For months now, I’ve been meaning to get involved with Marianne’s (of East Of Malaga) monthly photo challenge. I suppose I hadn’t until today because I don’t really fancy myself as a great photographer. I take pictures of what I like, edit them, stick a few in a blog post slideshow and that’s about it. My thought process rarely extends beyond that. This month’s theme though – ‘Street Art’ – got me interested. I mean, how couldn’t I participate, given that we in Granada are fortuitous enough to have El Niño de las Pinturasamong us. This guy has been smearing Granada’s dull, lifeless walls with his vivid and magnetising imagination for 20 years now. Exactly 20 years, in fact; a documentary about him was made and premiered last weekend in a local realejo bar (my neck of the woods). He has daubed countless pieces in that time, and to choose my two favourites has been virtually impossible! So I chose four instead. Is that cheating? Marianne? In any case, I absolutely adore the style and depth in all of them, and particularly the interpretation in the one of the giraffe. For a look at other examples of his work see my original post here.
But the CBBH Photo Challenge is more than just an opportunity to show off your camera skills; it is a blog hop as well. The first ‘C’ and ‘B’, after all, do stand for conejoblanco (white rabbit). So each post posted in response to Marianne’s original post must include two links to two other blogs that the blogger has visited and commented on in the last month, so that his/her readers can ‘hop’ over to some unchartered corner of the frankly enormous blogosphere. It’ all about helping each other out you see. And we’re good at that in Spain.
So I will take this opportunity to direct you to Clare of Need Another Holiday. Clare’s blog, much like my own, new blog, focuses on part-time travel, as opposed to those that celebrate a nomadic and often vagrant existence. She has been all over. But mostly Greece. She absolutely loves Greece.
Secondly, I’d like to shout out to a blogger who has really wowed me with her vlog series recently. Jess, of HolaYessica!, blogs about Barcelona and various Spanish escapades. Her output rate is frankly unbelievable and her style and writing standards never falter. She’s also – fittingly – excellent with a camera. So go and say hi, and tell her that I sent you!
If you want to take part in the CBBH Photo Challenge, just head over to Marianne’s blog and read on. It’s fun and gives you a chance to share those pics that deserve to be seen!
At this stage of my Granadino expathood (2 years, 3 months), I really ought to have visited Las Alpujarras more than twice. Any discerning expat in Spain will attest to that. The first time was when I attended and (rather tamely) participated in the mother of all water fights in Lanjarón, to help celebrate el día de San Juan – the longest day of the year. The second outing came recently, perhaps at the best time of year to go considering the late autumn we had last year.
La Alpujarra’s unspoiled and natural beauty is as unparalleled as its unique microclimate, provoked by the constantly melting snow from above. In sharp contrast, the landscape below is much more arid and sparse.
A few facts and a little history…
The etymology of ‘alpujarra’ is unclear, though the most credible suggestion is that it derived from the Arabic word al-bugsharra, meaning ‘sierra of pastures’.
The average altitude is 4,000ft above sea level.
Many inhabitants of La Alpujarra descend from Galicians, after thousands were relocated from Galicia following the reconquest of Granada in 1568.
Mulhacen, the highest peak in Spain at 3,482m, is contained within the mountain range.
It contains Trevelez, the highest village in Spain, at 4,843ft above sea level.
The Alpujarras covers roughly 2,500km.
The Mediterranean, seen easily on a clear day, is just 40km away.
The enchanting, sky-scraping region spans two Spanish provinces – Granada and Almería – and comprises around forty small mountain villages. Its history is fascinating. The Moors were the first to settle there in the late 15th century, after being driven away by Spanish Christians who had recaptured Granada. This was where they remained until a hundred or so years later, when the Christians expelled anyone of Arab descent from the Kingdom of Granada. Following that, the Christians – many of them from Galicia in the north-west of Spain – resettled in the area, though much of the traditional Moorish architecture was preserved, and still is today.
