Logrono, plus ??? March 2024

I’m finally about finished with the details of an upcoming visit to southern Italy next month. So can now turn my thoughts to Spain, where I have booked a return visit to a favorite inn in the flatlands outside Vejer de la Frontera. I will be there from 8-21 March, before Semana Santa. After Vejer, I plan to fly to Madrid and stay a few nights before returning to the US. I will get to the Madrid planning later on; I have a decent idea of where to eat in that gastronomic mecca, since I was there last year. But it is the first part of this trip that is giving me much room for thought.

I had initially planned to fly from JFK to Logrono via Madrid. But the layover for the Iberia flights is very long…arriving early in the morning and spending the entire day in the airport before departing for Logrono about 8 or 9pm. Not good.

It appears that the closest airport to Logrono’s is Bilbao and there are more flights to Bilbao than to Logrono. So I am now thinking about flying JFK-MAd-Bilbao.

HORMA ONDO, highly recommended by Maribel, is near the Bilbao airport and is open only for lunch most days. So it looks sensible to taxi directly there from the airport, for lunch, on my day of arrival. (I am considering using drivers/taxis for this portion of the trip).

By then I will be exhausted. If there is no recommended place to stay near the restaurant, I should probably try to find a driver to take me to Logrono for my first overnight. Not ideal, since it is about a 2 hour drive, but what are my options?

Then I thought I would spend about 5 nights in the Logrono area, walking around the small city and discovering the bars, restaurants, and market(s). In looking at maps, EZCARAY seemed to be calling my name…the town looks pretty and is famed for weaving mohair into blankets and scarves. Equally important, there looks to be a good concentration of tempting places to eat, AND a nice hotel, the ECHAURREN HOTEL GASTRONOMICO. (I’m sure Maribel has mentioned this; I cannot find her posts on EZCARAY but hope she will comment on the sense of this idea.

So that would be the plan, more or less…after lunch at the asador near the airport, split the week into LOGRONO AND EZCARAY before heading back to the airport in Bilbao for the flights south to Jerez. (Or if I am really lucky, maybe I can get from Logrono to Jerez in one day by flying). I do love trains but I think it is just too long and complicated to train from Logrono to Vejer…

After arrival in Jerez, I can either overnight in the city or proceed directly to Vejer by rental car.

Does this plan (the northern section) make any sense? I would prefer not having to rent a car…would this be doable with private transport and if so, does anyone have a name(s) for me to contact about pricing and availability?

Does Ezcaray make sense at all,or should I just do a day trip or 2 from Logrono?

Is there a nice hotel near the Bilbao airport where I can stay one night after lunch at Horma Ondo, given that I will have just flown from the US?? If I do that, I could return to the airport next day, be brave and rent a car to drive myself to Logrono and, possibly, Ezcaray. (I’d much prefer not having to drive myself, as I mentioned, but how feasible it is to do all this by taxi/transfer??)

If this post is confusing, it is because I am confused myself…so many places to eat and so little time, and an area I know not at all. I should add that I am not interested in visiting wineries, so will have more time to EAT!!!

All the best to the HungryOnioners who have been so helpful in assisting me with past trips to Spain, and elsewhere. And a very special gracias to Maribel.

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Erica, one thing to consider is a car service from Madrid airport to Logrono as its only 3.5 hours and the combo of car plus JFK-Madrid flight may be a better option than a flight to bilbao plus car service to Logrono from there, unless 1 night in Basque Country is a priority.

In terms of Rioja, I highly suggest you have access to a car (self or driver arranged) to visit towns in the region. Ezcaray is a nice option but it is in its own mini valley, separate from the main one and quite far from Logrono.

I highly recommend a lunch at Venta de Moncavilio in Daroca, likely 20-30 minutes from Logrono. Vegetable, mushroom and game focused with a majority of the produce coming from their garden which the dining room looks out on. Fantastic wine list.

