in Norway.

So we are happy to say to our friends in Norway....come visit Rioja and we will greet you with a smile and a glass of tinto.
You are very welcome!


Check the full article here
(pdf format, we are on page 6)

jueves, 23 de octubre de 2008

Congratulations Iñigo Aragón

We are extremely happy to anounce that IÑIGO ARAGON, who decorated Casa Josephine with utmost care and love has been awarded with a prestigious Photography Scholarship for a series of photographs shot in Sorzano -at and around the house.
Here's just an example.

Congratulations for the great work, Íñigo

-Copyright Iñigo Aragón. All rights reserved.

viernes, 3 de octubre de 2008

Happy birthday, Valenciso

We love Valenciso. They make only one wine per year, only Reserva and only from Tempranillo grapes.
Why should they bother doing anything else when they excel in what they do? Simplicity here means perfection. And we mean it.

Their winery is in Ollauri, a lovely village just outside Haro, in the very heart of the very heart of Rioja Alta.
They started their winery 10 years ago with 1998 vintage...so happy birthday, Valenciso!

Keep up the great work and gracias!

martes, 30 de septiembre de 2008

Our Top-Ten favourite restaurants (2)

2- Casa Toni, San Vicente de la Sonsierra

You may want to go to San Vicente de la Sonsierra for:
a- its breathtaking views over Ebro valley
b -its wineries (mythical "Contador" wine is produced here).
c- Casa Toni.
d- all of the above.

Casa Toni is in fact two restaurants, one traditional and one modern -both excellent. As chef Jesús Saez says, "you may experiment but you should never forget the roots of regional cuisine".


Our Top-Ten favourite restaurants (1)

1- Cachetero, Logroño

is not simply a restaurant: it is an institution in Logroño. It opened 100 years ago as a basic "casa de comidas" and it is now, four generations after, one of our favourite restaurants in the region. Great location, nice atmosphere and excellent traditional food cooked by chef Diego Arechinolaza and his team.
What else can you ask for?
Wine, of course....but, hey, you are in Rioja...you can take that for granted here!


"8-20" opens in Logroño

You know you cannot go wrong with brothers Ignacio and Carlos Echapresto, owners of the already multi-awarded, multi-praised restaurant Venta de Moncalvillo -which is, by the way, three miles away from us.
Well, we have great news: they just opened "8-20", an exclusive (really) restaurant downtown Logroño, right in the old section. The restaurant opens only by appointment for private groups from 8 to 20 people -hence the name. They'll cook exclusively for you and your selected party and lead you through a gastronomic experience that will be hard to match!

lunes, 29 de septiembre de 2008

It's harvest time!

Please excuse us for not updating the blog in the last weeks.....It is harvest time and we are carefully monitoring each and every grape in the region to see how they turn into vino.

The cycle starts again, the wineries are at their busiest....and we simply cannot wait to taste 2008!!

A toast to all our dear clients of Casa Josephine.

miércoles, 3 de septiembre de 2008

From the orchard to our table

Because we dream of the possibility of starting an orchard for Casa Josephine, we have been learning from the experts. José -neighbour and friend- has patiently taught us how things are done: what grows when, where to plant what, when to pick what...

And here's what we learnt above anything else: growing a vegetable garden is easy when the soil is so fertile....in fact, fertile to a crazy extent!

From June to September, this is the harvest in Sorzano:
Plums, cherries, kumquats, strawberries, beans, peaches, cabagge, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, pears, lettuce, apples, tomatoes, peppers...

And now that summer draws to its end...get your baskets ready for figs and grapes!

martes, 2 de septiembre de 2008

Santiago Calatrava

New Yorker's current issue features a FANTASTIC article on architect Santiago Calatrava by Rebecca Mead.

Here's the link to the article, "Winged Victories":

Because there is very little to be added, we will not say more.

jueves, 28 de agosto de 2008

Go ahead and plant

We didn’t know there was a philosophy behind our actions…we really did not. And now we find out that we are part (more or less) of a hype cool global movement! Here’s the story:

Casa Josephine does not have a garden. When it was built, at the turn of the 19th century, town houses in this area of Rioja did not have gardens –vegetable gardens were, and still are, outside the village.
However, there was an abandoned, neglected plot of land just across the street from our house. We found the owner, Herminia, and asked her if she would sell it. No way. Ok, then…Would she allow us to cultivate it? Go ahead –she said- and do as you please.

So we went ahead and did as we pleased. We cleaned the litter in a couple of weeks and we started planting: lavender, roses, rosemary, mint and spearmint, oleanders, carnations, daisies….our neighbours contributed greatly, giving plants, lending tools, watering the garden or encouraging us.
One year after, a friend told us, half-joking: “so you are a small Green Guerrilla”.
“What is that?”, we asked.
Green Guerrillas are organized groups of volunteers who are changing the face of our cities and public spaces by “reclaiming” neglected portions of land and converting them into wonderful gardens. They are brave and effective, and they deserve all the help and encouragement.

Thanks for the great work and the inspiration, green guerrilleros!
Find out what they do at:

The "reclaimed" garden in front of our house. So far, only half-way done.

We chose local species for "our" garden.