|Entering the region of Rioja.|
|The hilltop village of San Vicante de la Sonsierra.|
|Hotel Villa de Ábalos|
Eventually we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Villa de Ábalos on Plaza Fermin Gurbindo. It is in an old stone house that has been immaculately renovated by the owner, Jose Luis Castillo. Inside, the old stone walls are exposed giving it a warm, rustic feel. The first floor of the building is where you check in and home to the hotel's restaurant, bar, and a wine shop where Jose Luis sells wine he makes. (Yes, the hotel really has its own house wine!) The second and third floors of the building is where the hotel's rooms are located. Each room combines the comforts of a luxury hotel and charm of a small village. There are modern bathroom fixtures, beautiful soaps, warm comforters, and wooden shutters on the windows. When we arrived saw the hotel and our room I completely delighted.
|Our room at Hotel Villa de Ábalos.|
|My bacalao with roasted red pepper sauce at La Cucina de Merche at Hotel Villa de Ábalos.|
The restaurant is cozy with about half a dozen tables and candles at dinner time. The first night we shared a vegetable rice appetizer with Idiazabal cheese from the Basque region just north of Rioja. Then I had bacalao (salt cod) with a roasted red pepper sauce and Jonathan had one of the biggest steaks I've ever seen. The fish was moist and delicate - it’s hard to believe that had been dried and not fresh fish. And the red peppers were immensely flavorful. Jonathan enjoyed his steak but unsuccessfully attempted to finish the entire thing. For dessert I got a creamy cheese cake made from local cheese served with a grape syrup. This was lovely; creamy like a flan but with a strong, sweet cheese flavor. On the second evening I had roasted peppers filled with a fish and potato purée and Jonathan had cochinillo (roasted suckling pig) for dinner. Again the meal was wonderful, and this time Jonathan was able to finish the meat on his plate this time. Then for dessert we shared a lovely molten chocolate cake and some Idiazabal cheese with apple jam. (The sheep’s milk cheese from Basque Country is one of my favorite cheeses from Spain.) In such an amazing setting, this restaurant has definitely earned a spot on my list of favorite places to eat in the world!
|Cheese cake made from local cheese served with grape syrup at Hotel Villa de Ábalos.|
|Wine and croquettes to begin a relaxing dinner at Hotel Villa de Ábalos.|
If this is not apparent, we had a wonderful experience at Hotel Villa de Ábalos! It is an amazing place and I will definitely stay there again next time we visit Rioja. Actually, maybe I'll plan a trip to Rioja just to stay at the hotel! Perhaps I should just say: Me encanta Hotel Villa de Ábalos.