Relaxing Ronda

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November 15th 2007
Published: December 4th 2007
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We had read that the train trip to Ronda was gorgeous, but it was more convenient for us to catch the bus from the main bus terminus in Seville. It was a very pleasant and easy journey and we got a cursory glimpse of the beautiful yet harsh country that is Andalucía. At times it reminded us of the dusty brown and pale green Australian landscapes and I think I even spotted a few eucalypt type trees, but the similarity ends there. The little villages built into the hillsides, the bountiful olive groves, and the goats and donkeys roaming the farms leave you in no doubt that you are in southern Spain. 😊

Ronda is one of Andalucía’s famous pueblos blancos (white villages) and probably one of the most incredible looking places I have ever been to. It’s an old walled town perched high on a hill with a backdrop of gorgeous mountains. The breathtakingly huge El Tajo gorge splits the town in two and divides the old Moorish quarter from the new Mercadillo quarter, with only three stone bridges of varying age (16th to 18th century) linking the two parts of town. The spectacular Puente Nuevo (new bridge) is an amazing sight to behold!

Ronda has passed through many hands - first captured by the Romans, then a Moorish stronghold and finally conquered by the Christians - so the city is full of ruins, monuments and historical buildings to explore. Ronda is also the birthplace of the legendary Romero bullfighting family, and it has apparently played a leading part in the development of bullfighting in Spain. The bullring claims to be the oldest and most important of Spain...but we still could not bring ourselves to go in. However the gardens behind the bullring are gorgeous and offer great views of the mountains. Hemingway is supposed to have been describing Ronda when he wrote about ‘the little town on the cliff top’ in For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Orson Welles also loved this town, so there are lots of old photos of both of them proudly displayed in cafes and restaurants.

We are staying at a charming hotel - a 1800’s converted house nestled on a slope with stunning views of the white houses and old stone castles set against sandy hills and olive groves. The Hotel Enfrente Arte is easily the best small hotel either of us have ever stayed in and it comes complete with a 24hr open bar (yes I said OPEN bar!), the best 4hr breakfast ever... and a snugly cat we christened ‘Carlos’. The breakfast included fried quail eggs with chorizo (which we are now totally addicted to), all manner of breads, cold meats and cheeses. There were also fresh fruit and fruit juice choices as token healthy options. We are in heaven. 😄

Ronda gets 9 out of 10 as a place that is excellent for both exploration and relaxation. When we were not out walking on the very steep pebbled streets, we have been sitting in the sun with local wine, bread, cheese and a wide selection of cured meats. One of the main things we love about Ronda is the slow pace and local feel to the whole town; we were stunned that we had whole monuments to ourselves and that we could experience the exquisiteness of walking totally alone along the old wall with a gorgeous sunset behind us. Our only company was an old farmer down in the valley walking his goats home and a stray dog (Andrew named him ‘Pepi’) at our heels. But alas we had been very lucky - when we left on Saturday morning, the city was crawling with thousands of filthy bus loads of weekenders and day trippers from the Costa del Sol. Our perfect experience in Ronda could so easily have been a hellish one if we had arrived a few days later. So thank you Lonely Planet Guide for the tip! 😊

I mentioned the Spanish custom of siesta in the previous post, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with it - it’s when almost everything closes for up to five hours in the middle of the day and everyone goes home to eat a large lunch with their families, or has a nap and escapes the hottest part of the day. To make up for the lost business time everything is opened until late evening, and thus the downside of this is that dinner time is usually around 9.30pm. As much as we love love love the siesta concept - our tummies just could not get used to the late dinner sittings and we succumbed to eating at touristy places a couple of times because we just could not hang on for the local places to open. We will have to work on this failing for our next trip to Spain! However I should mention that the between and betwixt time while waiting for restaurants to open was not at all wasted time...we often retired to the rooftop terrace of our hotel, where the view of the Andalucían hills lit by an orange sunset was the ideal backdrop for unwinding with a sherry or wine after a day of walking, or as it sometimes was, a day of doing nothing. 😄

The next time we visit Ronda, we would really like to spend a few days exploring the surrounding villages and the stunning landscapes and walks in the national parks.

Highlights: Walking along the top of the old city wall; playing pool after trying all the local sherries on offer 😊
Lowlights: Leaving Pepi the local stray dog who adopted us; not eating at Restaurant Almocabar because we ran out of nights...

Next stop: Granada

P.S. for anyone travelling in Spain check out the Small Hotels of Spain website, it is absolute gold.


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