You spin me right Ronda, baby, right round

Un viaje en España – Day 5 – From Seville to Ronda to Granada 

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Ronda

We left the heat of Seville and headed up into the mountains near Ronda, Spain, to see the beautiful El Tajo Gorge and the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), which replaced Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) in 1793, when it was completed after about three decades’ worth of construction. I could imagine it was a rather harrowing job – and learned later that another bridge hadn’t worked out so well and collapsed with some of the workers. Construction safety wasn’t a thing back in the early 1700s.

 

We filled up on tapas for lunch – how can one not fill up on tapas repeatedly when in Spain? – and walked into the older part of Ronda looking for Puente Nuevo. Of course, it was rather difficult to miss the giant split in the earth between the two sections of the town. El Tajo Gorge opened up like a massive schism under the bridge, with my eyes going down and down and down … The landscape opened up into what seemed like an eternal plain, leading over to the mountains in the distance. White-washed houses clung to the rocky cliffs. Scrubby bushes tangled everywhere.

I had seen a picture of Ronda’s Puente Nuevo on a screensaver one day, and it looked amazing. A place I had to see. When the road trip around Spain started to take shape, Ronda was on my “must-see” list. There are many beautiful Andalusian towns. That’s unmistakable. There were ones maybe even more scenic – but Ronda is simply breath-taking.

 

With ice cream in hand, we walked to a nearby park to find some shade – the day was still insanely hot here as well – and to see another view over the gorge. Everywhere I looked, the landscape was mesmerizing in shades of yellow, red, orange, russet brown, and green. The Andalusian mountains were distant purple hills from our vantage point.

It was a shame to leave there so early, but we still had another hour’s drive to Granada. The scenery on the road – along with the abundance of random castles – makes up for any dullness of the landscape between Madrid and Cordoba.

Castle counting – even better than looking for license plates.


Granada

A most picturesque and beautiful city, situated in one of the loveliest landscapes that I have ever seen.

  • Washington Irving, upon arriving in Granada in 1828

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There was a moment, looking up at the Alhambra from the street below, that I felt like I’d found the most beautiful place in Spain. I had to unanimously agree with Washington Irving’s recollection.

Our hotel, once a traditional home in the southern El Albayzín neighborhood, laid just underneath the looming shadows of the Alhambra. A thick layer of trees and scrub led up from the thinly moving river to protect the fortress on the hill. At night, it burns orange and yellow from the lights. I stood and looked at it for ages. It was easy to become enchanted by the Alhambra and stare. Add a bowl of ice cream, and it’s going to be awhile before I moved from the little park.

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The view up to the Alhambra from the front of the hotel

I should explain that this peace only came after the insanity of trying to find our hotel in Granada. The car GPS was having a shit fit and taking us up and down “restricted access” roads, which seem to be plentiful in the old medieval streets of Spanish cities. Fair enough. The alleys were meant for donkeys and carts and pedestrians – not for Volkswagens and small SUVs. However, the GPS doesn’t seem to care about where it takes you, as long as you get there and it shuts up. If it wasn’t the GPS yelling about turning onto the proper street, it was the car’s sensors screaming like it was being stepping on. It sensed how close the car was to walls, garbage bins, people, other cars, etc, and it does not like being close to medieval walls.

I reprogrammed the GPS to find the hotel – it was having a difficult time with that as well – and while we thought Cordoba was bad, Granada beat the pants off it in terms of twisting, narrow walls, roads the size of a needle eye, and impossible one-ways and turns. In addition, to get into the El Albayzín neighborhood, there were roads that went up and down with abandon, turned sharply, and then, there were people wandering in the center of the roads. It was some serious white-knuckle driving and navigating for about twenty-minutes until we got the car into park on a hill. Thankfully, we had arrived without hitting anything, including the massive dust bins in the streets.

Whew!

Now we just had to be careful in unpacking the back of the car, as it was on a steep hill and an angle, so I had to body check the bags before they completely tumbled out and rolled down the hill to the main road.

However, I turned back from the door of the hotel and looked up, seeing the Alhambra in the mid-afternoon sunshine. I dropped my backpack and gasped, “Look – it’s the Alhambra!” as if forgetting I had deliberately booked a hotel near the Alhambra so we could walk up there easily. After booking a lot of hotels in Spain, London, and Dublin for this massive summer holiday, I couldn’t tell you anything about where we’d be staying in what city. It was like the Alhambra just appeared on a cloud of trees above us. The castle fortress was every bit as glorious as imagined.

 

After a few hot cups of Nestle instant coffee and some time sitting at the little table near the window of our room, I was ready to head out for dinner. Tapas again? Shocker. This time, we chose a nearby small chain of tapas places called La Bella & La Bestia. It wasn’t the best tapas we’d had in Spain, but it was filling and provided food in a timely manner with good service. The atmosphere was fun and themed to a degree to the film, and it was close to the hotel. Everything we needed after such a crazy, eventual day.

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