A Spanish Birthday Celebration - Marques de Riscal (Day 5.5)

September 3rd, 2015

As we walked up the hill, we knew the Marques de Riscal was going to be a special hotel.  We don't stay in places like this.  It just doesn't happen.  I travel enough that hotels are a place to collapse into a heap at the end of the night.  I'd rather spend money on food and wine and experiences.  The hotels we choose needs to be just nice enough with just enough amenities.  After this hotel, my idea about hotel stays may have shifted a little.

But first, we need to rewind a few years.  One day, Adele found a picture on Travel Channel's Facebook page and shared it to my wall.  The picture was of the Marques de Riscal, a completely random and beautiful hotel in a small town in Spain.  We both knew Spain was inevitable.  And most of the pictures we shared for Spain (or other destinations) were of things we had dreamed about, but would ultimately never consider.  This one though, this one was special.

I was struck by the hotel being so wildly different than anything else I'd seen in a hotel.  So I looked it up.  After a little digging, I sent a message back to Adele to let her know what I found.  A Frank Gehry designed hotel in the middle of wine country.  Expensive??  Yes.  Overwhelmingly expensive??  No.  We quietly kept this hotel in our mental files.  Just in case.

As we started planning the specifics for our trip, we brought up the idea of the Marques de Riscal.  Any pros and cons we may have had melted away.  This is a special hotel and should be used for a special occasion.  Both Adele and I were turning 40.  There wasn't going to be any special-er occasion.  We weren't going to be in wine country long.  So we booked one night at the hotel with a Gastronomy Package.  Quite honestly, we couldn't really afford more than one night here.

Checking In

We walked up the hill slightly, not realizing there was parking up the hill immediately next to our hotel.  And as we walked into the lobby, we were instantly greeted.  "Ahhh yes, Ms. Tiz."  They had a printout of activities ready for us, confirming both our dinner plans and the wine tour we had scheduled for the next day (both covered by the Gastronomy Package, so see...we're saving money!!).  The only thing they didn't have ready to go was the room.  They were deeply apologetic and told us it would only be 30 minutes.  We were in no hurry.

While Adele went back to bring up the car (and have the guy get our luggage...come on, we get our own luggage here??  I laugh...), I finished with the paperwork.  An American guy came down to check out.  He was holding a bottle of Cava and asked the front desk if he could exchange the bottle of wine for a few bottles of water.  His wife was pregnant, so they both had to stop drinking.  "Sucks to be you" I added helpfully.  He laughed a little and we talked for a few minutes.  He loved the hotel and said we had to eat at the restaurant.  Already in the plans, buddy.

Drinks at the Bar

In a small town with an upscale hotel, when you're waiting for your room to be ready, there was only one place to go.  We stopped at the bar.  Now, no judgment here...we hadn't eaten since breakfast and we hadn't had wine since last night.

All of the wine.  Just all of it.

The location of the bar overlooked the small town.  We'd have sat outside, but there had been a little rain during the day.  We didn't want to get wet.  So we quietly drank our wine and we noshed on some little burgers and a poached egg thing.  I'm always in for a poached egg thing.

Because more shots of the hotel are appreciated.
Our Room

It is possible our squeals could have been heard across the country once we made it to our room.  The Bellman showed us to our room while he delivered our luggage.  During the time he was in the room, we pretended like we had done this before.  But as he left...both audible and inaudble squeals were going on.  This is living!!

When I booked the room, I added a note explaining how we were happy to be spending our 40th Birthday at the hotel.  So imagine my surprise when there was a bottle of Cava waiting for us.  Rock on!!

The view from our room.

Our room had plenty of space for us...and everything we brought.

Yeah, the only down side was it was only one bed.  But we could deal with that for a night.

In case you wanted to do some work.

It's always a good sign when the hotel has a robe for you.  And slippers!!  They just weren't in the shot.
Ready for the bathroom??  I know you are!!

Hello, Me!!


Spa Vinotherapie

The Spa was included in the price of our hotel, so of course we had to visit.  Our room was close to a pathway that took you into another building. 

The walkway from the hotel to the spa was nicely enclosed.  As we padded across the walkway, it seemed perfectly natural to be walking in our robes and slippers.

Adele went into the sauna for a while, trying to steam the cold out of her system.  I sat by the pool.

This is not the pool.  I know this.  But I didn't want to seem like a creeper in the spa, taking pictures of people in a pool.
Then when other people (ugh!!) arrived at the pool, I moved to the Quiet Area to read my magazines.

