Greetings One & All,
I’m doing the write-up for our weekend getaway to Ronda Spain. This was a fantastic weekend! It was not too long, and not too short. Just right. If you are traveling to Spain, we highly recommend making a trip to visit the incredible town or Ronda Spain and we even have a couple of side trips to suggest.
Morning Day 1 – Off To A Great Start
We started off on Saturday morning. With no rush on getting out of the door, the trip started out in a relaxed fashion. I’ll have to remember that for the next trip. We were out the door by 10 AM, and had a leisurely drive.
Detour #1 on our way to Ronda
We decided to take a bit of a detour, and check out a town called Setenil de las Bodegas. The town’s claim to fame are the dwellings built into rock which overhangs the Rio Trejo. Once we arrived, we parked the car, and decided to find the historic area of town. At least that’s what the signs said. As we’re walking down the road, a few cars driving on the road pass us from behind, and they’re coming awfully close to us. I guess I should have told you that the roads here are notoriously narrow.
After some walking, we decide to get into the car, and drive as we have no idea how far away the historic section of town is. Once we pile back into the car, we start driving down the road we just walked, and I see a sign that I had not noticed before. It was a Width Sign. You know it’s not good when there’s a sign telling how wide, or in this case, how narrow a street is. This particular sign indicated 1.6 meters, or roughly 5 feet 3 inches. At the time, I did not know the width of our car. I figured it was 1.6 meters, give or take. And with that, we continued on our way.
About 150 feet in, the houses started getting closer. And closer. At this point, I folded the side mirrors in to give us as much room as possible. Heidi does not like it when I drive fast. She does that thing, where she grips the door handle really tight (like that would even help), and she was doing it now. I was going all of 4 miles per hour (6.5 kilometers per hour), and she had the death grip on the door.
I figured we were through the bad part when up ahead, I see the corners of to buildings come extremely close to each other. So close that I’m thinking there’s no way we can make it. Reversing is out of the question, so we soldier on. Heidi is squirming, and I’m trying to remain calm, all while waiting for the inevitable scrape I’m going to hear from both sides of the car.
With the side mirrors in, it was so narrow that I couldn’t stick my head out of the window to see how much room I had. I don’t see how we made it without gouging the car, but we did. Huge sigh of relief! We were through (what I hoped) the narrowest part of the road. We came to a T in the road, and debated on whether to go left or right. While we’re deciding on what to do, we see a bunch of locals watching us. I guess this is what they do for fun here.
I decide to go left, and as I’m starting my turn, a car comes from that direction. Wait a sec…I thought this was a one-way road going my direction! Nope. It’s one of those “Two Lane Roads the Width of a Single Lane” type of road. I back up carefully, and let the car pass. Heidi gets out, and asks one of the men which direction we should go. How do you say, “Get me the hell out of these narrow roads!” in Spanish?
We decided to follow the car that just went by, and go right this time. It looked really narrow, but luckily, it was just our limited point of view. At one point, we’re on one of the famous narrow roads covered by a big rock. I’m sure it’s a great view, but I’m worried about hitting the few pedestrians and scraping my car against someone’s abode. A few more rights and lefts, and we’re out of it. With that we decide to park the car again, and walk around town. I’m kinda glad that’s over.
We walk to the area we drove down, and grab a snack at one of the bars along the overhanging rock. It’s impressive that the people who lived here used the natural surroundings, although it’s immensely practical. I can imagine the construction crew being happy about not having to build a roof. In the bathrooms upstairs, the ceiling is the rock overhang.
As we relax and wait for our food and drinks, we enjoy the atmosphere. There are birds flying all around, and some beautiful long vines hanging down. The calm is quickly broken by the first passing car. It’s not that the car is going fast, but it’s the closeness with which it passes that unsettles Heidi. Scooting your chair in so that someone can get by is one thing, but when that someone happens to be a car, it is a bit strange.
I take a few pictures for people. Initially, I get the same look from everyone of whom I offer to take pictures. It’s a look of, “He wants to steal my camera!”. I’m used to it. When they see my big camera, and know that I can’t outrun anybody while carrying it, or if they see the kids with me, they give me the OK, and I use their camera to take pictures. I like to keep my Good Karma Bank full.
We pay the bill, and as we’re walking back to the car, I tell Heidi that I wouldn’t want those narrow streets to be on my daily commute. Much too stressful. If you’re planning a trip to Setenil de las Bodegas, make sure you know how wide your car is.
Side Note: When we got back home from this trip, I checked the dimensions of our car online. 1.8 meters!
Street width: 1.6 meters
Car width: 1.8 meters
Somebody’s measuring skills are a tad off. We should have some nice new designs running down the length of our car, but we lucked out.
On To the Hotel (Just outside of Ronda)
It’s another 20 minutes or so to Ronda, but we’re not in any big hurry. As we get close, we’re seeing an awful lot of bicyclists. They are wearing numbers, so it’s a big race. We see them throughout the day on our drive around the hills. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking it’s the yearly road cycling sportive that’s 202 kilometers (125 miles!) That’s a lot of bicycling up and down some serious hills.