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If you do opt for a car service from Bilbao, I would check with mikelg about arranging this for you, if he can or at least maybe he can advise you. It´s his territory.
(about a Logroño to Jerez train…it´s too complicated and flight connections through Madrid aren’t good)

Rather than have a taxi service take you to Logroño straight after a long, leisurely lunch at ASADOR HORMA ONDO, I think you may be exhausted. We tend to wait until the next day to tackle a Basque gastronomic meal.

Have you considered spending the night (or 2) in Bilbao before moving on… or a night in Bilbao before flying down to Jerez? The classic Carlton or the Gran Domine facing the Guggen.

There isn’t really any lodging I would recommend IN Larrabetzu near the Asador or Azurmendi, as most folks take a taxi or drive from Bilbao. But…

We stay at the lovely Palacio Urrigoiti very near BIO for a place to shake off jet leg, but it´s due north and would put you further from Logroño. It´s quiet, has a pool (but unheated) and rooms are spacious. We opt for the jr. suite. It´s been our go to place before departing BIO for the US after a long tour.

Alternatively, upon arrival at BIO, taxi to the Carlton or Gran Domine for rest in this wonderful city and maybe a pintxos tour with mikelg,
then on day 2, taxi to Horma Ondo better rested and more able to enjoy this grill house before moving on to Logroño.

The drive from Larrebetxu to Logroño will take between 1.5 and 1.45 hours or on a busy day 2 hrs at the most. I wouldn’t attempt this grill house and the limo ride after a transatlantic flight.

If you stay in Bilbao or close to BIO at Palacio Urrigoiti, yes, you could pick up a rental car either downtown or at BIO and drive. But again, I might check with mikelg about private transfers.

We do love the sweet, atmospheric mountain town of EZCARAY and the HOTEL ECHAURREN. We prefer the original TRADICIÓN to his more cutting edge EL PORTAL.
In fact, we’re heading there next month for my birthday. I go a bit overboard with my purchases of mohair blanket/throws at Mantas Ezcaray. They used to sell them at Bergdorf.

The only glitch I see is that you absolutely need a. car to drive from Logroño to Ezcaray, then back to BIO, and Ezcaray is small so not too many nights, just 2 maybe. The concierge could arrange a bit of wine touring for you with driver I would imagine. We’re headed to the Bodegas Finca la Emperatriz soon for a tour-tasting. It sits 22 km north of Ezcaray before Haro.

Here are Francis Paniego’s favorite places to dine in Logroño and Ezcaray:

As tigerjohn notes, it´s in its own valley and a hike from Logroño.
And as tigerjohn notes, the closer gastronomic dining experience from Logroño would be LA VENTA DE MONCALVILLO, but have a driver take you there. It´s in the teeny, tiny village of Daroca de Rioja.
I treated my husband to his birthday lunch there. One Michelin star. It´s one of the two outstanding country dining experiences of the Rioja along with ECHAURREN.

As I mentioned above, you may want to secure mikelg´s services to take you to lunch and then down to Logroño or he would know someone who could do this. Horma Ondo is where mikelg and I met José Andrés.
Just some thoughts…

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Incidentally, when we met José Andrés at Horma Ondo, he had come up that day from Ezcaray and was staying at Echauren.

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it’s ECHAURREN, double r

TigerJohn, thank you mil veces for bringing up the option of flying into Pamplona, staying overnight and then transferring to Logrono! Then, perhaps lunch at Horma Ondo on the return leg…before flying out of Bilbao with destination Jerez. If I cannot make it to Jerez that same day (because I would then have to rent car at Jerez airport and drive to Vejer…too much for one day.) So I might overnight in Madrid (leave my colder-weather clothing at hotel to where I hope to return at the end of this trip)
and then fly to Jerez in the morning, fresh and ready for the drive to Vejer.

I should mention here that there is such a plethora of places to eat in these regions that I am overwhelmed. But since I will be alone, I do like more casual places instead of restaurants with elaborate hours-long tasting menus… Budget is generous but I like to mingle a little, hopefully in bar areas but where I can be sure of getting a seat…
That is part of the reason that Calle Laurel sounded “right up my alley,” somewhat like the Casco Viejo in Donostia (???)

