Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ronda - You fill up my senses

Ronda
"Ronda is the place to go if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon or for being with a girlfriend. The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set." Ernest Hemingway

Ronda is the first stop along the route of the pueblos blancos in Andalusia. Framed by blue skies and the green valley below, it lives up to its title as the City of Dreams.



Puente Nuevo
The Puente Nuevo or the New Bridge crosses El Tajo canyon. It is 120 feet in height and took over four decades to build. It connects both the old (La Ciudad) and modern towns. Jose Martín de Aldehuela, the architect of the Puente Nuevo, also designed the Ronda bullring. In the background is the Parador Hotel of Ronda, with commanding views of the canyon and the Sierra de Grazalema in the distance.

El Tajo Canyon on the Río Guadelevín
El Tajo gorge was carved by the Guadalevín River which is fed by melting snow and rushing streams from the Sierra de las Nieves nearby. It is narrow and dips down 300 feet although some areas may be deeper. It's a harrowing peep to the bottom of the canyon.

Plaza de Toros Bullring
The Ronda bullring is one of the oldest in Spain. Its covered grandstand is supported by columns forming 68 Tuscan arches. The most celebrated toreadors like Pedro Romero and Antonio Ordoñez performed here. Only bulls grown and raised in Spain are used for the bullfights. There is an interesting museum under the grandstand, the Museo Taurino, that traces the history of bullfighting in Ronda with costumes worn by toreadors, posters which announced the bullfights, newspaper clippings and photographs of the events held at the bullring and personal effects of the toreadors. There are also weapons from Spain's many wars that are on display.

Not to be missed is the bullfight walk of fame which is just behind the bullring, in the Alameda del Tajo park.

Plaza de Nuestra Señora del Socorro
The plaza is the center of activity in this small town. On Halloween night, the children in their costumes went door to door to ask for treats from shopkeepers. Afterwards, they enjoyed the song and dance performances by other kids on a makeshift stage. When the festivities were over, the families repaired to the warmth of gas heated outdoor restaurants for dinner while the children played nearby.

Nuestra Señora del Socorro
"I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world." Mary Anne Radmacher


Religious Iconography
Many homes in Ronda are decorated with religious icons made of hand painted tiles. Intricate wrought iron lamps illuminate these icons.

I will always associate Ronda with a song. One afternoon before sunset, we sat at the Pavilion behind the bullring and listened to beautiful music by a duo, a man who accompanied the singer with his harp and a woman who sang with a dreamy voice. I was totally captivated when she started singing, "you fill up my senses". 
You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again.
Annie's Song, John Denver

Ronda, the City of Dreams
"The spectacle of this city, sitting on the bulk of two rocks rent asunder by a pickaxe and separated by the narrow, deep gorge of the river, corresponds very well to the image of that city revealed in dreams. The spectacle of this city is indescribable and around it lies a spacious valley with cultivated plots of land, holly and olive groves. And there in the distance, as if it had recovered all its strength, the pure mountains rise, range after range, forming the most splendid background.” Rainer Maria Rilke

How to get there:
Take the Ave train from Madrid to Córdoba. In Córdoba, transfer to the slower regional train bound for Ronda. There is also a train service between Granada and Ronda and between Algeciras and Ronda.

Where to stay:
We stayed at the Polo Hotel, a stone's throw from the Plaza de Nuestra Señora de Socorro. It's an easy walk to all the main sights in Ronda. I commend the friendly and helpful staff.

The Parador of Ronda has the best location in town. The view from the hotel of the mountains and the gorge is stunning. Reserve early to get a room here. If you can't get a room here, then at least have some tea and sweets in their grand lobby.

Where to eat:
The best meal we had was at Restaurante Bodega de San Francisco, outside the old walls and past the Puerta de Almocábar. It's on Calle Amanecer. We ordered a plateful of mixed seafood and fried eggplant dipped in honey. There are many reasonably priced selections on the menu.

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


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