September 23, 2014
We loved Ronda. The old city is so beautiful, perched on the edge of a deep gorge with a tiny (at the end of the dry season) river at the bottom of it. At least 3 bridges cross the gorge, one of the confusing parts of our parking fiasco was being told to cross the “New Bridge” which turns out to be made of stone and very ancient looking. That is the bridge featured in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Throwing the fascists off the bridge was definitely a decisive punishment, the gorge is phenomenally deep. Also for those with a memory for children’s literature, the old book Ferdinand about the young bull who doesn’t want to go to the bull ring in Madrid is set in Ronda and the illustrations show the gorge, the city walls and the bridge. (An American tourist told me that and showed me the pictures on her phone, pretty sure the girls borrowed that book from Yennadon school library.)
Ronda is one of Spain’s oldest cities and a good portion of the city fortress walls remain. It was a very active centre in Islamic times, and the main old cathedral was built on the site of a mosque, they cleverly reused the minaret where the muezzin would call the faithful to prayer, converting it to the spire above the bell tower where the eight bells toll away. We had a great time exploring the cathedral (Doug has decided that though he is unchanged in his intense dislike of guides he can tolerate an audio guide, you know the phone like things you listen to and they tell you more than you want to know about each location — the one for this cathedral was excellent.) We also hiked down into the gorge, the trail was a bit scary at places, and up again, then out into the countryside to look back at the beautiful golden walls and rusty tiled roofs of the city.
I think I told you our hotel was the former house of the two sisters who ran it most efficiently. They were raised there along with their 4 siblings, hard to imagine how 8 people fit into it, but they have made a very nice 5 guest room hotel with a little loft apartment for themselves. They tend to it and their guests with tender loving care. They were so sweet and helpful, and last night as we returned from dinner at about 10 they came down from their quarters with a bowl of melon balls and a half bottle of champagne as a little gift for us! Our room and the tiny terrace on the roof where we had breakfast looked onto the ruins of an old palace with adjacent gardens. A steep staircase underground led down to the river so that they could have water during sieges of the city. Just down the road were the ruins of the so called Roman baths, we went in there on a Monday as it was free. The attractions are muy expensive here, though we have found that being over 65 entitles us to 1/2 price a lot of places.
We had such a lovely time there, we didn’t leave the town. It was lucky we walked as much as we did since we had great meals — we wanted to try the tipico foods of the area, so after the Oxtails I mentioned, last night I had Rabbit in Ronda wine and Doug had Partridge with dried fruits. The partridge was surprisingly substantial, must look up what a partridge looks like, had the idea it would be more like a quail. A lot more meat on it than on the guinea pig we ate in Ecuador anyway.
Wine is so cheap here, if you order the house wine by the glass it is less than buying water. Sadly they do not have our habit of filling water glasses for free, finally we are in a country where it is safe to drink from the tap and we still have to buy it in restaurants. The only thing saving my conscience is the restaurants use glass, reusable bottles and we fill our water bottles in the hotel before we leave each morning. Anyway, back to the wine, quite the temptation for semi-lushes like ourselves, I have had some terrific whites and some insipid ones, Doug has yet to meet a red he hasn’t liked, though a couple were a bit “young”. We are now in sherry country and with our family history of enjoying a nice sherry from time to time, we are planning to start checking them out.
Today we left a bit reluctantly and have spent the day traveling towards Arcos de la Frontera, touring some “white towns” on the way, picturesque small villages all painted white hence the name. They deserve their own post which I will send later. We have learned to love “Marlene’s” annoying voice as she guided us through the twists and turns today with nary a hitch. The secret is to believe everything she says whether or not it is counterintuitive in Doug’s mind. The way she mangles the Spanish street names makes them incomprehensible, but they are also written on the screen so we are getting along much better with her. Sure was nice to be led through the tiny streets of Arcos and directly to our hotel’s door. Looking forward to some exploring from here.