Driving to Ronda, Spain (White Hill Town)
Time to say farewell to Sevilla, we have our typical egg breakfast at El Atun and leave Hotel Maestranza for the train station at noon. We find the Europcar office there and pick up our rental car. Ours is a small, two door bright blue Chevy. Via maps and GPS we drive a couple hours to Ronda in the White Hill Towns region of Spain. Surprisingly no other driver honks at me as I grind gears through the city and down the highways. It’s been a dozen years since driving a manual shift, but it comes back somewhat quickly. (Ironically after our european trip, it’s on our return to the U.S. that my foot keeps reaching for the non-existent clutch in my automatic transmission van.)
Before proceeding with this narrative, a quick geography lesson is in order. Andalucia is the southern region of Spain and, aside from the Madrid and Barcelona areas, is where we spend our time in Spain. The major cities of Andalucia are Granada, Sevilla, and Cordoba. And, of course, there are the towns which lay on the Meditarranean coast like Tarifa (which we visit) and the towns on the Costa Del Sol (which we don’t). In-between Sevilla and Tarifa are Spain’s Sierra mountains. Though not as imposing as the mountain ranges of the western U.S., they provide a picturesque landscape of jagged rocks, rolling hills and deep green fields all of which we found strikingly beautiful. Perched on some of the larger Sierra hills, are a string of cute communities – The White Hill Towns. Most prominently they include (going East to West) Ronda, Grazalema, Zahara, Arcos de la Frontier, and finally, the large town of Jerez. We stay one night each in Ronda and Arcos and either pass through or briefly visit the others.
Upon arrival in Ronda we squeeze through the extremely narrow streets to Hotel Enfrente Arte Ronda. This hotel is quite charming in an eclectic, artsy, bohemian decor way. There is an always open bar of every imaginable type of drink.
We have some draft beer before walking through the town and over a bridge with spectacular views of the gorge over which the town is perched. Then we walk down a steep path to a view point looking back up at the gorge and white walled town. The weather is warm but not unpleasant despite our exertion. We exchange photo taking with a French family from Montpellier. I fret more than mere and pere about their two young girls and the rail-less cliff’s edge we stand next to – argh!
Then we ascend to the bridge and walk into Ronda proper. As we make our way up main street – Carrera Espinel – we are startled to encounter mobs of tourists on a hyper-commercial boulevard. This in sharp contrast to the town’s appearance from afar. It must be a popular destination for Spaniards. Unable to find a suitable restaurant here, we return to the hotel and are directed to Pedro Romero – a Ronda institution. We take a circuitous route past the bullfighting ring and, upon arrival are greeted by two very competent waiters. The décor is of bullfighting photos, posters and memorabilia, actually much more interesting than the meal itself which, while well prepared, lack any flavor. A bit disappointed, we make our way back to Hotel Enfrente Arte and are asleep by 1 AM.