It is, of course, impossible to explore each area of Las Alpujarras – unless you intend to stay for a longer period – so most day-trippers tend to stick with the main three tourist attractions: Capileira, Bubión and Pampaneira. They are all formed on elrio poqueira – a deep, yawning valley that drops towards the neighbouring villages of Órgiva and Lanjarón. Each village is characterised by its narrow, winding streets, old-fashioned crafts shops, flat clay roofs and tall, rounded chimney pots.
We began our day with a tour of Capileira – the second highest village in Las Alpujarras – and a coffee at local bar and restaurant Casa Pilar y Paco Lopez, where we were treated to spectacular views. The village brims with colourful, wooden-beam arts & crafts stores, all filled with local goods from handwoven rugs to homemade jams.
(click for slideshow)
Hand-made rugs in Capileira
Toys, crafts and clothes in Capileira
Casa de Pilar y Paco Lopez (the other Casa Lopez…)
Casa de Pilar y Paco Lopez, Garden
View of las Alpujarras from Casa Pilar y Paco Lopez
Hand-made rugs of Capileira, Las Alpujarras
A local goods store, Capileira, Las Alpujarras
View of Las Alpujarras from Bubión
The next village heading downward is Bubión, where there are yet more arts & crafts stores, art galleries and several cafés and restaurants to cater for hungry hikers. There is also a small folk museum called Casa Alpujarreña, which was free to enter when we passed by, though the real draw – as with the neighbouring villages – is the frankly ridiculous view of the Alpujarra all around you.
If you plan on completing the circuit I’d recommend you take the steep, tumbling backstreets that lead into the woods before arriving in Pampaneira. During autumn the trees’ colours turn glorious shades of yellow, red, orange and green. And if you’re wearing orange-tinted sunglasses like I was you’ll wish you could take pictures simply by blinking your eyes.
There is supposedly an abundance of wildlife in the alpujarra – mountain goats, birds of prey and even the rare lynx are sighted often – but we were not to see any other living creature except the odd, fellow rambler and a penned herd of fat, soon-to-be-slaughtered pigs. Can’t complain though, with views like this:
(click for slideshow)
Old-school signpost in Bubión
The tumbling backstreets of Bubión
Houses in Bubión, Las Alpujarras
Somehow a tree has managed to burst through a wall in Bubión. Impressive.
View of Las Alpujarras, Spain
Orange, orange, orange
The colourful walkway to Pampaneira, Las Alpujarras
Views along the trail to Pampaneira
Our hilly walk finished in Pampaneira, where things are a bit livlier. Each bar buzzed with the sound of chatter and glasses being clinked by families and groups of friends, laughing and joking. The sun was up, the scenes were classic Spain and the beers were – at least for their brief life span – blissful. There was even a chocolate factory. Yes, that’s right – a genuine chocolate factory – which, save for an edible theme park and a few oompa-loompas, was everything I’d expect a chocolate factory to be. Namely, there was lots of free chocolate. It’s curious how at first you act all coy and indifferent in the interest of being polite, but the minute hands start swooping in for the flavour you’ve got your hawk eyes on all such nonchalance suddenly melts away. ‘There’s only one chunk of caramel biscuit left and you can think again if you think you’re getting to it first girl of eight‘. Seriously, I actually took candy from a baby. Tasted great too.
Next came the food (chocolate didn’t count). A steakhouse by the name of El Castaño had been strongly recommended by a friend and since none of us had EVER enjoyed a good steak in Spain before we simply had to indulge. It was perhaps the best meal I’ve had in Spain yet, and if it weren’t for the impending and inevitable traipse back up to the car in Capileira, I might never have moved again.
I’ll be back to Las Alpujarras soon, especially now since there is snow on the mountains. It’s a walkers paradise and absolutely unmissable if you are planning on visiting the Granada province of Spain.
Given the distance between Granada and La Alpujarra (70km) I’d recommend taking a car. There are only three buses that leave from Granada per day and the first is at 10am, meaning you’ll have missed the entire morning by the time you get there. The cost, however, is probably cheaper in comparison at €11 return, though if there are four or five of you it may work out only marginally more expensive to hire a car from either Granada city centre or Granada Airport. The bus timetable is as follows:
Granada – Capileira
10.00 12.00 16.30
Capileira – Granada
07.00 16.45 18.15
All services stop at Pampaneira and Bubión too, 5-10 minutes before and after respectively. The journey takes roughly two and a half hours. Go to alsa.es to book tickets.
