The weather here has been terrible, as it has almost everywhere in Europe it seems. May was pretty much a washout. It wasn’t so much the rain that was the problem: that can be expected at any time in Bilbao. It was the low temperatures and unmitigated greyness which were unexpected and unusual for this time of year. However, things are looking up now, and this week the weather is glorious.
On Sunday, we went on a day trip to La Rioja, in the very south of the Basque Country. We’d been through it on the train from Bilbao to Barcelona last year and had been stunned by its beauty. This is what it looked like from the train
La Rioja is a huge plain, surrounded by mountains and entirely covered in vineyards, through which the River Ebro runs. The Ebro forms the southern border of the Basque Country, with the region of Castilla y Leon on the other side of the river. On the north bank of the river, in the southernmost part of the Basque Country, is one of the most beautiful parts of La Rioja, known as La Rioja Alavesa (the part of La Rioja in Alava, the southern province of Euskadi). Some of the finest Rioja wines are Basque wines, made from the grapes of La Rioja Alavesa.
To get to La Rioja, you drive to the very southern edge of the Basque mountains until you reach ‘El Balcon de la Rioja’ on the Herrera Pass - a stunning viewpoint from which you can see for miles across the whole of the plain to the mountains of Castilla. Or at least you can when the weather is good. The road then drops dramatically down the mountain to the plain. There was dense fog at the top so we were denied the full view but as we descended, the fog cleared and we still managed a pretty good view.
We only had time to see one of these. We didn´t go to the Gehry, but here is a picture of it pinched from the internet: