There are only days left in 2016. As I look forward to my adventures in 2017,  I am also savoring some of my favorite memories from this past year. That's the best part about travel. Though your trip ends, you get to keep the memories forever. For 2016, my favorite travel memory came about from a last minute decision to take a slight detour with our rental car and travel off the beaten path. 

Imagine a tiny walled medieval town set on a quaint river where wine flows like water, and there are no cars in sight.

 The outer walls of Covarrubias, Spain

The outer walls of Covarrubias, Spain

 The streets of Covarrubias, Spain

The streets of Covarrubias, Spain

 The streets of Covarrubias, Spain

The streets of Covarrubias, Spain

Meet Covarrubias, Spain.

Also imagine a place where there are no other tourists and no one speaks English. If you’re lucky, you’ll remember the years and years of Spanish you took and get lots of good practice!

We happened upon the town of Covarrubias when I tried to schedule a tour and tasting at a nearby winery that was on our way from Madrid to Burgos, where we were staying for one night on our way to the Rioja wine region. When I contacted the winery, they informed me they would be closed that day because they would be at a wine festival a few miles down the road.

After at least an hour or so of google searching, I finally found some information confirming that the wine festival was happening, but that’s about all I could find. We took a gamble driving from Madrid to visit this tiny town, and it was one of the best decisions of the trip!

Had we come to the town any other day, I imagine we would have found a cute but sleepy little town where we might have had lunch and left, but we arrived to find a lively wine festival with about 20 wineries pouring you glasses (what they called tastings) upon glasses of wine. 

 At the wine festival in Covarrubias, Spain

At the wine festival in Covarrubias, Spain

 The Arlanza River in Covarrubias, Spain

The Arlanza River in Covarrubias, Spain

 The streets and walls of Covarrubias, Spain

The streets and walls of Covarrubias, Spain

 My husband and I at on of the wine festival booths in Covarrubias, Spain

My husband and I at on of the wine festival booths in Covarrubias, Spain

What was supposed to be a quick (and likely failed) stop to this town in the middle of nowhere Spain turned into an entire afternoon and evening of drinking good local wine, conversing in Spanish and becoming friends with all the winery owners, and all in all having one of the most fun experiences of our whole trip.

The travel lesson here is:  don’t be afraid to take a gamble and go off the beaten path (and your perfectly planned itinerary).

Whether it’s boom or a bust, you’ll probably make some memories that you won’t regret!

And if you happen to be in Spain on a Saturday in early May, make sure to visit Covarrubias!

-Caroline