It was our second day in Andalucía. We were coming to grips with driving on the wrong side of the road, of the fact that Spanish towns don’t have signposts but seem to delight in hiding street names obscurely on the corners of houses so that it is impossible for short-sighted navigators to see them, and of the fact that our Audi A4 (“kindly” upgraded by our rental company) was actually too large for some local streets and underground carparks. We were enjoying the freedom of driving through countryside, of taking small roads that found us winding through olive orchards, of stopping when and where we wanted. As we drove across the countryside, we saw this rocky outcrop with an entire town perched on top – Ronda. An impregnable site, there was no wonder this was one of the last Moorish towns to fall to the Catholic Reconquest, or that it then became a haven for bandits, confident that the authorities could not breach their stronghold.
We managed to find our way to the Ronda Parador. On the road only two nights, and this was our second in one of the famous government-owned hotels that are scattered across Spain, in the most picturesque spots, or in the most historic, preserved buildings, providing a local cultural experience. The Ronda Parador was perched on the very edge of the El Tajo gorge that splits the town, more than 150 metres (or almost 500 feet) deep. The view from our room across the gorge was stunning, and we marvelled at the sheer bravado of the original builders who constructed the houses and restaurants opposite us.
The “new bridge,” now more than 200 years old, takes you across the gorge, or a walk along the trail down the cliff face presents you with some magnificent views and some exciting shots, provided you don’t suffer from vertigo.
The town is ancient, and the bullring right next door to the Parador is the oldest in Spain. After wandering the narrow streets in the old town, we retired to the Parador restaurant, with its view across the gorge, for a typical Andalucian meal. Bone dry sherry from nearby Jerez de la Frontera and local olives started our memorable. With the delivery of my ajo blanco, the famous white almond and garlic soup, I was smitten.
Ronda was a base for our travels in this corner of Andalucía. But those stories are for another day, another letter of the alphabet.