Last week, my mom and I visited a blog-worthy paradise in northern Spain. She had heard from a friend about an amazing 12th century monastery turned hotel, winery and spa… Riiiight up my mom’s alley.
We ended up talking to a friend who has lived in Spain for several years, who, out of curiosity, had researched the area after we invited her to join us. She ended up telling us that there was literally nothing to do other than spend all of our time in the hotel. No restaurants, no sites, nothing. I even checked on Google Maps and found only two attractions… the first, our hotel, the second, a nearby winery. My mom and I are both foodies, so we were a little disappointed that there weren’t more restaurants. We even considered cancelling our reservations and going somewhere “more interesting”, like Barcelona.
But, my mom had made up her mind and that was that. So, we hopped in our rental car and began our journey to the north.
Upon leaving the city smog, we passed large rocks jutting out of the dry ground to what became a more green landscape with rolling hills. As we neared our destination, we were pleasantly surprised after seeing… grape vines! Rows and rows of vines, littering the green plains, growing like weeds.
We were in wine country.
Enticed by this mouth-watering discovery, I started reading about the history of the area. We were in Castile y Leon, one of the 17 wine regions of Spain. This area accounts for one fifth of Spain’s total surface area, making it the largest wine region in Spain. Wine Enthusiast Magazine dubbed this Domination de Origen (DO) the top wine region in Spain in 2012.
As we pull up to the magestic monastery, our jaws couldn’t close. This 12th century masterpiece was the focal point of this tiny village called San Bernardo, Valbuena de Duero, population 502.
Upon entering the hotel, we were greeted by a sparkling smile. Jack from Nigeria kindly carried our bags up to the room. We walked through the ancient sandstone archways, gawking at the peeling murals, glancing at each other in agreement… this place was a wino’s paradise.
Our room was also beautiful, but of course, the bathroom just had to have a quirk, like most Spanish bathrooms. There was a telephone right next to the toilet… just in case you need to make a phone call while doing your business.
Then, there were the pools. This hotel was known for it’s thermal pools and spa. One thing that we noticed about this hotel is that while the rooms were affordable, they get ya’ with the additional services. We expected to have to pay for a massage or facial… but not to sit in the thermal pool. They wanted 40 Euros per person, and on top of that, they limited it to 180 minutes. Mmmm… No. It was 86 degrees out and the (free) outdoor pool sounded much more enticing.
So, we go and buy some cheap bottles of wine (because you can’t go wrong with any wine in this region, even if it’s only $4/bottle), and head to the pool where we poured ourselves two glasses of wine and drowned out the zen music by putting on some Enrique. When it was just the two of us… why not!
The rest of the time, we just chilled. I finally know what heaven is. A secluded paradise, enjoying white wine while soaking in the pool, listening to my husband sing.
On our way back, we drove through the cutest little Spanish towns. We stopped through Peñafiel, a town known for it’s amazing castle…
But more importantly, wine caves. The wine caves are all over the little town, where wine makers and residents alike store and age their wine. In order for the fumes to escape from the caves, they built little chimney-like structures.
If you have some extra time in Spain and need a relaxing getaway, this area is perfect. You can be here on a budget by avoiding the restaurant and heading over to the two local bars for the authentic Spanish village experience, where you can enjoy a glass of wine for €1.20 (about $1.30), and a plate of tapas for €3.00 ($3.30).
Next week, Porto, Portugal!