Tag Archives: Ronda

On This Day – Besalu in Catalonia

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 8th July 2013 I was in the town of Besalu in Catalonia.

Besalu Catalonia Spain

We found the Hotel Three Arcs and the receptionist told me that we could ignore the traffic restriction notices that seemed to suggest that the place was pedestrianised and bring the car into the main square but I was nervous about this because it involved driving over one of those solid steel retractable bollards that rise up from the centre of the road.

I was worried in case it raised up without warning and the CCTV cameras would catch the moment and I would forever be shown on television repeats of the Spanish equivalent of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ or ‘America’s Funniest Videos’.  I could sense that a local driver behind was getting impatient so I had to go and I revved the engine and popped the clutch, spun the wheels and dashed across as quickly as I could.  Nothing happened – the bollard stayed down of course and people sitting at a bar probably wondered why I had set off as though I was an Italian driver at a set of red traffic lights.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery..

 

Read The Full Story Here…

Favourite Places in Spain, Ronda in Andalusia

“We sighted Ronda. It was raised up in the mountains, like a natural extension of the landscape, and in the sunlight it seemed to me to be the most beautiful city in the world.” –  José Agustín Goytisolo

Ronda  is one of the pueblos blancos (white towns) so-called because it is whitewashed in the old Moorish tradition and sits like a shining wedding cake in contrast to the surrounding ragged countryside.  It also happens to be one of the most spectacularly located towns in Andalucía sitting on a massive rocky outcrop straddling a precipitous limestone cleft in the mountains.

During the day it is a busy place with a procession of tour buses from the Costas and from the city of Seville but this is a town to enjoy in the evening when everyone has gone home.  I stayed here for two nights in 2016 and have always regretted that it wasn’t three or maybe four.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

Travels in Spain, The Flamenco

Granada Flamenco

“We are in the Spanish south.  The castanets click from coast to coast, the cicada hum through the night, the air is heavy with jasmine and orange blossom… the girls have black eyes and undulating carriages.”  –  Jan Morris,  ‘Spain’

Flamenco BarcelonaThe Flamenco Dance of Spain

Some pictures that I have picked up along the way, pictures of pictures in bars and restaurants…

Flamenco Andalusia SpainFlamenco Wall PaintingFlamenco

Travels in Spain, Andalućia in Postcards

andalucia-postcard-mapCosta Del Sol Postcardpostcard-map-andalucia

Travels in Spain – Wall Tiles

Spain Wall Tiles 01Spain Merida Wall TilesSpain Wall TilesTalavera de la Reina Spain wall TilesSpain Wall Tiles 02Spain Wall Tiles 03Ronda Tiles Picture

Travels in Spain – Memories of Andalucía

Seville FlamencoAndalucia BullFlamencoAndalucia Bottle ShadowAndalucia Bar RestaurantBullfight Poster SpainRonda Matador

Travels in Spain – Andalucía, Antequera

Antequera Andalucía

“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination.”  –  George Orwell

When planning a road trip in Spain at least for one night I generally like to find a place to stay off the usual well beaten tourist trail.  I have had great success with this and in picking places like Carmona, a few miles east of Seville in Andalucía, Pedro Bernardo in the mountains of Castilla y Leon and Almagro on the Ruta de Don Quixote in Castilla-La Mancha.

With the car safely but (very) tightly parked and walking back to the hotel at Plaza San Sebastian I was optimistic that Antequera was going to be added to the list of good selections. Because of geography, tradition and culture Antequera is called the heart of  Andalucía and was once considered as a suitable candidate for the regional government to be based but it eventually and inevitably lost out to Seville.

And the sun was shining!

Antequera Santa Maria

Plaza San Sebastian was at the very bottom of the city at a busy roundabout junction where every major road in the city seemed to converge, a bubbling pink marble water fountain, a modern monument that marks the junction of two Roman roads, a proud church, several grand buildings and overshadowed by the looming presence of the Alcazaba, a steep cobble-stoned hill climb away.