Las Alpujarras, Spain
Me in Las Alpujarras
Autumn orange sunset over las alpujarras
Have you been to Las Alpujarras? Which other villages would you recommend? Was this article useful?
Autumn in Spain is a fleeting and climatically confusing period, particularly here in Granada. It creeps in unnoticed, seizing one degree at a time, while we all cling desperately to the vestiges of our beloved summer. ‘Is it still beach weather?’ beach bums cry. ‘I heard the Sierra’s getting some snow tomorrow!’ exclaim winter sports fans. Truthfully, both scenarios are equally as probable, which, for those of us who embrace all weather types, is a rather agreeable set of circumstances.
Better still, autumn yields gorgeous amalgams of colour in the trees, a truth perhaps best observed in Granada’s epitomical Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens. Since starting this blog, I’ve posted nothing on the Alhambra; I’ve always felt the post would be too predictable and I wanted to wait until autumn to take my pictures.
Well I’m glad I did. Last weekend the weather was perfect for it: crisp, clear and brilliant. So up I went, armed with a ticket (€14) and my modest camera. Here are (the pick of) the results:
(click to view as slideshow)
Puerta de las Granadinas (Gate of the Pomegranates)
View from Lower Generalife Gardens, Alhambra
Generalife Auditorium Theatre
Green still winning
Torre de las Infantas (Tower of The Princesses)
Courtyard in Lower Generalife Gardens
Fountain in Lower Gardens
If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of some nice colours…
Granada seen from the Torre de la Vela – the highest point of The Alhambra
Patio de la Acequia (Court of The Water Channel)
Amazing architecture in lower generalife gardens
More amazing architecture that in no way indicates that we are in autumn…
Patio de la Sultana (Court of the Sultana)
View from above patio de la Acequia
Autumn colours in Upper Generalife Gardens
Patio de la Sultana
Arched walkway leading from generalife back to the pavilion
Round the back of the palace…
View from the public viewing area
El Albaícin seen from the window of the Mexuar in the Alhambra Palace
Patio de Arrayanes (Court of The Myrtles)
Miniature archway in Patio de Arrayanes
Patio e los Leones (Court of The Lions)
Patio de Lindaraja, Alhambra
Outside Palacio del Partal
Palacio Yusef III & Alhambra Gardens
Autumn colours in Alhambra Palace Gardens
Granadinas losing the battle against the cold, Alhambra Palace
Torre de la Cautiva (Tower of The Captive)
Alhambra Palace Gardens
Torre de la Vela (Watchtower), Alhambra
The lower reaches of the albaícin seen from La Alcazaba
Alhambra Palace Gardens beyond public viewing area
Unlike its onset, the end of autumn couldn’t be more perceptible; temperatures plummet, hats and scarves abound, wheelie-radiators clutter people’s living rooms and it gets dark at 6pm. That transition is currently in its early stages, and this year I’ll be sure to refer back to my guide on how to survive a Spanish winter for when the big chill really sets in. Should be ok though; this year I’m actually allowed to use radiators at home!
You can buy tickets for The Alhambra either from the shop along the street leading to Plaza Nueva or from ticketmaster.es.
I hadn’t planned to go to Pamplona. Originally, my semana santa plan of action was to spend just two nights in Bilbao (which developed into three after I realised how much I loved the place/that the Guggenheim was closed on Mondays), three nights in San Sebastián (which was reduced to two after I realised I was actually rather bored) and one night in Santander (which just gradually, for some reason, became less and less appealing).
If truth be told, my decision to go to Pamplona was based purely on one man’s recommendation and the alleged fact that I was more likely to encounter Basque being casually spoken in the streets, even though Pamplona isn’t actually a part of País Vasco. There also happened to be a couchsurfing night on which, judging by the number of confirmed attendees pre-departure, looked to be a rather promising climax to my trip.
