We did it! We planned an independent trip, ventured out on our own and came back on time and in one piece. Yesterday we took a public bus to La Rioja, Spanish wine country. We went to a town called Haro in the La Rioja region. We had a 7:30am bus out of Bilbao so we got up at 5:30, left at 6am walked the 30 minutes to the metro, then took the metro for another 30 minutes and then got our bus to Haro which took about an hour. It took us awhile to figure out which bus was ours. Each person that we asked told us (in Spanish) a different answer. In the end we realized there are actually 3 buses that go there so all of the people were right, but we were pretty confused.
We arrived in Haro at 8:30am and our first wine appointment wasn't until 10am so we got our bearings and then walked for about 30 minutes to find our first winery RADO. There was a big gate in front of the winery that was closed so we assumed they weren't open yet. Well, of course it was only 9am by then so we had a hour to kill but there were no more sidewalks so we took a seat in front of the winery. We had brought some food for breakfast so we ate that and then just rested and wandered. We waited for about 30 minutes in front of the winery until 10am and we saw no one going in and no one coming out so at 10:05 we buzzed the gate. Well, I guess we should have done that at 9:45 because it turned out we were 5 minutes late for our tour. Live and learn!
The gate opened like the gates at the Wizard of Oz and we walked up the hill to the winery (I guess people usually come by car HA HA). The guide came out to meet us and told us that we can join the tour and we apologized for being late. Our group was only 8 people including us. Luckily we didn't miss much.
In Spain you have to have an appointment to tour wineries and it has to be made in advance. You can't just show up and taste or tour. We had gone through a company called winetourismspain.com. They made our bus reservation, 2 winery reservations, and lunch reservations.
Our tour was incredible. It was almost like we were at church. Everyone was whispering and our guide was talking very softly since we were a small group. We learned about the process of making wine and saw the barrels in a climate controlled room and then went down a few floors to a wine cave where they store some of their wine in the fermenting process for about 17 years. After the tour we tasted two incredible wines and two very interesting olive oils. Delicious! Another AWESOME thing that happened was that once we all started chatting with each other during the tasting we realized almost all of us were performers. One woman in our group was a woman named Itziar Galdos, she is a dramatic soprano was a permanent soloist for the Norwegian National Opera in Olso, Norway for 23 years. WOW! We chatted and had a great time. They are going to be in Oslo, Norway when we arrive and they gave us their emails, home addresses and websites and told us to contact them when we get there. Hope that will work out, they were lovely!
Our second winery was much more brief, modern and crowded but still very intersting. Our tour had about 20 people on it and one group was about 15 Americans that proceeded to talk during the tour (pet peeve) and gulp down the wine instead of actually tasting it! We hung in the back with some other quite people and the tour guide actually brought us a bottle of very expensive reserve that she didn't offer the other group. I guess it pays to be respectful!
We walked back to downtown Haro and had lunch and then it was hot and we were wiped out. We had 2 hours before our bus returned so we found a park bench in the shade and Geno laid down with his head on our backpack and took a nap while I read on my ipad Kindle app. We got our bus back to Bilbao and made the long trip home well before ON SHIP time YEAH! Check out the pictures of this beautiful day!
I think there were a few students that didn't make it back in time so they got "dock time" (can't get off the ship for a certain # of hours) in the next port, but overall I think they did great. Now we are staying in Spain until tonight at 5pm when we will go out into the ocean a little and drop anchor. This is mostly to save fuel and port charges. One great thing about dropping anchor is that we will be able to watch the USA in the World Cup tonight. The Internet will be shut down so that we can use all the band width on the ship for the game. Priorities!
-If you see a bathroom use it. Whether or not you have to.
-At the bus station they have a vending machine that makes grilled cheese
-Sometimes when you order something for lunch and you don't know what it is you get things that look like vertebrae on your plate. Hmmm what was that.
-We are exhausted!