We tackled the steps and entered through a castle gate and made our way directly to the top where we found a restaurant/bar with pavement tables and stopped for a while to draw breath.  This was the Plaza de Santa Maria dominated by the biggest church in town and we sat and enjoyed the heat of the sun on our faces as we drank wine and nibbled the inevitable olives.  It was wonderful.

Refreshment break over we left and paid admission to the Alcazaba and entered the interior of the fortress.  Antequera has always been an important place due its geographical position as it falls on a natural crossroads east/west between Seville and Granada and north/south between Malaga and Cordoba and the Moors built their most impregnable castle at this place to protect their possessions in Iberia.

It took the Christian armies of the north almost two hundred years to overcome this fortress but this was eventually achieved in 1410 and the Muslims were expelled and obliged to relocate to Granada.  In the context of the current migrant crisis in Europe this set me thinking.  The movement of people, both voluntary and enforced has been going on forever.  As I have said before history teaches us nothing except that we live in a sort of hamster wheel of rotating repetition.  As we walked around I could just imagine what the reaction was in Granada at the time – “How can we cope with all of these extra people?”, “Think of the added pressure on our water supply systems!”, “How will our Mosques accommodate all of these migrants?”.

 Antequera Expulsion of the Moors

We dawdled around but towards the end of the tour around the battlements and towers we had to speed up significantly because there were some uninvited black clouds gate-crashing the sky and we ended the visit rather abruptly and dashed for the shelter of the church as a steady rain began to fall.

There is only so long that anyone can spend in a church of course and after we had watched a video history of the city and finished wandering around the interior, back at the door and finding it still raining there was only one really sensible option so without any sort of debate we returned to the friendly bar on the opposite side of the plaza.

We made it only just in time because within seconds there was a thunderstorm of almost biblical proportions when the sky exploded with thunder and was lit up by lightening brighter than a flashing roadside speed camera and the rain bounced off the cobbles like shrapnel.  Luckily it didn’t last long and after one drink we promised to return later for an evening meal – just so long as it wasn’t raining of course.

In the early evening the day settled down into a period of perfect weather and so later we fulfilled our promise and returned for an excellent meal, a history lesson and a weather forecast for the next few days from the helpful waiter.

Back at Plaza San Sebastian we grew concerned about the traffic noise and just how busy the little square might be and with a room on the front we worried about sleeping but I reminded Kim that this should be no trouble at all because one time in Pisa we stayed at the noisiest hotel in Italy, the Royal Victoria Hotel.

Anyway, we needn’t have worried, the noise died down and we fell asleep and the only sound I heard in the early hours when I stirred was running water which I thought might be more rain but which turned out to be the fountain.

Antequera San Sebastian

Travels in Spain – Andalucía, Mountain Roads, Brigands and Wolves

Tolcar Rock Formations

“However our friend soon brightened up again and, in answer to my inquiries, told me that the picture that the doctor had drawn of the brigands in the Sierra Morena was greatly exaggerated: they had been a nuisance some time before, but were now of very little consequence. And they rarely killed anyone.” – Gerald Brenan

It was raining again the next morning but it looked brighter towards the east where we were heading and so we didn’t loiter too long after breakfast and made our way out of Ronda towards our next destination, Antequera, about fifty miles away on the road to Granada.

We avoided the direct route and instead took a minor road across the dusty plain towards the town of Campillos which was a place that we never arrived at because a few miles short of the town we took a detour towards a national park and a series of reservoirs.  We climbed steadily towards a viewing opportunity and then descended just as quickly to the shoreline of the curiously turquoise waters of the lakes.

There are three reservoirs here – Guadalhorce and Guadalteba and Gaitanejo and we drove a few miles around the perimeter of one of them, I cannot be sure which and then we came to a road junction with Antequera signposted in two alternative directions.

Spain Reservoir

We (I) chose the right fork option and quite quickly left the main highway and came across a very minor unpaved road.  This was the point at which sensible motorists with a rental car would surely turn back but rather foolishly we (I) carried on.  I kept convincing myself that we (I) could turn around any time we (I) chose but instead we just keep going, higher and higher into the mountains and soaring now like eagles above the reservoirs below.

