Andalusia Adventure Part 1 Malaga to Ronda

September 17, 2014.

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Where to go for a short holiday in the fall, where we could practise Spanish, see something new, and be at least somewhat warm?  Hurricane season in Latin America, so, why not Spain?

We arrived in Malaga this afternoon (early morning our time) after an uneventful two flights with stopover in Frankfort.  Seemed long but not as long as lots we’ve done, we are just getting old.  Frankfort airport is horrendous for transfers, even though both flights were Lufthansa it took us more than an hour of walking, a trip on a train,  and various line ups to get from the bay we landed in to the bay we departed for Malaga from — I saw one poor baffled Indo-Canadian lady wandering along by herself, got her to show me her boarding pass and set her following the correct signs (seemingly no English spoken) but at that point I had no idea that we still had a train to negotiate as well as another half hour of walking.  I sure hope she had 4 or 5 hours for her connection or she didn’t make it.

Malaga is lovely — our “hostel” is very cute, all old Spanish tiles and crazy murals a la Picasso whose house is here, and we took a room on the top with a tiny terrace; I think it will be well worth the few extra Euros.  A bit feckless in the administrative department as these places so often are — after some delay the cute Moroccan receptionist flung open the door of our room — ta da! — and then her face fell when she realized no one had cleaned it after the previous guests.  We have been there before, no worries, it always works out in the end.

We walked around to keep awake and had tapas and Sangria in a pedestrian square.  Very beautiful old houses in the area we are in, reminiscent of Cuenca, no surprises there. We will have to adjust our schedule as there are lots of restaurants here for evening meals unlike in Ecuador, but they were all just opening as we were wending our way home at about 8:30.  Again the main meal is at lunch, but the place is packed with people snacking and (mainly) drinking in the early evening.  More tourists than we’re used to but that’s okay.

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We enjoyed our time in Malaga, particularly the Picasso museum and the plethora of sidewalk restaurants in the pedestrian-only centre of the old town. Our hostel was a peaceful retreat in the afternoons as we recovered from our jet lag. Great breakfasts, and incredibly disorganized staff!

After two days of wandering dreamily about, we picked up our rental car at the train station, ridiculously cheap but not the newest model, kind of like the cheap car rental we used in Jordan.  Luckily it is small, as the streets in the cities are crazily narrow and parking is an art we have not yet mastered.

We set off in the direction we wanted to go, while I struggled to get the GPS with its newly installed maps of Europe to work.  Had pretty much given up and was consulting a map, when all of a sudden, “Marlene” as we call the officious voice of our GPS, spoke.  Sadly she directed us onto the toll motorway where we ended up paying 7 Euros for about an hour’s drive (Cdn $10) instead of the coastal free route we had wanted to take.  Oh well, it was hard enough for Doug to reacquaint himself with driving a gearshift.

She took us to Marbella, in the area known as the Costa del Sol which is all condos and tony resorts much frequented by Brits and other Europeans — we do not feel old here but it is not in the least appealing as a place to stay. After wandering around the old city — very cute and full of shops — we had a nice lunch and carried on.  By the way, 2 hours in the car park cost more than the toll on the motorway.  The only things cheap so far are the wine and the car rental.

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Marlene led us on to the road to Ronda, twisting and turning up about 800 metres from sea level, only about 45 kilometres but took us a little while due to the multitude of bends.  Very interesting scenery as the green coastal vegetation gave way to pine forests and olive groves.  Ronda appeared on the side of a hill, blindingly white as is typical of this area.

Marlene urged us through crazily narrow streets in the old city of Ronda right to the door of our tiny (5 room) hotel which had no visible sign. Marlene insisted we stop so I got out to look around. An American couple walking by ran ahead to tell us this was indeed the hotel we were looking for, before we launched ourselves straight up a steep incline where I pulled the mirror on my side flat so as not to lose it.  Cute hotel, lovely proprietors, a great find, but obviously nowhere to park.  We dumped our luggage and one of the two sister owners directed us to an underground car park a little way away where we could have parking for half the 24 hour rate with the hotel card.  Thus it was key we find this particular car park.

The owner gave us a little map and it looked pretty straight forward.  My big mistake was leaving Marlene in the hotel room.  It was NOT straightforward.  Half and hour later we were hopelessly entangled in a morass of tiny cobbled streets, some of them one way, seemingly unreasonably so — after asking for help half a dozen times, serendipitously, there was the plaza with the parking garage underneath.  It turned out we had somehow crossed a bridge without realizing it, and had gone completely in the wrong direction, and most of the people we consulted figured any parking garage would do, not realizing that we needed the one at Plaza de Eglisia de Socorro for a reason…it was a fiasco.  Walking back took less than10 minutes, driving 40 minutes.  I wanted to go straight back and turn the car in….can’t imagine what will happen to us in a big city!!

We had a gorgeous dinner — no weight to be lost by me on this trip, the hyperthyroid one may need snacks, not sure if he is maybe getting even slimmer. I had oxtails, the local specialty and Doug had cod also done a la Ronda.  At the end of the meal they gave us shots of a local sweet wine, no name, the gregarious waiter said it was house made — lovely with a flavour of flowers.  So all’s well that ends well.

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Ronda is famous for its spectacular gorge which cuts through the town.  It was much beloved by the artists and poets of the 19 century, you would probably recognize it from paintings you have seen.  Hemingway liked the bullfighting here.  We have wandered a bit, but tomorrow we think we will hike the gorge and the surrounding area.  Crawling with tourists — we are kind of getting used to it now, so different from most of our trips, but fine when you expect it (we keep telling ourselves.)  We look forward to a pleasant few days here.

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