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Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?

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San Francisco
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Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?

We are taking about 3 days to drive from Madrid to Bilbao and would like suggestions for interesting things to see and do along the way. More local color, smaller roads, monasteries, cathedrals, museums, rivers, inexpensive but clean hotels and restaurants. Suggestions appreciated.

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1. Re: Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?

You could visit Burgos,


and Lerma,


and I would advise you to visit the monasteries in San Millán de la Cogolla, near Logroño (there you are narrow roads, beautiful villages, and medieval buildings)


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2. Re: Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?


Definitely stop at Burgos. The Cathedral has recently been cleaned and it is one of the most beautiful churches in Spain. It is very well organized and everything has a sign giving its name.

San Millan de la Cogolla

San Millan de la Cogolla is a small town with only 300 inhabitants. It has two monasteries, Suso is the one above and Yuso is the one below. These are the most famous monasteries in La Rioja and in 1997 the Unesco included them in the list of World Heritage Sites.

Emiliano was a priest who was born in Berceo in 473, died in 574. His name was later changed to Millan in Spanish. He started a hermitage in Suso in a cave. When he died, his body was buried in the cave. The cave became a hermitage and with the passage of time it became a church and monastery. In the Council of Toledo, San Braulio, the bishop of Zaragoza, wrote the life of Millan and he became the first saint of Spain. In the 17th century he was name as the patron saint of Castilla and one of the patrons of Spain.

The Monastery of Yuso was started in 1053 during the reign of Garcia Sanchez of Navarra. Later it was remodeled in the 16th and 17th centuries. This was so large that it became known as the Escorial of La Rioja. It was constructed by the Benedictines, who lived in it until 1835. Since 1878 the Agustinians have lived in the monastery. The main doorway was constructed in 1665 with a Baroque design. The architect was Pablo de Basave and the sculptor was Diego de Lizarraga. It contains the image of San Millan. There is a Gothic cloister and a 16th century church with three naves with transept and an oval lantern tower. The sacristy has wonderful ceiling murals and a floor made of alabaster, and is considered as one of the most beautiful sacristies in Spain. The monastery has one of the biggest hymnal collections in Spain, written on parchment, and copied between 1729 and 1731.

There is a small casket that contains the remains of San Millan. The surface is covered with small carved ivory panels. These Romanesque panels are from the 11th century and are works of art. During the French invasion, the monks removed the remains of the saint from the casket and buried them on the mountain. The French arrived and stole everything in the church, including five of the ivory panels, which are now in museums in St. Petersburg, Berlin, Florence, Washington D.C., and New York. These museums have been contacted by Spanish government representatives for the return of the ivory panels to Spain, but the museums refuse to do this. This is unethical behavior on the part of these museums.

The Codex 46 was found in the library of Yuso, and was dated June 13, 964. It is a dictionary with more than 20,000 entrees with an order from A to Z, which explain the words in Spanish and Latin. The library also had a codex in Latin called Emilianse 60. In the margins of this manuscript, there were annotations in Latin, Vascuense, and Spanish. In November 1977, the Monastery of Yuso celebrated the 1000th anniversary of the Spanish language. Gonzalo de Berceo was born in 1196 and was educated in the Monastery of Suso. He went to the university in Palencia and returned to Berceo in 1226. He was a priest and also worked as a notary. In 1230 he published the "Life of San Millan". In 1236 he published "The Life of Santo Domingo de Silos". He is considered the first Spanish poet. That is why the monastery is known as the birthplace of the Spanish language.

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3. Re: Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?

Burgos is the obvious big place, and obviously somewhere you should definately not miss, worth staying a night there, but I agree with Bilbao Velvet, Lerma is a lovely place too, with lots of interesting buildings and monasteries.

If you go up the AP1, Briviesca also has some interesting monasteries, and some really good tapas places, the tourist office has a leaflet on the tapas places around town.

A little detour round this area, just north of Briviesca, are the three towns Raices de Castilla (the roots of Castille), Poza de la Sal, Oña and Frias (really overlooked in the region in my opinion). They are three lovely towns/villages, each different, with fantastic castles, views and monasteries. If you want more detailed info on them, let me know. Frias especially, is really special. You can get the idea here: www.raicesdecastilla.com, although I don't think the website does them justice!

Just east of Lerma, the village of Covarrubias is also worth a visit, a lovely medeival old village with interesting places to visit around it, including Santo Domingo de Silos, where you can hear the wonderful Gregorian monks singing.

San Francisco
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4. Re: Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?

To everyone who replied to my query, thank you so much. Your comments were invaluable and helped us make good use of our time in Spain. We weren't able to see everything you mentioned but loved what we did do/see. It is a wonderful part of the world and we hope to return some day. Again, muchos gracias!

5. Re: Driving from Bilbao to Madrid---what to see along the way?

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