Until that day, the city hadn’t even been on the radar. All I knew about it was that once a year its inhabitants allowed a drove of disoriented and understandably irked bulls to gallop around the city for an entire day, which, to be honest, wasn’t something high up on my to-do list, given the fact I am completely against animal cruelty and I am – not unlike most I imagine – shit scared of bulls. I’ve heard the stories; seen the horrifying Youtube videos; and been charged at in a field when I was about 10. Placing myself within the immediate vicinity of one of these unforgiving beasts was not on my bucket list, oddly enough.
Perhaps I was being slightly naïve. Well, I was definitely being slightly naïve, as it turned out. When I met my eleventh-hour couchsurfing host in Pamplona, just half an hour after arriving and three hours after deciding that I would go, my previously uneducated opinion on the matter quickly began to manifest itself. My host, Nacho, met me by the city’s famed ayuntamiento building and readily pointed out to me how various metal bollards that are usually kept hidden within the ground are raised during San Fermín, in order to protect spectators. Apparently, they could be found all over the city.
Not that bollard spotting was something I felt particularly enthused about, but I’d soon find out in any case, as a bike was pushed in my direction moments after we arrived at Nacho’s flat.
“It’s going to rain tomorrow”, he proclaimed with a smile, “so I take you on a bike ride to see the city today!”
Moments like this reminded me why I love couchsurfing so much. It really is the best way of meeting people when travelling – a couch or bed for the night is merely a bonus.
Off we went, beginning the tour where the bulls themselves are let loose into the city. First, we passed a tiny, doll-sized porcelain model of San Fermín which stood behind a glass panel in the brick wall beyond the ayuntamiento building – something that would have completely passed me by had it not been for Nacho’s local knowledge.
Next, we came upon a park filled with ducks, geese, peacocks and other feathery creatures. I’m pretty sure I kept it locked but I am also, embarrassingly, shit scared of geese. Well not scared…scared, just massively uncomfortable around them. I can’t be certain, but I’m fairly sure I was chased by a gaggle of them when I was little, after innocently tossing a few chunks of bread at some ducks, who were then ambushed. The memory is hazy, but on the rare occasion that I actually do encounter geese, that same sudden pang of panic hits me, and I just need to get out of there. I envisaged my own hellish version of San Fermín: the running of the geese. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to run anywhere, as there was an 8ft wall between us, and I had a bike to escape on if it somehow managed to sense my fear and fly at me. On the upside I did see a black swan for the first time. Take a look:
With the geese in our wake, we pedaled on toward Pamplona’s 16th century fortress so I could soak up a bit of history. The castle was built under the rule of King Phillip II, who later had the city bounded by walls so as to keep out the French and any other unwelcome guests. For hundreds of years after the city could only develop within these walls, as Pamplona served as one of northern Spain’s most fortified of military footholds. The walls – visibly ravaged by war – still stand today. One we passed had a small opening with a metal pane barricading its entrance. Again, I’d never have noticed if Nacho hadn’t stopped to tell me all about it.
“Tunnels like these stretch for miles, and were used for eavesdropping”, he explained, “people would be sent down them for days at a time and remain in absolute silence so that any enemy strikes or ill-intentioned conversations between conspirers could be preempted back at the fortress”.
Nacho was full of interesting information, and could have easily fooled me into thinking he was an actual tour guide.
That evening, he and I headed out to a bar to meet other couchsurfers of the Pamplona community, some of whom had other travellers staying with them. We were the first to arrive but before long others were blowing in thick and fast. Eventually the bar was swarming with Spanglish speaking couchsurfers, mingling to no end. Beer and pintxos were lavishly consumed, and contact details for future reference affably exchanged. In truth, it was a real eye-opener of a night; how, and why on earth had I been missing out on this scene in Granada?
Next day, I unsurprisingly awoke to a merciless hangover that kept me prisoner for the rest of the early afternoon.
“The solution is easy!” declared Nacho. “We will go to other bar to drink more!”
Despite my lack of enthusiasm I really did admire the guy’s adeptness at hosting – and drinking for that matter – he’d certainly fit in with my usual crowd at home.
“Ahh. Hair of the dog” I replied.