It was getting late in the afternoon, so we decided to find our hotel (El Horcajo in the countryside near Ronda), check-in, and then take it easy for a bit. That’s Alan code for take a nap. The hills and countryside on the way to the farm provided stunning views. Our hotel is not your typical hotel. It is a farm nestled in a valley with simple Spanish style. There are several bungalows, a pool, and a small restaurant, not to mention a large lodge area with farming tools hung on the wall. We checked in, and unpacked our stuff. We were only going to be there one night, so quaint and cozy were just what the doctor ordered. Heidi took the kids for a swim, and I decided to take it easy (wink wink).
I’ll tell you the rest of the story after I’m better rested.
Late Afternoon Day 1 – On To Ronda
Ahhh. Now that we’re all somewhat rested, we head into Ronda to check out the city. As we get into the center of Ronda, we see a number of the streets are blocked off. Do you know what that means? That means the Wagoners have once again fortuitously found a local fair (feria): Ronda Romantica. Have we got the touch, or what?! Now that we know there is a party going on, it explains why there are no parking spots to be found. None. That is until Heidi spots someone getting in their car, and tells me to wait. It’s a snug fit, but it puts us only a few blocks from the festivities.
Ronda Romantica is a May Fair that was founded in 1509. 1509! . These type of fairs were more about people selling goods and property with the express support from the local monarchy. This support included safety from bandits (bandoleras), and tax exemption. Tax free weekend!
As we walk to the center of town, we start to see the locals dressed in fancy regalia. The women are wearing beautiful dresses with ornate hair coverings. The men are also wearing their fanciest garb, and sporting some of the sweetest Mutton Chops I have ever seen. For those guys who are mutton-chop challenged, they wear these combo wig/mutton chops which are pretty funny.
There are also many horse-drawn carriages, and men, couples, and families riding horses. It’s very similar to the garb we saw on our trip to Sevilla, but the women are not wearing flamenco dresses. As we get into the heart of the city, there is a passion play being acted out on the steps to a small church. Hundreds of people are engrossed in the play, and I enjoy watching the watchers.
Heidi goes to scope out the local Tourism Board, while I take the kids around a local market. The vibe is very similar to a Renaissance Fair. The various vendors are selling local crafts, food, and apparel. Everyone appears to be enjoying themselves as there is mass consumption of various forms of alcohol. While I don’t get into the cheese, or strange food consumption, I decide to walk on the wilder side, and try some alcohol. It wasn’t completely awful, but it’s not something I would drink again.
As we are enjoying the festivities and people watching, we make our way past the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. This is the oldest bullring in all of Spain (1785). We don’t go in, but there is a definite reverence about the place.
We take a slight detour off the main road, and make our way around a few buildings to get a wonderful view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). Pictures of Ronda always include the bridge, and El Tajo gorge. It is an amazing sight, and incredible feat of engineering. We take a bunch of pictures, and take pictures of others, and gaze at the river below. It was nice that the streets were blocked off to cars for the Feria, as we had them all to ourselves. The next time we visit Ronda, I would like to walk the trails below the bridge.
As we walk over the bridge, we see more Horsemen and carriages, and it dawns on us that we’re starting to get a bit hungry. Luckily there’s a street just off the main road which is lined with restaurants. As we walk by, waiters show us their menus and their daily specials. Each restaurant included a variety of local foods, and other typical tourist fare (hamburgers, pizza, etc.). Heidi and the kids get waylaid by one particular waiter, and I continue to look other menus.
Anya comes up to me, and says, “Daddy, the waiter was flirting with Mommy.”
“What?! He was flirting?” Lars chimes in, and tells her, “It wasn’t flirting. He was just trying to get us to eat there.” She shrugs her shoulders, and it’s good for a chuckle. After looking at 15 or so restaurants, and guess where we decide to eat? Yep. Flirty Waiter’s restaurant.
Heidi and I order a nice chicken dish. Anya has the Gambas Pil-Pil (garlic and shrimp baked in olive oil). My man Lars asks for Migas Completas. While he likes migas (fried flour crumbs), this particular dish has a fried egg, chorizo, and morcilla (think blood sausage). While he doesn’t eat it all, he does try it, and I have to give him credit for that. He’s way more adventurous than I am when it comes to food!
We finish our meal, and the check is much bigger than expected. Why? Well, the bread rolls and water we had alone were about 10 Euros. We fell for Flirty Waiter’s good looks (not really) and sales spiel. This is a Tourist Area, and as such we definitely paid a premium for this meal. We should know better, but we were hungry, and we were off our guard.
By now it is nearly 10 pm and still light out! We agree to head back to the car, but this time we’ll take a different route. We find a long pedestrian only street with stores galore. People are still enjoying themselves eating ice cream, and laughing. We find our car, and head back to the hotel. Once there, we head to the main lodge to check on e-mail, and watch some TV, and just hang out. The internet connection is very slow (think dial-up), so I give up, and Lars and I decide to go to the room and get ready for bed.
Not too much later, Heidi and Anya come in, and with that our first day in Ronda comes to an end. [Fade to black]
Stay tuned for the action-packed second day of our Ronda trip. We see a guy walking his pet sheep, and visit a cave filled with bats and prehistoric paintings.
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