Saturday 29 May (from Chinchon forum) Drove to Elciego, another long driving day, bypassing with the aid of maps and Google mapping the centre of Madrid, good signposts which helped. We were impressed with the system of km signs at the side of the road and junctions being numbered for the km they occurred, so it was always easy to find where you are on the map. Castille countryside more interesting than the previous day, turned off the Autovia south of Burgos onto the N 120 which we soon realised was the Pilgrim route to Santiago, so that was a plus! Found our way to Elciego, through the immaculate vineyards with some familiar names, and there, like a squashed coke can in the fields, we saw the Marques de Riscal hotel! How amazing! Car taken and parked for us, bags taken away from us, room not quite ready, drinks on the house in the bar, and what a bar! Wine bottles up to the very high ceiling, something Alice in Wonderland about the scale and the fact that very few lines are straight or angles 90 degrees. Incredibly helpful enthusiastic and friendly staff – this was the only 5 star hotel we stayed in and the service was exemplary, and like the Alhambra, it is a building people walk around with a smile on their face. (see separate hotel review). Had a bite of lunch, assorted cheeses, before we settled in to our room (a ‘Grand Deluxe Room’ in the main hotel building, more or less over the Reception door) which was so quirky and comfortable, even a pillow menu... an amazing experience.
After doing some exploring and photography, I headed to the spa for a couple of luxurious and wonderful treatments, husband headed off for the wine tour which he found enjoyable and educational. We booked for dinner at the Gastronomic Restaurant, relaxed, and an hour beforehand headed out for an aperitif. The main bar downstairs was rather noisy, there was a wedding going on and a few people in the bar were watching and listening to the Eurovision contest at high volume, so we moved to the ‘Library’ bar on the 3rd floor, drinks and snacks were brought to us, and enjoyed a relaxing drink on the balcony there overlooking the vineyards. Perfect. The meal was spectacular and we went to bed, after coffee and liquors on the Library balcony, very happy people. We realised it was probably the most expensive hotel we have ever stayed in, but considered it money well spent for a special occasion (it is our silver wedding anniversary this year) and such an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had to be up early in the morning for the drive to catch the ferry from Bilbao so ordered breakfast in our room, which arrived promptly and beautifully served, even offered a glass of champagne which we didn’t think would be a very good idea. Extraordinary and unforgettable. And the end of our trip around Spain. Amazing.