Celebrating the San Mateo Harvest Festival in Logroño, La Rioja
Before leaving for San Sebastián, we spend the morning exploring Logroño, the pretty, historical city that serves as the capital of the La Rioja region. We were out and about in the build up to the San Mateo Harvest Festival celebrating the beginning of the wine harvest (most of the people who live in Logroño are involved in the industry in some way), and you could feel the excitement and the energy for the celebrations building as we walked around the historic streets of the old town, which looked very different from how they did the night before when they were full of throngs of people enjoying glasses of Rioja and little plates of tapas outside bars, chatting, singing and watching the bull fighting at the bars that had televisions in their windows.
I was not exaggerating when I mentioned how radically different the streets seemed during the day, compared to in the evenings. Even with people setting up for the festival, they were so calm, the only action found as you walked past the back of a bakery when they were finishing up their baking for the day and setting about their deliveries around the city. The famous tapas street, Calle del Laurel was practically deserted.
The only hubs of activity in the otherwise deserted streets were around the grocery stores where you could buy some of the plump, luscious fruits of the local farms by way of produce that we’re been enjoying in our tapas the two evenings prior. Just look at those tomatoes; they put supermarket varieties to shame.
The street side grocery stores, however, were nothing compared to Logroño’s famous indoor market, which was bustling with locals stocking up before the afternoon and evenings festivities. Now, I love Borough Market, but this was something else. I could have stayed there for a lot longer than we did, and I wish I’d purchased some salt cod.
The festival atmosphere had really kicked up a notch when we stepped outside the market. People were filling the streets heading off to the town centre, and all the cities teenagers were dressed up in co-ordinating tee-shirts and outfits depending on their group of friends. Street vendors were selling brightly coloured balloons and bright plastic glasses and hats to don and complete the festive look.
Differently dressed (depending who sponsored them and who they were) marching bands played music around the old part of the city. I loved the variety of people who were taking part, like small school children.
For the San Mateo Harvest Festival we all wore traditional scarves, tied at the front so that they could catch any wine drips (needed when you see how they drink it!) They came in two colours; wine to denote the end product of the harvest, and dark blue to represent the skins of the grapes.
Most bizarre to me from all the festivities, was the food fights. You know all those teenagers who were gathering together, brightly dressed heading to the festival. They break off into groups and throw eggs, flour and ketchup all over each other! Apparently this is illegal, but no one seemed to want to stop them in their fun, as long as they kept to themselves and did not get too close to the rest of the festival-goers!
We soon left the revellers too it, grabbed our luggage from the hotel and hopped on the bus to spend the afternoon and evening in San Sebastián. Up next, some photos of the old town, the beautiful beaches, more tapas, a few snaps from the film festival, a fabulous dinner at the Michelin starred Rekondo, and tasting a 50 year old bottle of Rioja, which I think has changed the way I think about and how I drink wine forever.
I traveled to La Rioja as a guest of Campo Viejo.