A couple of weeks ago Eric and I visited Ronda – a town built over the El Tajo gorge 100m deep, with a strong Moorish history taking it back to the 12th century.
For days before and after our visit we had the lyrics ‘help me Rhonda’ buzzing around in our brains! It was driving us crazy – and honestly right now (just talking about it) it is echoing in a maddening way!! HELP 🙂
It was a good day out. You can catch a train from here (Alora) leaving at 10.30 and arriving at Ronda by 11.55, with stunning views of El Churro on the way (google it!). The train departed for Alora at 16.50, so it wasn’t long to enjoy the town. We had an idea of what we wanted to see and the first step of our plan was to visit the tourism office – partly to use their loos!
So, we walked up town from the train station, through the Plaza de Socorro (which is a good square for meeting people and eating) to what we thought was the tourist bureau. It was a Parador right at the Puente Nuevo, next to the Puente Nuevo interpretation centre (a teeny booth, just big enough for a teeny man!). Paradors are usually ‘hotels’ built on existing old properties – such as castles or farms – so you get to experience the architecture and atmosphere of the historical building, but modernised. You are allowed to walk through the Parador even if you aren’t staying there and it is gorgeous!
So, unfortunately it wasn’t the tourist bureau and therefore there weren’t toilets. Eric asked the teeny man where they were and he said ‘McDonalds’!! I could not believe and was so ashamed ( 😦 ) that the first place we visited in historical Ronda was Maccas! And of course, not only would my moral compass not allow me to use their toilets without buying something, but they had signs around saying ‘only for customers!’. No wonder, if the teeny man was directing everyone to their shop!!
So, we got chips and a McFlurry 🙂
Then we worked out where to visit:
1) Puente Nuevo is the newest bridge (1793) passing over the amazing gorge, on both sides of which Ronda is built. One side is the historical Moorish part of town and the side we started on is the modern area (hello Maccas!) Before going over the bridge we walked around on Paseo Ernest Hemingway and Paseo Orson Welles, which allow spectacular viewing of the gorge and the older town on the opposite side.
There are 3 bridges at Ronda – the others are Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) from the 16th century and the Puente Arabe (Moorish Bridge) from 11th or 12th century.
2) Palacio de Mondragon (town museum) – we got lost finding it, but that’s okay because it is such a picturesque neighbourhood that it didn’t matter. In fact, we almost gave up, but it was one of the few places I’d decided on, so we persevered – and it was beautiful. It is a restored Moorish palace stemming from the 12th century and is now the museum of Ronda (and we’ve been avoiding museums) but the building itself is stunning and worth the visit.
3) Palacio del Rey Moro (Palace of the Moorish King) with gardens and entrance to mine (Arab fortress) (from 13th century). The mine goes deep deep down (only Eric went underground and he was knackered when he got back. Moaning and carrying on – sounded a lot like me! 🙂 ) He thinks the elevation was about 300ft (100m) straight down and then back up! Lead to a lovely clear stream at the bottom.
4) Banos de los Arabes (Arab baths) 11th to 12th century. This is an apparent ‘must see’ and if you’ve never seen any other archeological digs or ruins before ‘go for it’, because for me it was a little bit “YAY” – an old ruin ( for the entry fee) and was doable in about 10 minutes.
It was interesting to see how the baths worked – cold water from two nearby streams and drawn by buckets from a well, pumped by horse power ( 🙂 ) then poured into a reservoir over a furnace, then piped through the baths. They had a cold room, warm room and hot room.
There were steep steps down from the street where the Moorish castle is down to the baths, which meant a steep climb back up to the street – but yikes, even more steps to get back up to the main drag leading to Puente Nuevo and back to new Ronda.
This sounds like we didn’t really see much, but in all the running from place to place we enjoyed Ronda. The gorge is stunning, the bridges over the gorge (how the hell did they build them?) the streets in and around old Ronda were beautiful – buildings, windows (railings) balconies, trees and flowers and lots of lovely tucked away eateries. Lots that we said ‘we have to go back there’ to, but time flew and we ended up having a quick and not very satisfactory lunch at the Castle Cafe; there were so many other nicer places!!
A word of advice too from my experience so far; when in a city if there is a square or street recommended to tourists for eating – especially if they have large and gaudy signs with photos of the food (if the photos look cheep and nasty then potentially the food will be) then don’t go there (or at least don’t have very high expectations!).
There is so much nicer food to be had away from the tourist bustle. Sometimes it’s scarier (perhaps you don’t have the language – and the tourist spots usually have English on the menus) but if at least once you try to eat where the locals eat – it is well worth it!!
So, it was a lovely day out in Ronda; perhaps a little rushed, but it was great that the train went straight there from Alora and we were home again by about 6.30pm.
We then took the opportunity to eat at the Manhattan Bar right near the train station at Alora. As it sounds, it isn’t exactly Spanish, but it had been recommended and is only open 3 nights a week and as it’s by the station the only time we are likely to be near it is at the end of a day trip.
There’s no Spanish food in sight, but I did welcome their delicious fish and chips with tartare sauce (mmmm). I think Eric had nachos. Plain, straight forward and familiar food. We have tried to avoid doing ‘safe’ food while travelling, but I don’t enjoy the tapas experience, especially when in local restaurants where a) I have to work out what the choices are and b) I don’t know how it works at this restaurant. It’s because we don’t speak Spanish – even though we’ve picked up some. Our fault, of course; we should have made more of an effort before we got here!!
So, that was our Ronda day trip – finished off by dinner and a walk home in the dark. Yes, along that railway track (no lights) and climbing around the gate. Oh! There was a smelly dead chicken on the track, that luckily we’d seen earlier, so knew not to step on it!
Adios a todos; hasta pronto! 🙂
Amazing views over the gorge but Ronda was heavily affected by the Spanish Civil War, after which much of the population emigrated elsewhere. The famous scene in Chapter 10 of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, describing the 1936 execution of Fascist sympathisers in a (fictional) village who are thrown off a cliff, is considered to be modeled on actual events at the time in Ronda.
You have had an amazing day – would love that share the experience!
Maccas -they’re everywhere.
Great story, Trish.
One thing here in Spain seems to be that the large chains like Maccas and Hungry Jacks aren’t allowed to be so crass and obvious. There aren’t any BIG GOLDEN ARCHES on display. The shops are quietly tucked into the streetscape, just like all the other retailers.
Cheers Joy! 🙂
Wow how beautiful 🙂 love the photo.
Beautiful from here, would have my eyes closed if I was there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s a pity you didn’t have “Help me Ronda. Help, help me Ronda” with you when you were out of money in the UK. I can’t even remember what she was advertising but I’m going to be singing the song all night now. Thanks very much !!
And now, regarding the actual Ronda, it does look amazing. Every time I read your blog I get itchy feet. I’m going to look up french lessons right now and get started on fulfilling my travel dream. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂
Great plan Sally! We should have done the right thing and been amateur Spanish speakers before we left. I’m confident it will really add to the enjoyment for you on YOUR dream trip in France! 🙂
It looks amazing, I agree eat were the locals go!,,,