Horseshoes but no hand grenades

Viernes, Day 5 - Day Trip to Ronda

Since we had explored the coast on the day before, for Friday we decided to explore the mountains, and the beautiful pueblo blanco (white town) of Ronda. If you've seen Mission Impossible II, then you have an idea about the treacherous mountain roads we had to drive over to get to Ronda - the scene where Ethan Hunt and Nyah drive their convertibles like maniacs and almost fall over a cliff takes place on a very similar Spanish mountain road. (Note to Mom and Dad: Really, we didn't drive like that!!!) Oh, and did we mention it was raining? Mike had the driving under control, but at this point we were really cursing the rental place for not having that Mercedes, because we could have used a car that was designed to handle that kind of road. Nonetheless, the drive was definitely worth it - Ronda is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit. After all those twists and turns, suddenly we came around a corner and there it was in all its sparking white splendor.

The pueblo blancos are all old Moorish towns, and the all-white decor is purely functional - it helps all the buildings keep cool. They are all built on hills, as a means of defense against Spanish invaders. Ronda is the quintessential pueblo blanco, as it is surrounded on three sides by the deep Tajo Gorge, and because of its impregnable positioning was one of the last Moorish bastions, finally falling back into Christian hands in 1485 . We entered town through the old town gate, drove through the main thoroughfare of the old part of town, and crossed over the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) to park in the new side of town. It's absolutely hysterical, from an Americano perspective, to call anything built in the 1700s the "New" anything, but it is new when you consider that for centuries there was nothing more than rope bridges to connect the two parts of Ronda together.

Once we parked, we bought an umbrella and visited the oldest bullring in Spain, Ronda's surprisingly small Plaza de Toros. Dating back to 1785, to this day all young bullfighters in Spain aspire to fight at Ronda, especially during the nationally-televised Corrida Goyesca, which draws millions of viewers each September. We then stopped for lunch in a successful bid to wait out the rain. We enjoyed the tapas special for two, which included portions of Rabo de Toro (bull's tail!), chorizo (Spanish sausage), jamón Serrano (salt-cured ham dried in the mountain air), and tortilla a la espańola (an omlette-like egg, potato, and onion dish), and much more.

When we emerged from lunch, we were greeted with sunny skies, and could really enjoy the rest of Ronda. We started off in a little park near the Plaza de Toros, where we could really see the lush valley below. We then walked over the Puente Nuevo and enjoyed the marvelous views from there. We toured several shops where local pottery, glasswork and other trinkets are sold, and then visited the Mondragon Palace, once the seat of local government and now the city museum. Believe it or not, it was Dineen and not Mike who spotted the sign for the Internet café and couldn't resist popping in. We warmed ourselves with some café con leche (for Dineen) and hot tea (for Mike), and proceeded to spend an hour hunched over our Palm Pilots typing in the e-mail addresses of everyone we know. We refused to read any e-mail, mind you, and in fact, writing that e-mail was the only contact with the outside world we had between calling our parents to let them know we had arrived safely on Day 1 and finally seeing some English-language newsmagazines in the Seville airport on our way home.

- Day Six -