Road to Ronda

April 17, 2008

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It is a gorgeous drive from Marbella to Ronda taking in the Spanish countryside and spectacular sea and mountain views. After three days in Madrid seeing the museums and city sights, I thought it was time they tasted this rural part of Spain and their first white village/Pueblo Blanco.

Ronda is only about an hours drive from Marbella, but a world apart as one winds up the undulating road, looking back to the sea and getting a good look at the rock of Gibralter. The endless Andalusian mountains are very green at this time of year and the sky a bright azure blue. We saw rugged rock faced amber cliffs, an ancient variety of pine trees and no people or houses for most of the drive. We pulled over for some stunning views, photo opportunities and a little leg stretching.

They were excited when we would come around a turn in the road and see suddenly a mountain blanketed in white houses and set in virgin surroundings. We had told them about our life in a white village, but they were still fascinated at how they were built right into the mountain often looking precariously perched on an edge. They were all at a distance which probably added to the mystery, along with our flamenco music on the car radio.

As we grew closer to Ronda we observed the bright greens of spring’s new plantings, lots of olive trees
and the famous almond trees in full blossom. We saw lots and lots of goats of every color and some looked as though they might be wild. We spotted a few sheep too and some vines and DaVinci and his dad both
daydreamed about the possibility of having a little farm right here in this idyllic location.

We entered the village over the fearsome narrow, deep gorge of the Guadalevin river on the eighteenth century New Bridge and headed toward Parador De Ronda where we planned to have lunch. That turned
out to be a very lucky and smart choice since parking anything, let alone a van, is no easy feat in Ronda.

DaVinci jokingly dubbed our group “the invalid tour” since we had great restrictions on how much walking we could do and how hard that is to accomplish in Europe while sight seeing. I have an old knee injury from when I crushed it years ago, so with that and a six year old, we are used to adjusting things. Now with an octogenarian patriarch with us, his chain smoking elderly lady friend who was dealing with lots of mobility issues and our large group size of six added to the mix, we had a few more challenges.

Luckily we are all fairly patient types and everyone was a “trooper” in their own way as we all had to deal with things out of our comfort zone. DaVinci had aggravated his back (a weak area due to a car accident long ago) by dealing with all our luggage and boxes we put in storage, so even he was one of the “invalids” those first few days. So I had just planned lunch at the Parador and visiting the bull ring for this first day partly because they were right next to each other (minimizing the walking/standing times) and highlighted the famous views.

We had set our GPS (which we call “Florence”) with the Parador address and she took us right to it. Yes, they have underground parking, but the corkscrew tiny entrance was a thrill in a van as we inched our
way in, yanking in the mirrors and praying. As a Californian who has been in a badly hit spot in a 7.2 earth quake, I can not go into such places without thinking about what would happen if an earthquake decided this was a good moment to hit. Still it was a blessing to have safe parking close to all that we needed.

We headed over to the Plaza De Toros (bullring) first thing and had it pretty much to ourselves on this glorious morning. Then we headed over to take in the dizzying heights, deep rocky chasms, and awe inspiring tranquil valley views that help create the magic and beauty that is Ronda. It was first a Celtic settlement, then Roman, followed by the Moors and then Catholic Kings and seeing its unique and breathtaking location, one instantly understands why.

We ambled over to the Parador and had a delicious, reasonably priced lunch. Several of us had the chicken which was particularly tasty and Grandpa and Mozart enjoyed sharing a big chef salad. We decided to forego the stuffy formal dining room inside and lounged comfortably in the sun with magnificent views as far as the eye could see. The weather was typical of Spain at this time of year where many in the sun protected from wind were peeled down to T-shirts or sleeveless, but those in the shade needed a light jacket or sweater.

Our guests tried their first Spanish Sangria that they enjoyed as well as their first gazpacho which  just seemed odd to the elders. The idea of a soup that was cold seemed very unusual to these soup lovers and the taste too unconventional for their palates, although DaVinci’s sister enjoyed it. Mozart enjoyed drawing with her Abuelo and putting on lipstick with Auntie BJ! What a perfect day to just “kick back” and enjoy the great food, great company and great views.

Ever the consummate shopper, Mozart leading the younger part of the family , strolled through the old  town to browse, shop a little and take in the ambiance. Meanwhile the elder two took in the views from
a sitting position on the bridge and enjoyed people watching.

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