Eventually, we had to go back to our room to get ready for dinner.  There may have been a nap involved.  I'm sorry, let me rephrase that one.  There may have been a Siesta involved.  We had been digging the Siestas hard on this trip.  And before leaving the room for our dinner, we cracked open the Cava.  Because consuming a bottle before dinner is always a good idea, right??

During our consumption of Cava our conversation went down the "Why don't we do this kind of hotel more often??" road.  Well, price is definitely a factor.  No question.  I wondered if we appreciated these types of hotels more because we don't stay there often??  We appreciate the amenities and the service and the robe more, because it isn't something we are used to??  We aren't jaded by the experience as a whole??  Or maybe people who live like this normally still feel the same way as we do.  They're also in complete disbelief that this is our life.  Even if it is only for a night.  Who knows??


I want this fork so bad.
Our Tasting Menu was a part of the room package.  And we weren't going to complain about that.  Having just consumed a bottle of Cava before dinner, we didn't want to go crazy on the wine.  So, we decided to go with one glass of white and one with red.  They both paired really well with the meal.


The sarmientos are branches on a grape vine.  This particular "branch" was made of bread, on top of a dry ice base.  Because, why wouldn't it be??  The bread looks burnt, but it obviously wasn't.  It was a nice start.

Red Wine Caviar

The second course quickly sent us over the edge.  The red wine caviar (I learned later that this is a thing made by molecular gastronomy chefs) was layered on top of a bed of foie gras.  We had probably eaten more foie in the five days we'd been in Spain than we had at home in the last decade or two.  This is not a bad thing.

The innards of the caviar.
Innards...this time, with bread!!
The Croquettes

I have no memory of what was in the croquettes.  But I inhaled them.  Because I learned in Spain that croquettes are awesome.

Fresh Grass

This dish tasted like Spring.  I mean, with the name Fresh Grass, it should taste like Spring.  This dish was made with cheese, frozen foie gras (again!!  And I am not complaining).

Complete with finger shadows.
The Seeds

We continued our tour with the first course that included meat of some sort.  The middle was a round of quinoa.  Around the quinoa were langoustines and avocados.  I'm normally not a quinoa person, but I dug this dish.  So maybe quinoa isn't the worst.

Creamy Vegetable Rice

A risotto-type rice topped with pork ear and a tarragon foam.  You can never go wrong with a pork ear.  Ever.

Roasted Hake

Do you know what Hake is??  I didn't.  I barely still do.  I am not a white fish person.  Never have been.  And after a half a dozen Tasting Menus, I'm even less of a white fish person.  Why is there always a white fish on a Tasting Menu??  I sound like the Worst Person Ever.  I know.  Sorry about that.  So, Hake.  It's a white fish.  This white fish was sitting on a potato pil-pil (a creamy style of sauce) seasoned with vanilla.  I love vanilla.  But this dish wasn't my favorite.  I mean, I don't like white fish or potato.  I was never going to love this one.

But it is very pretty!!
Glazed Lamb

Now, I do love me some lamb.  This was a small amount of lamb (no complaints here...have you seen how many courses we've eaten??) with a ginger glaze and vegetables.  There was only a bite or two, but it worked.

Sweet Toast

Dessert will always be my favorite part of any meal.  This had a honey ice cream and a Cameros cheese.  This cheese is from the Rioja region.  There may have been a type of bread underneath the ice cream (to signify the "toast" in the title of the dish), but I seriously have no memory of this part.  I did eat every part of my dish.  And there was a small chance that I was going to eat Adele's as well.

As we leaned back in the chair, we pondered what we had just consumed.  And we knew it was the first of a string of heavier meals we'd be eating.  Madrid was all about perfect, small bites.  Rioja and San Sebastian would be about gluttony and Tasting Menus.  We were ready.

Our waiter came by and asked if we would like to take coffee and tea upstairs to the Library.  Did we??  Yes, let's.

The Library was empty, except for us.  We pawed through books and damn near twirled around before our tea was delivered.  And our Petit Fours.  You can't forget those.

Macaron...and other items were given to us.  I really don't know.  And I didn't even at the time.  I just ate them like I would any sugar that is around my face.
We lingered a bit.  Chatted about our meal...our day...our trip.  We were not even a week into this trip and we were still giddily drunk about the whole thing.  We were not drunk because of wine.  I want to make that clear.
I don't normally lounge like this in a Library, but when in Elciego...
Opening the door to our room, we noticed the turndown service had happened.  Why does turndown service always include dark chocolate??  Because it's classier??  Meh.  White Chocolate for the win.

We had a long day.  Leaving Madrid, driving around Spain, and enjoying the start of wine country.  We settled into the bed and dreamed about wine and the cascading waves of a building, hoping we never have to leave.  This Five Star Life is pretty addicting.


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