Monday, February 7, 2011

First Excursion to Ronda

Saturday, February 5

Wanting to take advantage of a beautiful weekend without classwork, I decided to take my first practice round at traveling outside of Sevilla.  After hearing the rave reviews of Ronda, a picturesque cliff side town in Southern Spain, I got up Saturday morning to catch a bus at the Prado de San Sebastián.  Rick Steves was right; no English was spoken here.  But, I managed to coordinate a "Ida y Vuelta" (round-trip) day excursion to Ronda.  The bus ride was worth every euro in and of itself.  For the first time, I saw the "country" of Spain.  As we headed two hours east towards Ronda, the plains of Sevilla valley became steep slopes.  Olive trees and white towns dotted the landscape.

When we arrived, I hit the ground running.  Montse had packed a "picnic" for me since I would not be home for lunch.  I munched on my "bocadillo de jamón york, tomate, y queso" as I headed toward the Moorish old town.  Ronda had been a fortress city, along with Granada, for the Moors.  The two sites were the last to be reconquered by the Christians. 

Palacio de Mondragón - This Moorish palace was my first stop.  The interior had the typical Moorish arches.  The most rewarding part, of course, was the view.  The garden overlooked the Spanish countryside.  Not far was a public garden (Plaza de María Auxiliadora) which featured two rare "pinsapos" trees and another incredible view.

Santa María la Mayor Collegiate Church - This was my next stop.  It offers a nook (intricate arch) where Moors used to pray.  The Christians then built a church on top of the Moorish bell tower, much like Sevilla's  Catedral and the Moorish Giralda tower.  Inside I found more ornate Catholic altars.  What was most unique was a fresco of St. Christopher (Patron Saint of Ronda) with baby Jesus on his shoulders.

Arab Baths - I walked down and down and down into the valley to see the Arab Baths.  The oasis was located at the entrance of the fortress town to cleanse outsiders and re-cleanse town residents.  Inside it was a few degrees cooler.  The site also provided an excellent view of the Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), which the Moors used.

I headed back up to the New town via the Old Bridge and got a snack at a tapas bar before continuing.  It was peak hour, and I made sure to pick the bar with locals.  At Tragatapas, I enjoyed Morcilla (blood sausage) and "Esparrago con queso manchego y mermelada"  (Asparagus with Manchego cheese and Organe Mermelade). 

I took several pictures of the New Bridge, which connects the highest points in town.  I would return later for sunset with another round of photos.  This place is a photographer's (and wannabe photographer's) dream. 

Plaza de Toros - The pride of Ronda is its bullring--the best in Spain.  Entrants can walk around the pit and into the museum within the ring.  I learned about Spain's greatest spectacle with an audio-guide.  When I was in the ring, I was accompanied by a large group of Japanese tourists and 4 Spanish students.  Sensing the Spaniards wanted a picture, but did not want to ask the Japanese group, I spoke up and offered "¿Queréis una foto?"  They were pleased.

Again, there were more pictures at sunset.  Then I got on the bus and headed back to Sevilla.  When I was asked by my colleagues on Monday where I went this weekend, I heard two phrases back: "Ronda, where is that?" and "Wow, good for you; I am too afraid to travel alone."

For pictures, see

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