“Err, ‘pelo del perro?’”
“Que dices hombre? Vístete! Vamos muy pronto.” What are you on about mate? Get dressed. We’re leaving very soon.
Fair enough. I could hardly rebuff such a proposal after all that he had done for me thus far. His house, his rules.
Half an hour later, I watched with one dry, bloodshot eye as a grinning barman poured me a locally brewed cidra (cider) whilst the other got to work on locating the bathroom just in case I needed to pay an impromptu visit (I wasn’t cross-eyed). Nacho and his friend who’d joined us were evidently less effected, or just way more macho than I was, as they got started on a couple of Perucci Martinis. My cider was only a 250ml measure but lasted me a good hour.
As we chatted outside, Nacho suddenly nodded in the direction of a family standing to our left. They were speaking Basque. Weirdly, it more or less involved another mother telling off her children, though on the previous occasion I hadn’t managed to retain a lot of what I’d heard believe it or not. It was a lot clearer this time, though still an utter mystery.
Several remedial pintxos and photos of the world’s third largest Plaza de Toros later and I was headed back to the bus station, in the absolute pissing rain, feeling rather pleased with my brief but decidedly satisfying trip. Pamplona – minus all the fuss and bustle of San Fermín – is a city worth visiting any time of the year.
Have you been to Pamplona? Would you like to go? Do leave a comment!
The only thing I could be sure of before heading to País Vasco was that I was going to eat well; anybody I spoke to who had been before would probably have testified to it in a court of law had they been given the chance.
“Dios mio que suerte! La comida alli es increíble!” they would more or less say.
“Me traigas un pintxo vale?”
Hmm. Bring you one back? Wouldn’t a fancy tapa along Calle Navas suffice instead?
They were joking of course, but when I arrived at Bar Txalupa – my first Pintxo bar in San Sebastián – cold, sodden and starving, I quickly realised that such a request –whether it had been a joke or not –wasn’t so unreasonable after all. The overflowing dishes of elaborately concocted pintxos looked fit for a king. Choosing which I was going to devour first was a tough decision to take. Eventually though, I settled for the elegant jamón and goat’s cheese salad tostada and sweet tuna mayo-stuffed, red pepper. Both of them were practically inhaled at the cost of €2.50 each (without a drink included). A budget lunch in San Sebastián, it seemed, was not an easy thing to come by.
Next, my couchsurfing host, Luis – author of ‘Aquel Año Erasmus’ – led me to his personal favourite, Bar Juantxo, where the pintxos were apparently cheaper and just as appetising. We arrived and waded in through the jostling crowd. Beside the Spanish menu was one written in Euskera. ‘Time to flex my lingo skills’ I thought, ‘how hard can it be if it’s written in front of me?’ I gave it my best shot, and was met with first a smile, and then the translated version in Castellano. ‘Si’ I replied with a sigh. I’d managed my first proper Basque sentence but the fact that the barman had answered in Spanish irked me, just as it used to when Spanish people spoke to me in English when I was trying my hardest to spit out a sentence in Spanish. At least I knew I’d got it right.
The food was just as gratifying as Luis had promised, and cost just €2 a pintxo, and €3 for a larger bocadillo. I went for a pork and pepper baguette and another wedge of ham-topped tortilla. The highlight though, was hearing Euskera spoken properly for the first time. It came from a family sitting to our left, and largely involved a mother scolding her children for chasing each other around the room. I wouldn’t have known if Luis hadn’t pointed it out. When I tuned in, it honestly sounded as though it could have been any foreign language; I couldn’t relate in any way whatsoever, except for that it seemed to have the same rhythm as Castellano. That’s when it hit me that I could have already heard Euskera on numerous occasions in Bilbao but had simply failed to realise it. Mierda.
Pintxod out, I spent the rest of the afternoon making hay while the sun still shone. Unfortunately, a broad layer of dreary, txirimiri (basque for ‘drizzle’) tipping clouds later choked most of that sunshine out, leaving me somewhat underwhelmed by my environs. Next day, however, it opened up a bit, and in between yet more pintxos, I spent the afternoon wandering San Sebastián’s parte vieja and unhurriedly climbing the littoral, castle-topped Monte Urgull, which overlooks the city and offers sweeping views. The sky at the mount’s summit was still overcast, but nevertheless provided a brilliant, spooky sort of backdrop to the small island of Santa Clara, which lies just 700m from the curved Playa de la Concha.
