I would greatly appreciate any/all of your input and advice regarding my upcoming plans to visit Spain. My wife offered for us to travel to a location of my choice for my 40th B-day gift and as I am a foodie Spain was one of the top 5 on my list.
Our itinerary is as follows:
Friday May 11th – Madrid – lunch, relax, tapas tour
Saturday May 12th – Madrid – Prado, Old Madrid, lunch (where?), relax, dinner, go out to a bar/club for the night.
Sunday 13th – Madrid (day trip to Toledo), come back and catch some flamenco (where?)
Monday 14th – Rent car and drive t(lunch on the way, where?) o La Rioja to Marques de Riscal in Elciego, go out for dinner or pinxos in Logrono or Laguardia.
Tuesday 15th – Elciego – relax and enjoy the premises till 2pm, then tour nearby and have winery tour and dinner at a yet to be decided winery.
Wednesday 16th – Check out and drive to San Sebastian, lunch in San Sebastian or on the way (nowhere fancy, just good, where?), enjoy the city and have a nice dinner at one of the starred restaurants not sure which one yet (all the names that have been mentioned at previous discussions).
Thursday 17th – San Sebastian – drive and independently tour the region – Lunch already reserved at Extebarri (really looking forward to this) take a long walk to work lunch off, then come back and have pinxos in town.
Friday 18th – check into hotel in Bilbao (due to7am flight next morning) – drive the coast maybe lunch at Elkano or another real good special place (looking for something not too expensive but still real good by the ocean somewhere). Take in the towns and sights, return car and dinner in Bilbao
Saturday 19th – Early flight back to US.
Here are some of my questions that I could really use some insight on.
1. In Madrid on our first evening there, I would like to arrange a private guide for a tapas/wine tour. There are several main guides that offer this service but as they all look good online, I cannot tell the difference. My goal is to get an authentic experience that does not just cater to the common denominator with someone who knows where to take people who are actually serious about their food.
2. I am thinking about having dinner in Botin, specifically for their suckling pig and the old world atmosphere. Is this too touristy and is there a better place for this type of dish and atmosphere in Madrid?
3. We are possibly going to take a side trip via AVE to Toledo and I would love to get some opinions as to where to have lunch when we are there. Also if you know any good guides while we are there to give us a private tour that would be great.
4. I read in Chow that in Madrid there is a Galician seafood restaurant called Marisqueria Ribeira do Mino for a real good meal. What are your thoughts regarding this place and is there another place that you would recommend instead.
5. Please sound off on some quintessential places to have lunch while in Madrid.
6. Where would you go for dinner in La Rioja
7. I would love to have a tour of an old world winery and then a dinner at that winery while in La Rioja, any suggestions?
8. Heading to San Sebastion, I am not sure that given my itinerary above that San Se is the best place to be based out of. Without a doubt I will be having pinxos there at least one evening. However, I would love to find a hotel with some character overlooking a profound vista that is at the same time comfortable (my wife likes to get her sleep in on vacations) and accommodating. Perhaps San Se should be a side trip from that place, or perhaps I would be missing out on something wonderful by not staying in San Se. Please, please weigh in. I am struggling with that one. Don’t want to just have a stay in a nice hotel (no matter how nice) as I am looking for a place with character and awesome views also.
9. I would like to find a few good suggestions for real home cooking in the Basque region. If I stay in San Se, I will most likely have dinner at one of the starred restaurants as it would be a shame for a foodie to miss that experience. But I would also like to have real authentic home cooked meal (ideally in a local person’s home or a hybrid home/restaurant) in a relaxed setting. Any suggestions?
10. Finally, I realize that the itinerary above is personal choice, but if anyone could add their insight into these plans (is it too much, would I be getting a better experience staying in Ribera Del Duero instead of La Rioja to relax and interact with wine production, etc.) that would be great. My flight does arrive in Madrid, but I can leave out of anywhere in Spain.
As my wife and I do not get to travel alone too often, I want to maximize our experience and I am very thankful for any of your input.