Europe

Spain’s Basque Country

written by | Posted on February 1st, 2009

It’s almost like a flying saucer crashed into the small sleepy town of Elciego and its remains made into the most avant-garde of lodgings. Marques de Riscal, A Luxury Collection Hotel is, like the Bilbao Guggenheim, an asymmetric Gehry opus inside and out with just 43 guestrooms and suites, each of them different. With ribbons of titanium resembling a grape vine and stainless steel, wood, stone, and leather adorning its interiors, the hotel is a study in chic, with high ceilings, a library and rooftop lounge, and creative cuisine by Michelin-star winner Francis Paniego. The vineyards of Marques de Riscal are all around, perfuming the air and gracing the landscape. The hotel has its own Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa, a pioneer in wine-based treatments, housed in a gorgeous facility complete with interior swimming pool and hamman. It’s a good idea to book treatments when booking the room, as this is a very popular spa and, like the property’s wine bar, is open to the public. Sign up your clients to a fresh grape massage or crushed Cabernet scrub and they will love you forever. Room rates start at $456 per night.

Elciego is a small, pedestrian-friendly town with more than more than 130 underground caves. This medieval village, dating back to the 10th century, is certainly worth an hour or two, as it has an old-Spanish lure complete with a chiming cuckoo clock in the town center with tiny dancers popping out each time the hour strikes. Its most important claim to fame, besides its wine, is a gorgeous 14th century portico dedicated to the Virgin Mary, made of stone and never restored but still full of color and detail. The portico is part of the St. Mary of Kings church, which itself holds several gorgeous altarpieces from previous centuries.

Laguardia, not far from Elciego, also has its share of underground cellars, although only a couple are currently in operation. One of these, Bodega El Fabulista, offers tours at 6 euros pp, which includes two tastings.

getting there Iberia offers several weekly flights to Madrid from Miami, Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. From there, passengers can fly on to another 34 cities in Spain, including Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria-Gasteiz.