Logroño celebrates two big festivals every year, San Mateo in September for the wine harvest, and then the city’s patron Saint, San Bernabé on June 11.
The Fiestas de San Bernabé celebrate the defeat of the French in 1521. They invaded Spain and tried to conquer Logroño by laying siege to the city. Of course they failed, otherwise we might be speaking french in La Rioja nowadays. The people survived off of fish that they caught in the river by sneaking out through tunnels, according to legend. During the festival they give out free fish and wine in honor of this by the old medieval walls and there is a general anti-French sentiment around town. But really, since when does Spain need an excuse to hate the French?
So who was San Bernabé? I don’t really know. If he is a crucial part of the festivities, I definitely missed it. Rather this festival is about Rioja pride, drinking red wine and eating well, getting ready for summer and spending time outside with friends and families and dancing along with many marching bands, occasionally dressed up in the traditional Rioja costumes or in medieval garb. Like most of the patron saint’s fiestas in Spain, it’s a few days of music, food, and drinking.
There are tons of events to chose from, just pick up a little booklet with the schedule for the festival listed. From food and wine tastings, to fireworks, to traditional concerts and Rioja village dancing, to a medieval battle reenactment of the siege by the French, there is something for everybody!
Just across the street from me, there were banquet tables set up doing food tastings. You buy a ticket for a few euros and you get a meal to try, wine included of course. On my last day the food offered was strawberries and snails. Really, Logroño? They are all about the odd food combos here, being named the gastronomic capital of Spain and all, but strawberries and snails? No thank you! Not that I am against snails, I love them served up escargot style, no shell with a a garlic buttery sauce, but I really can’t stand them when you have to suck them out of the shell. I tried it last year to the amusement of everyone in Córdoba.
Have you ever been to a festival like this before? Do you live in Spain? What are your cities fiestas like? Do you like snails?
View from my window
Gastronomic food tastings
Handing out waiting for the fish and wine