Travel photography and writing have taken me to some wonderful places – from the mountains of Nepal to the chalky clifftops of the South Downs and stormy Scottish coastlines, I have been lucky to see places that live in my heart and mind – and to make landscape photography along the way. Few have as strong a hold over me as Rioja, a region of Spain whose wines have long been among my favourites. Back in September 2014 my then fiancé and I visited, partly so that I could make travel photographs for Pride Life magazine – partly so that we could simply soak up some sunshine away from a dreary British autumn.
We started our trip in Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Country (of which Rioja is the principal winemaking region). Basques are a famously independent people, and around Bilbao it’s hard to escape outward signs of the region’s autonomy. As cultural as it is political, autonomy is reflected in the widespread use of the Basque language and the Union Jack-like orange, white and green ikurrina flag. When we visited, saltires uttered alongside the ikurrinas, a reminder of our own country’s debate over independence and identity as Scotland went to the polls for an independence referendum.