Ronda, Spain: white-washed romance

Karie on Jun 26th 2008 10:33 am

I’m not sure how I decided that we needed to visit Ronda.  Every time it would come up in discussions about our itinerary, Scott would say, “Sooo… what’s in Ronda?” And I never really had a good answer, besides that I heard it was really beautiful.

We actually ended up cutting our time here to 1 night, to give us a little more time in previous locations… since we weren’t too sure why we were coming here anyway.  But somehow we ended up staying for 3 nights.

We were completely unprepared, so we exited the train station to find out there are no city buses and no taxis around, so we hoofed it about a mile to our hotel.  Giuseppe (our GPS device) told us the shortest route… but what Giuseppe didn’t know, is that this particular route sent us all the way down a steep hill, across a bridge, then all the way back up the hill on the other side.

As we were crossing the Puente Viejo (“old bridge”), I was busy mumbling about dragging my butt and my bags up that hill.  However, Scott, who never stops asking the question “I wonder what that is?”, actually paused to look over the tall walls of the bridge.

One of the many things we did not know about Ronda is that the old town and new town are separated by a huge gorge, called El Tajo.  Scott’s gasps made me curious enough to stop complaining for a moment and come look.  I knew this town was supposed to be special, but I just wasn’t expecting that view.

Once we got to our hotel, we started actually doing some research on the town.  Come to find out, there are 3 bridges that cross the gorge (one of which would’ve taken us almost directly to our hotel with hardly any hills).  The white-washed old town is exactly what you’d expect to see in pictures of southern Spain, while the newer part of town is charming in its own right, with tons of pedestrian streets, a beautiful park set right on the cliff, and Spain’s oldest operational bull ring, Plaza de Toros.

The Ordóñez family, who pioneered the way bull fighting is done today, was from Ronda; as is one of the most famous bull fighters, Pedro Romero, who fought 6,000 bulls and was never once gored.  The bull ring was built in 1785, and only one matador has died there in all these years. It’s actually a pretty small ring, so it’s not used often these days, but when it is it’s kind of a big deal.

We had just taken a tour of a bull ring in Sevilla, which cost 5 Euros for an excellent guided tour.  This bull ring cost 6 Euros to tour, and no guide.  I was a bit disappointed at first, but I’m actually really glad that we did both.  The Sevilla tour was more informative, but the Ronda bull ring gives you access to so much more.  It was particularly interesting to see the system they use for guiding the bulls into their stalls then out into the ring in a way that requires no physical handling, so no one gets hurt, as well as other inside workings, and the museum.

I think having the history that I had learned in Seville helped me understand and appreciate the Plaza de Toros more than I otherwise would have.  However, Plaza de Toros does offer an audio guide for an additional cost, so that might be worth the few extra bucks if you don’t have much prior knowledge.

While we enjoyed visiting some of the other attractions in town (Arabic baths, a mine, etc.), there were three places in particular where we could both spend hours.  As a matter of fact, we did.

In no particular order…

The first was Hotel Ronda, which we spent quite a bit of time in, as we both had to work while we were there.  The hotel itself was wonderful (especially for the price), but the best part was the little old lady who runs it.  It used to be her family home, and it was just converted to a hotel a couple years ago.  She really took a liking to Scott, and was constantly taking care of him, giving him bottles of water, bug spray (lots of mosquitoes there), and anything else she could do to make sure we were comfortable.  Scott equally took a liking to her and her spunkiness.  At one point I heard a loud noise and I said, “What was that?”, and Scott said, “Oh, that’s her hanging a screen on the window in the other room. She must be taking a break from painting the lobby.”  Don’t let her 5 foot tall frame and gray hair fool you, she’s a firecracker.

The second was on/under/around the Puente Nuevo (new bridge).  From this bridge, you get a view of the gorge on one side, and on the other, the gorge continues (complete with waterfalls), but then spills out into a huge valley with olive orchards and sparse homes.

For 2 Euros you could pay to go down into the lower level of the bridge, for a small museum and a little different view.  There are a couple other lookout points, where you can actually see the beautiful bridge itself. You can get the best view by hiking down into the canyon, but by the time we realized that it was just too hot to attempt it.  If you’re there in the summertime and want to hike, start early.

Another favorite spot was Alameda del Tajo Park.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but I heard that this park was financed by fining people for swearing.  There must have been some vulgar mouths around town, because this park is pretty amazing.  It ends on the edge of the cliff, so the views are spectacular; there are fountains, a small aviary, and plenty of shaded benches.  It kind of felt more like a series of gardens, with pathways between areas of trees/foliage.  If only it had grass to lie on, we might have never left.

After spending a few days here, I can see why Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles both called Ronda home for many years.  We will definitely be back for more of its breathtaking romance.  In fact, I think we’ve found our future retirement community. In about 30 years, you’ll have to come to Ronda if you want to find us for 6 months out of the year.  Pictures just can’t do it justice, so I suggest you start planning to come visit us.


Filed in Photo Gallery,Spain,Travels | Comments (2)


2 Responses to “Ronda, Spain: white-washed romance”

  1. sylvia quirogaon 15 Mar 2009 at 2:39 am

    Hi
    I have written to you before and I really appreciated you getting back to me last time.
    I am traveling next summer to ronda . I will be hoping to arrive there by train from either Madrid or Cordoba. The reason for the train ride is that I am scared of driving with all the mountainous heights. My question is about the trrain ride. You took the train as well I think it says in your blog….is the train ride scary with the heights or does it take another route? How about from the station to the main part of ronda? what is that like , taxi ride up or walk how is that ? in terms of being oni the edge of /or the side of the mountain?

    After ronda I want to go to Nerja and am wondering about the road there…again same concern….I don’t want to skip a beautiful place like ronda , I have heard so much about it but am wondering what that will be like?
    Thanks
    S.

  2. Karieon 17 Mar 2009 at 3:17 pm

    @Sylvia, We traveled by train and it wasn’t problematic at all. Yes, there is a huge gorge, but the train doesn’t travel that route. In fact, we didn’t even realize how spectacular it was until we were walking and crossed a bridge and looked down. We didn’t drive, but I know that there are also no roads going up the sheer edge of the gorge – it’s not like driving up a steep mountain at all.

    As for when you arrive, be prepared to walk to your hotel. We arrived in the evening (I think around 7pm) and there were no buses or taxis. Thankfully Rhonda is a very small town so you can walk everywhere, so just make sure you have directions to your hotel before you arrive. There are some hills in the city, but nothing extreme or scary. But if you’re unsure ask your hotel for the best walking route. We learned after the fact that we could’ve gone a different direction on a flat road and not had to drag our backpacks up the hill!

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