La Parte Vieja (The Old Town)
Views from Monte Urgull
I enjoyed my time in San Sebastián, and could see why many people insist on the city being the highlight of the Basque region – there’s a certain ecclesiastical charm about the place that is lacking in neighbouring Bilbao – but things get rather quiet in the evening. Spain were playing France in a World Cup qualifier match one of the nights I was there, which in Andalucía would warrant jam-packed bars on every street corner, but you’d be forgiven for thinking there had been a recent outbreak of the plague in San Sebastián; it was dead, and those out for a drink seemed to be totally unconcerned about the football. In a way, it was a refreshing change, but a surprising one nonetheless.
San Sebastián, or Donostia, as it is called in Euskera, is definitely a daytime city, which revolves around its inimitable gastronomy scene. There’re plenty of tasty tapas elsewhere in Spain, but you’ll have to come here if you really want to sample Spanish cuisine at its absolute best. Take it from me, a newly converted pintxo aficionado who guzzled back no less than eleven of the toothsome treats in just under 48 hours. And for the record, I actually did attempt to bring a couple back to Granada, though they were accidentally eaten on the plane.
Have you been to San Sebastián? What’s the best pintxo you’ve ever had?
Of all the Puente weekends we Spain-residing workers are fortuitously bestowed, February’s is, in my opinion, the most prized of them all. While in most other parts of the world two working months without respite may not exactly seem difficult to endure, here in Spain, such a lengthy Puente-less period, once accustomed to, can prove rather arduous. So when this year’s finally came around, I intended to fully make the most of it.
Where to go and what to do? So many places unchecked on my list. Salamanca? One glance at the sorry-looking weather forecast and my decision was made for me. Valencia, perhaps? Nope. A €110 return bus fare pre-payday was out of the question. I faffed and ruminated for several days, before eventually deciding that I would go to Ronda – somewhere that had been on my radar for some time, yet had remained unexplored due to that omnipresent ‘I’ll save it for another time’ sort of approach. Well it would remain unexplored no longer! It was Wednesday, and I would leave the following morning. I booked a hostel for two nights, met with some friends and embarked on a night of unreserved binge drinking, pleased with my decision and looking forward to hitting the road, or train-track, as was the case in point.
“Ronda es una cuidad colgada del cielo sobre una montaña partida en dos por obra de los dioses”
– Walter Starkie (1894-1976)
Morning came, and despite the truly horrendous hangover I awoke to, I quickly packed a bag and left – on time. Half an hour later, I arrived at the train station to discover a hulking queue tailing back into the lobby. There were fifteen minutes to spare. Not enough, as it turned out. I heard the train whir away from the platform as I stood, helplessly, in third place. Bollocks. First night at hostel squandered and hangover for nothing. I bought a ticket for the next afternoon, trudged back home along the snow-covered streets (yes, snow in Granada!), and spent the day reeling in disappointment and physical pain.
I’ll get on with it now. Next day I caught my train and successfully navigated my way to Ronda, feeling a damn sight chirpier about it. A ten-minute saunter down a dusty backstreet and I found myself leaning over a railing 750m above sea level, overlooking the capacious countryside in front of me. It was spectacular to say the least. I’ve climbed Machu Picchu, gazed out onto the Rocky Mountain peninsular and even been up the Sheffield Ferris Wheel at Christmas, and this vista was right up there with them. I hadn’t even got to Puente Nuevo yet and I was already falling for it. Twenty long, camera clacking minutes later and that’s exactly where I was, eyes fixed and jaw suitably limp. The stone bridge, completed in 1793 after taking 42 years to build and claiming 50 lives in the process, towers 120m above the El Tajo Gorge. It is a feast for the eyes, and almost impossible to turn away from.
