After extensive investigation and considerable investment in time (and let’s not forget money … oh the dollars I have spent), I have determined that tourism is a fascinating thing. It seems to exist as basically we all want to be somewhere other than where we currently are to seeing things other than the usual. I will leave the multitude of potential explanations alone. What I also find interesting why do we go to a particular place in the first place. The answer seems to be that every place has one or more things that draw us there. Rome is easy – the ancient Roman ruins, the Vatican. Venice needs no explanation. Toledo – the medieval hill fort/town and its surrounding walls. And Ronda?
Ronda is a gorgeous little hill top town that sits on a flat hilltop on the edges of Serrania de Ronda mountain range. It is split into a new and old town (use these terms loosely) by a very deep narrow gorge some 126 metres deep through which the rio Guadalevin runs. It is the bridge that straddles this gorge that attracts tourists like ants to honey. Even Andalucia.com states
“Visitors make a beeline for the 18th century Puente Nuevo ‘new’ bridge.”
Isn’t that why I was there you might well ask. Of course is the answer. I will add here that I thought Val would enjoy walking through the surrounding countryside since she seems to like going for a ‘walk’ and is supposed to be training for walking in the Pervian Andes, so the bridge was not my only reason for coming.
But the bridge. I wanted to stay somewhere with a view of the bridge. The Parador was an obvious choice initially as it is advertised as hugging the cliffs with an unparalleled view of the gorge and Puente Nuevo. Checked it out and sure – for a fee, about $300 per night you could have that. It was booked out. So off to Airbnb and I found us a little apartment that was adjacent to the other side of the bridge for only $125 per night. Stick your Parador up your jumper! We were so close to the bridge you could almost touch it!
And at night what a view. The only thing obscuring a portion of our view was the terraces from the restaurant below us. Awesome.
To get a true idea of the scale of the Puente Neuvo you have to walk down the gorge and look at it from a far. (If you look down from the top it is a bit of a vertiginous experience as it really is a sheer drop). You can take the short steep way or the long way down the stone road. The road is actually very pretty as is is lined with wild spring flowers at this time of the year. The air is filled with the sounds of multitudes of birds including the beautiful songs of larks.
Despite what 50,000 tourists might be led to believe as their tour takes them along three streets in town and expensive tourist restaurants of dubious food quality, Ronda is a very pretty white hill top town on both the old and new sides. Streets are just gorgeous with their white buildings. The only bummer is the cars which Val insists go too fast and are trying to run her down – what does she expect when she doesn’t use the footpath!
The streets can be really steep in places tricky. I saw one guy drop his motorbike as he tried to negotiate the tight, steep turn under this gorgeous archway
All spanish towns have small squares which invariably have some type of bar or cafe so people can while away time. Ronda is no exception. There are some orange trees and a faint scent of the blossom but not the same heady scent as Córdoba.
There are other nice places to relax too including an old cloister and an old moorish garden. Interestingly Ronda has little reference to its Moorish past unlike Córdoba which literally trades on ‘glorious’ days gone by.
But what a wonder to behold inside. I think if Disney was ever going to design a fairy cathedral, this would be it. I have to retract a statement I made last year when I said Spanish churches/cathedrals were creepy places. None of the ones I have seen here fit that description at all.
They even have crying Virgin Marys which I have to say add a femininity to what is normally quite a masculine building.
And this one is the patron Saint of Ronda. She is actually quite breathtakingly beautiful when you see her in situ surrounded by the heavy confusion of a floor to ceiling baroque alter. The fellow who was minding this church was trying to tell me about Mother Mary being the patron saint and how she was about to go on procession blessing the town next week. Clearly I didn’t understand Spanish so he resorted to the age old trick of ensuring you understand – speak louder and faster. Didn’t work. I worked it out later from some of the signs I saw pasted on walls.
One night I made a group of Korean or Japanese tourists evening. They were busy taking photos of the colour in the sky without even noticing the silhouette of the pagoda. I showed one woman my image and she got so excited and started chattering away. She pointed excitedly to the others and then her iPad was thrust into my hands and it was clear I was being directed to take a photo for her. On an iPad!!!! She was so happy. One of the joys of travelling.
Now you may well recall my ‘passion for nuns’ as Val so politely refers to it. I was in a camera shop (just looking and they didn’t sell Fuji) and I spied a couple of nuns standing at the counter looking at their photos. “Nuns” I said excitedly to myself. They are in the shop so they have to come out. The street photographer had spotted her prey. Time to get into position to get the shot. Bang!
Now having got that shot, I decided to stalk them to see where they were going i.e. hopefully a church. In hot pursuit I followed. I tried to get ahead of them. They disappeared into a shop. Dang. I looked into the shop window and there was a male mannequin wearng a singlet and very fancy boxer trunks. I kid you not! Then I saw another female version wearing very nice undies and bra. What?? “I suppose even monastics have to buy undies.” So I did as a good street photographer would, I found my backdrop and waited for them to come out. I waited. The older nun came out, spoke on the phone and then headed back in. “Must have been the younger who was in the market.” A number of women went inside during this time and their men waited outside the shop. I waited. I waited. “Don’t give up'” I said to myself, “they have to come out and remember how long it takes to find something that fits.” I waited. I waited and waited some more very inconspicuously in the entrance of an underground carpark. Of course that’s the right place to stand. I waited. They came out. Camera armed and ready to go. They turned their backs on me and walked in the opposite direction away from me. I looked in the shop as my prey left me behind. It was a haberdashery shop. Nothing more to do than laugh.
Later I was to find my other favourite subject. “Look out puss, here she comes” announces Val in the background. She forgot to say it in Spanish! Ha.