I am feeling pretty overwhelmed with this right now…I do think the combo of hiring a driver and using taxis for local trips would remove a lot of the anxiety I am feeling…

So for now…I have to look into flying from JFK to Mad and connecting to either Bilbao or Pamplona…I have been to Bilbao at least twice before, and stayed at the Carlton Hotel last time…very nice. Never been to Pamplona so perhaps I should set my sights toward that city…fly in, spend one night and have one dinner, then next day, feeling refreshed, head for Logrono. (Or Ezcaray for 2 nights???)

It would be a lot less complicated if I were to spend a week or so prior to Vejer in Andalucia…have not been to Cordoba in about 40 years but the food scene, apart from Noor, does not seem as tempting as in the Rioja/Basque regions…

How can I thank you all for all of your help? I can never return the favors, but I certainly will try to keep up with the reports, and now I know how to post the photos!!!

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As you may know, Pamplona is my “second home” in Spain, where we were married (almost bought a home there), and it’s a great dining town.
That’s a good idea from tigerjohn, as you would be much closer to Logroño, although there are few flights a day in a small plane.
We make that Pamplona-Logroño drive every summer after the Sanfermines. It´s autoroute all the way, safe and fast and takes a bit over an hour.

That’s an even better idea than Bilbao. You can save Horma Ondo for another trip if needed.

In Pamplona, I’ve seen all the hotels (occupational hazard) and recommend for comfort, style and spaciousness the 5-star Alma Muga de Beloso with indoor pool and a Michelin starred, 2 Repsol sunned restaurant, La Biblioteca. Although it’s not in the Casco Viejo,
It´s the best in town and very tranquil. Rooms in Casco Viejo hotels can run very small and noisy.

Other outstanding, fine dining in Pamplona (for others following this thread):
Verduarte in the Baluarte Performing Arts Center (vegetable centric)
Alhambra and Europa (same family)

For superb pintxos (equal in quality to those of San Sebastián)
El Gaucho, off the Plaza del Castillo
Guria, a block away
Baserriberri on bar lined Calle de San Nicolás
Iruñazarra on the Plaza Consistorial

For excellent rice dishes:
La Cuchara de San Martín next to the Hotel Tres Reyes

For casual dining in the d. room or at the high tables at the bar, we love El Mercao (by the owners of Europa), amazing value for the quality. It´s off center but very worth the walk!

And Navarra is producing some excellent wines, not only rosés.
Chivite 125 Selección Chardonnay, Pago de Circus Chardonnay, any label from Pago de Larrainzar, ditto to Otazu the estate where we were married.
And Ochoa produces a heavenly moscatel.

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I’m going to strongly second hotel Alma in Pamplona. In nice weather it’s a really nice 20-30 min walk along into the casco viejo.

You could take beautiful route north of La Rioja for lunch at Arrea! (heavy game, preservation/fermentation focus of rustic style dishes, 2 soles) and then take the road over the Balcon de Rioja for a stunning view of the valley.

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Hopefully I can work out the flights from JFK-Pamplona.
Stay in Pamplona…3 nights (??)
Car (rental or driver) to Logrono…4 nights with side trip by car or taxi to Ezcaray, or remain in Logrono??
Transfer to either Bilbao or Pamplona airport; stay in either 1 night OR continue to Madrid and spend one night there before flying to Jerez, renting car there and driving to Vejer. (Much depends on flight connections)
In Madrid I think I will return to the Orfila (Salamanca/Chamberi) which I liked so much last year…will be able to drop off winter-ish clothes and retrieve them when I return after Vejer stay…Orfila has a restaurant that has garnered great reports; I did not dine there last year as it a bit on the “fancy” side. Hotel is close to my now-favorite Mercado de la Paz, and easy to walk to Retiro restaurants, Jorge Juan (never dined there before but that street is really elegant and beautiful).

But I will keep this thread to the Pamplona/Logrono/(Ezcaray) part of the trip.