My hostel, which, despite having charged me for my first night’s stay (my fault, mustn’t grumble), was in the most idyllic of locations. It faced the bridge, offering a view that others could only have drooled over, as they saw me clacking away from the balcony. Checked in and all that, I explored further afield in order to view the bridge from every possible angle, though not until after the shadow of a mountain somewhere in the distance had crept up the face of the giant edifice as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. Had I known better, I’d have hiked to the facing lookout point to catch the perfect snapshot. Unfortunately, I was too slow off the mark and missed it. Still, can’t complain with snaps like these:
That night, random Indian guy from hostel and self headed out for dinner and drinks. Nobody else had wanted to come, despite the hostel being full.
“Ronda is a quiet place. No parties happen here, especially at this time of year”, explained the receptionist.
She was absolutely right. The place was dead when we left the hostel at 10pm. I wasn’t after a party anyway, just a wedge of a pizza and perhaps a couple of large jars to wash it down with. My wishes were fulfilled by way of an enormous bbq chicken pizza and (shoot me I’m a guiri) three litre-sized Weissbiers in a local Irish pub. God they were good. And the music was bloody good too! Live music, I might add, and the only sign of it along the cricket abounding promenade.
The third of our beers and a round of tequila slammers were proffered to us by the most affable of fellows: one Jack Boris Rodriguez García. The man’s driving license had to be seen to be believed. That really was his name – among the best I’d ever heard. Apparently his first name was given to him in owing to a long-standing family tradition (his father, grandfather and great grandfather had also been called Jack) that had started due to an American of the same name saving his great, great grandfather from execution during the Peruvian War of Independence in the early 19th century. Boris was the name of his mother’s father, who was Russian. He now works in the military and plans to spend the rest of his life in Andalucía. Smart guy. I was enthralled by his story. Well the first bit anyway. But as much as it pained me to bid Jack Boris Rodriguez García good night, I eventually forced myself to do so, for the next day was the only day I planned to spend in Ronda, and there was yet much to be done!
Breakfasted and showered, I headed straight to the tourism office to enquire about day excursions to some nearby Roman ruins I’d heard about. I was dressed too, in case you were wondering. Unfortunately there were no such excursions to speak of upon my arrival. I could have jumped in a taxi and paid the man to take me there but that was obviously not going to happen. Instead, I plumped for a leisurely stroll in and around the city’s Plaza de Toro, famed for being counted amongst the country’s oldest of bullrings.
I’m against bullfighting, but I’m not against learning about it. Until this trip I had never actually learnt the historical significance of the sport and how it came to be. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, as I don’t want this post to turn my blog into a debate forum, but a good half an hour spent reading plaques and brittle newspaper clippings proved incredibly educational. The bullring itself was equally as absorbing, though the added element of bull-imitating French exchange-students took the gloss off a bit. When they eventually disappeared, I was, for just a moment, completely alone inside the eerie dome, sort of feeling like Spartacus or a chained lion might jump out at any moment and chop me up into bits. I seized the moment to take my favourite (bridge excluding) photo of the weekend:
After that, I wandered down to the lookout point for the second time, for a thoroughly good read. I’d say I picked a rather nice spot. Wouldn’t you agree?
Eventually I had to be going, but not before I stopped off at Daver bakery to sample one of the city’s local sweet-tooth specialties. It was a grueling decision to have to make – almost as tough as the other one I’m currently faced with – but in the end, I went for La Miloja Chantilli. It was delicious. So delicious in fact, that I forgot to take a picture of it. This is what Google image search came up with, but it honestly doesn’t do the delectable treat justice.
I’ll be back to Ronda for sure. It is without doubt one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have visited since moving to Spain, though next time I’ll take a car. There’s much to see within the city if like me, you don’t stay for longer than a night, but if you’re intent on visiting Roman ruins or off-the-beaten-path hiking trails then renting a car is by far the best way to go. It’s also a rather couply place, so be warned if you are easily annoyed by overexuberant canoodling and/or are going through/have just gone through a painful break up. Especially depressed/brokenhearted people and readily accessible, 120m tall bridges is perhaps not the most sensible of combinations.