Ronda (Mon., Mar. 26, 2012)

Today we started out a little later at 8:00 a.m. & headed for the cliff top city of Ronda.  (Our tours have been shuffled around due to the impending strike of all union transportation workers scheduled for Thursday.  So that means we won’t be able to go to Mijas, which was originally scheduled for this day.)

Today our bus driver’s name was (not Paco) Grace.  When Paco the 1st introduced her, either Loren or Jim from the back of the bus added, “Actually, we’ve (already) got Gracie Allen” on board, referring to Mary Grace G., who is quite a “colorful” personality.  (Did I mention that she loves the color red?  Almost everything she wears is red, including her eyeglasses.  She’s really cute & very funny.)

During the drive, we climbed up through hilly terrain, past a grouping of huge windmills (yes, the place was very windy), and through lots of farming areas which included many grain fields (I think it was wheat) and, of course, more olive orchards.  There were also lots of wild oak trees & a few cork trees around.  Paco said that the indigenous wild animals included boar, partridge, huge wild goats with big horns, and vultures.  Unfortunately, the only wild animals I saw were vultures and sparrows.  But Paco said that there used to be hundreds of wild bulls around too, & that’s what got the people started on bull fighting in the first place, since they were trying to kill them for food.  They learned that the bulls would go after whatever moved, so eventually the villagers learned to be still while shaking something in front of the bulls (such as a cape), & that way someone would be able to spear the bull & take him down.  (The bulls, incidentally, don’t care what color the cape is, so red, though traditional, is not mandatory.)

Ronda is located about 1.5 hrs. drive northwest of Torremolinos.  Paco was again full of all kinds of info. regarding the history of the area, which would have been really interesting had the bus speakers been a bit less fuzzy and had my hearing been a bit more clear.   Anyway, I did pick up enough to learn that the very unusual city of Ronda consisted of 3 different major sections: the Plaza del Toro Bullring (the oldest ‘official’ bullring in Spain), the Citadel, & the newer section of the city across the gorge.  Since in the older section of the city they had run out of building spaces, the Puente Nuevo Bridge was built in the 18th century in order for people to cross the gorge & build more houses on that side.

After departing the bus, the first place we toured was the “centuries old” bullring.  This was really interesting learning about the history of bull fighting, even though I hated the thought of how those poor bulls must have suffered during the fight (& they are still suffering, but at least the Spaniards are more conscious of using more humane practices nowadays).  Anyway, we were allowed to view inside the ring and the behind-the-scenes areas.

After that, we toured the rest of the city.  We were on our own time for lunch, so Joe, Colleen, Bill, & I went to Ortega’s (Paco’s suggestion) and ordered tapas (appetizers) of prosciutto & cheese, bread, salad, & drinks.  I also had the garlic almond soup (which was a cold soup, similar to gazpacho).  When it arrived, Colleen noted that it was “very blanco,” and it also had bits of some sort of tangy fruit in the bottom of the bowl.  It was very tasty even though Bill, being Bill, of course, was teasing me for the rest of the day about the fact that it contained garlic .   Oh well, too bad for him!

Ronda is situated high up on some cliffs with a huge gorge and river down below cutting the city in two.  As we walked across the bridge connecting the two areas, Bill briefly took over the photographing, since (with my annoying affliction of the fear of heights —always quite a nuisance) I was not able to look over the edge.  But again, we took lots of great photos, so you can see it all for yourselves.  This was a fantastic tour.  And Paco said that tomorrow when we go to Seville, the tour will be even better.

On the drive back to Torremolinos, we stopped at a small restaurant for a break, & Paco recommended we try a “carajillo,” which was an after-meal espresso with brandy.  He suggested it because it would help your “body to realign inside.”  It was very good, especially when I dumped in the whole sugar packet that accompanied it.   Whether my body became realigned or not, I’m not sure, but hopefully we’ll see.

(Many great photos of this day will be posted later.)