Any strong reason to visit Tudela or Haro? (I was so enamored with the vegetable dishes at Manduca de Azagra in Madrid and learned that most come from the owners’ huerta in or near Tudela… and there lies my problem…I want to go EVERYWHERE!

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There are only 3 daily flights MAD-PNA and all on Air Nostrum. It’s a tiny airport with no international flights. The morning flight departs at 9:10, the afternoon at 12:25 (plus an evening one). For PNA to MAD the morning flights leave at 6:45 am (we avoid that one) and 10:40 am.

As you see from the list, Pamplona is a fine dining town, equal to Logroño and great for a pintxos crawl.

4 nights in Logroño with a side trip down to Ezcaray for dining at Echaurren Tradición, the original restaurant. I’ll be in Logroño on 9 Sept to check on the Aurea Palacio de Correos for you.

In Madrid, I’m happy that you enjoyed the Orfila. We’ll be going there again in September for the Hotel Tapa Tour. As you know, the other wonderful hotel with beautiful décor and indoor pool in the tony Almagro area is the Palacio de Santo Mauro, where many celebs and aristocrats stay. We went there to dine in the bar several times (great bikinis, the kitchen is supervised by Rafael Peña of Barcelona´s Gresca) when we rented a flat across the street.

Yes the Orfila’s restaurant is supervised by the Sandoval brothers of Coque–2 Michelin stars. While in our rental we had breakfast at their casual place, Coquetto Bar, open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.

No strong reason to visit Tudela. The vegetables at Pamplona’s VERDUARTE in the Baluarte Center (verduras + Baluarte=“verduarte”) come from their own garden in Baja Navarra and are fabulous. We had a lovely tasting menu there in February, strong on vegetables with the final courses a lovely hake and for meat, baby lamb. We met the chef at Madrid Fusión, and he invited us to try it. We’re glad that we did.

The reason to visit Haro would be wine touring, but I know you’ve already done plenty of that in your life!

I know, I know, I want to go EVERYWHERE too!

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tigerjohn´s idea of stopping at ¡ Aurea! for lunch is an excellent one. It’s just a short detour off the Pamplona-Logroño. The chef forages here, he was the creator of San Sebastian’s now closed A Fuego Negro.

Our vip guests stay at the Alma and love it.
The chef of Verduarte is Nacho Gemara, formerly of Akelarre, Kokotxa and Alameda.

One of Pamplona’s mythic bars, Café Roch, on Comedias 6 in the Casco Viejo, reopened during the Sanfermines. The Roch, from its historic marble bar, dispenses 7 different types of “fritos”. Its beloved fritos" are a giant croquette with several different filings-- pimiento, jamón, mejillón, gamba, boletus, roquefort y anchoa. It’s a classic, much loved by the locals. We’re glad the family managed to reopen it.

Our other “go to” place for a vermouth and a frito is La Mandarra de la Ramos on Calle San Nicolás. The pamploneses love their fritos.

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Nacho GÓMARA, chef of Verduarte. One Repsol sun.

An article on Pamplona’s food scene’

We go to the Hostería del Temple on Calle Curia for their house special frito, here called a Moscovita.
It´s a large croquette filled with egg, cured ham and Emmental cheese.
Everyone accompanies it with a vermouth. In Pamplona a vermouth is called a “marianito”. It’s red vermouth on ice garnished with a slice of orange and an olive, sometimes with a splash of gin.

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Maribel and everyone else here…a million thanks! I think I will shift to Pamplona and Logrono before heading south to Vejer, with an overnight either in Madrid or in Jerrez.
I just want you all to know that if I do not response as quickly as usual, I am getting ready for a slightly complicated driving trip to southern Italy (Baslilicata, Foggia region of Puglia, Molise, etc) leaving early September. Hope to post from that trip, and tune into this thread as much as time allows. So do not think I vanished into the ether!!
Cannot wait to get back to planning this Spain adventure!!

Have a great trip, erica. I’ve been reading about your plans on that other page and am very relieved you now have the car rental sorted out! Have a wonderful trip!