We had heard of the beauty and charm of the white towns of Andalucia but we didn’t want to rent a car on this spring trip to Spain. We were spending a week in Seville and Madrid and had a few days in between to work with. I wanted to find a white town easily accessed by public transport and one that would allow us to then easily move on to Granada where we planned to see the Alhambra. I eventually settled on Ronda because Hemingway had described it as the ‘most romantic town in Spain’ and I read that it was noted for its beautiful gorge. So we found the Seville bus station, bought tickets to Ronda and were off. Along the way we drove through several other white towns dropping passengers including a group of American hikers meeting a group doing a long backpack in the rain.
I booked a hotel room at the Don Miquel which sits by the New Bridge which connects the modern town of Ronda to its old historic center. (The picture that heads this piece is the entrance to that bridge by the hotel on the rainy day we arrived.) Many but not all of the rooms at this hotel overlook the gorge and it is first come first serve. The beds were tiny doubles and so we asked for a twin room; this room had a view but it was a miniscule window and you had to stand by it to see out, so it was back to the desk to see if we could get a balcony room. Luckily there was one left; it meant a tiny bed — but for me (not for Ed) this is a tradeoff worth it for the view. In this shot I am sitting on my tiny tiny double bed looking out across the balcony to our view of the New Bridge.
Here is a shot taken from our balcony. This is just a spectacular place and especially in wet weather, having this view made the trip.
Our first night we ventured forth to find dinner. Ronda is a big day tripper town for people visiting the Costa del Sol but in May, it was quite deserted in the evening. We found a place with fairly good reviews on line and walked a few blocks from our hotel into the main square Plaza del Socorro which is ringed by restaurants — mostly catering to tourists — including La Taberna which we had selected. It was crowded and so we had to wait at the bar for a table to open up which gave us a chance to survey what other people were eating.
We started with a traditional Andalusian chicken soup which was perfect for a cool rainy night. Ed had a plate of mixed fried fish; this is something they do very well in Spain and there was plenty for me to sample as well. I choose several tapas; the picture below is of a stuffed mushroom that was incredibly tasty.
The next morning we walked down along the gorge to visit the Old Bridge which you can see below in this picture and then further down to the base of the gorge. There are two routes into the gorge; one begins to the left of the New Bridge once you pass into the old town; this picture is taken standing on the New Bridge. The other route begins on the other side of the gorge and to the right of the bridge and takes you under the New Bridge. We saved this for the afternoon.
The path took us to the entrance of the town at the Old Bridge ( Puente Viejo) and which is also known as the Arab Bridge (Puente Arabe). Ronda was taken from the Visigoths in the 8th century and ruled by the Moors until the late 15th century. During the Spanish inquisition, Ronda was a refuge for Muslims who successfully defended the city initially, but were eventually massacred by Philip II who sold the few survivors into slavery.
There are stairs down into the gorge to the left of the bridge but these were closed off by locked gates. From the Arab Bridge we could look down to the base of the gorge to the oldest bridge which is known as the ‘Roman Bridge’ (Puente Romano.) Ronda began as a Roman outpost settled at the time of the Punic Wars and designated later as a Roman city by Julius Caesar.
Here are the old town walls and the path we walked down taken from the garden of the Arab baths. The Roman Bridge can be seen just over the garden wall to the right.
This path on the new town side of the gorge takes us through a park developed in a series of terraces with benches and great views of the gorge. This shot shows this terrace park and was taken from the New Bridge.
As we looked across the gorge from the terraced park we could see that some of the wall across the way had been constructed to provide basement caverns under the buildings along the cliff. Here are a number of small windows that ventilate this basement system.
Back on top, we decided to go get lunch near the hotel; this little spot around the corner from the hotel called Traga Tapas had some of the tastiest food we had on the trip. This first array includes a deep fried cheese with marmalade, a croquet, a herring, some breads with topping and salmon. The second picture is of a tapa made with cod that was really great.
Traga Tapas is an open air bar with small tables surrounded by high stools in in its covered patio. It was asparagus season and most of the bars were offering various grilled or steamed asparagus dishes. Here the asparagus sits on the bar waiting to be ordered.
After lunch it was time to check out the new town. This is a shot from the New Bridge out into the plains beyond the gorge. The Parador is perched on this point of the cliffs over the gorge. Paradores are state run tourist hotels usually in historic buildings like castles or monasteries and are found all over Spain. The Ronda Parador is in an old town hall building.
Ronda is the site of the oldest bull ring in Spain. The ring was built in 1784 and the local Romero family is responsible for development of many of the traditional elements of bullfighting including the use of the cape and the rituals involved in using a special sword for the kill. There is an annual bull fight still held in Ronda: the Corrida Goyesca.
Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles both spent a lot of time in Ronda and Welles is buried there. Hemingway’ scene in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ where Republicans murder Nationalists by throwing them from a cliff is thought to have been based on an incident in Ronda. The town certainly has the cliffs for it.
I don’t know what this tree is but thought these blossoms were quite beautiful.
After our stroll to the bull ring and park, we headed back across the New Bridge into the old town. Just across the bridge is a ceramic portrait of the town. Note the location of the bull ring near the cliffs on the left.
We headed down the main street of the old town towards the far end of the medieval town walls.
This is a peek into a typical building entrance. Most homes and businesses have a sort of entryway, usually with ceramic tile walls that separates the street from the door to the interior. This provides a security door and weather shelter for the building.
Santa Maria Mayor was built in the late 15th century after the reconquest on the bones of the old main mosque of Ronda. You can see the minaret in the bottom of the bell tower. It is notable for the double galleried front.
At the far end of the old town just inside the walls is the oldest church in Ronda, Espirito Santo which was built on the remains of a Moorish fortress. Here I am climbing the stairs of the bell tower to get a view of the countryside.
From the bell tower I could look down onto the medieval walls and the old houses nestled against them. I love the way they tuck little terraces into these piles of houses. We enjoyed a terrace like this at the apartment in our next stop in Granada. (https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/granada-they-said-wed-be-mugged-in-the-albaicin/)
After reaching the end of the walled old city we doubled back to find the head of the trail below that takes on under the New Bridge and down to the waterworks at the bottom of the gorge. Our trail is that narrow line down the center of the cliff.
I particularly loved this view of umbrella pines marching along the distant hilltop.
There was no evidence OSHA had been anywhere near this trail. It began with crumbling pathway and crumbling walls of loose aggregate rock and then led to rickety ladders and narrow cement walls to thread along. The other women walking with us were having a difficult time with flip flops and flats.
Just before ducking under the bridge we looked up to view the cliffs and Parador above us.
The next morning as we prepared to head for the train and our next stop in Granada we saw these kids enjoying a walk across the bridge. It was a field day for the schools and older kids were on hiking trips in the countryside. These smaller ones were touring their home town and encouraged to wear traditional dress for the day.
We loved Ronda. It is a stunning town. And we loved having a room with a balcony overlooking this lovely bridge, rain or shine. While I am sure Hemingway saw it as a romantic town for the bullfights and the drinking with his friends; even without this ritual violence, it is a place of charm and wonder.