When you make this sort of decision there comes a point where turning back ceases to be an option for fear of forgetting the way back and after we (I) had reached that watershed there was no option but to just keep driving.

It was very remote up here, a boulder strewn landscape brutally assaulted by the wind and the frequent squally showers.  This it seemed to me was Brigand territory and I drove on half expecting that at any moment a grizzled highwayman with a shotgun and a leather cartridge belt slung across each shoulder would step out into the road, raise his weapon and bid me stop, relieve me of my wallet and quite likely drive off with the car (luckily I had paid for full insurance by the way).

Spain Wolf

The fear of Brigands however swiftly evaporated when we stopped the car for a moment to enjoy the view and a faded sign that had been used for shotgun target practice at the side of the road warned that we were now in an area of special protection for wolves and that we should be alert to the danger.  Be Alert! Be Alert!  I should say so and we retreated to the car as quickly as possible, checked our underpants and made sure the doors and windows were firmly closed.  Now, I am all for supporting wildlife and the reintroduction of endangered species but I am not sure about wolves and that isn’t just because I don’t like dogs, wolves tear people into shreds and eat them don’t they?

Eventually after about ten miles or so we came to a junction and joined another road that didn’t provide a great deal of improvement but at least it was paved and it had an official number which immediately calmed my shattered nerves.

Antequera Map

Just a few miles out of Antequera we came across signs for a nature reserve, El Torcal de Antequera and as it was still quite early we made a detour to make a visit.

El Torcal, it turned out, is a unique limestone landscape where a series of fractures, cracks and faults have been sculptured by erosion to provide impressive columns of rocks not dissimilar to the sort of towers of stones that people build on beaches. The blocks of stone have been subjected to both dissolution by water and freeze-thaw splitting action which, working on the limestone’s horizontal beds, resulted in the various shapes scattering the landscape that we were able to see today.

Tolcar Antequera Rocks

People come here on coach trips that take several hours but it was cold and windy and we found that about half an hour or so was long enough to enjoy the unique natural environment of the park and shortly after we left we were approaching our destination of Antequera.

Generally, we like to pick out a new, non-tourist place to stay when we visit Spain so we had no real idea what to expect…

… We certainly didn’t expect it to be so difficult to navigate and it took several attempts to find our hotel located right in the centre of the busy city and then to find somewhere safe to leave the car while we checked in.

The hotel offered secure parking facilities in a garage nearby but this was rather tricky to find as well and when I eventually did so parking was so cramped and difficult that after I had manoeuvred into a very tight spot I was absolutely certain that I do not have the skills to get the car back out again and that I might have to spend the rest of my life in Antequera and at this point I wasn’t sure that this was such a good thing!

Have you ever been lost when driving in a foreign country?

Antequera_Alcazaba

Travels in Spain – Andalucía, Doors of Ronda

Doors of Ronda 1Doors of Ronda 2Ronda Door 3Ronda Cathedral DoorSpain Ronda DoorSpain Door Detail Scallop Shell

More Doors…

Doors and Windows of 2015

Sardinia – Doors and Windows

Brittany – Doors and Windows

Blue Doors of Essaouira

Doors of Catalonia 1

Doors of Catalonia 2

Doors of Catalonia 3

Doors of Catalonia 4

Doors of Dublin

Doors of Northern France

Doors of Portugal

Doors of Siguenza, Spain

Travels in Spain – Andalucía, The Flamenco and the Bull Fight

Raging Bull

“Nothing expresses the masculine quality of this country better than the bull-fight, that lurid and often tawdry gladiatorial ritual, which generally repels the northerner in the theory, but often makes his blood race in the act.”  – Jan Morris. ‘Spain’

In Andalucía  there is no Don Quixote of Castilla-La Mancha or El Cid of Castilla y Leon because this is the land of red blood passion, of Don Juan and Carmen, of gypsies and duels, tapas and sherry but above all else Andalucía is famous for flamenco and bull-fighters!

By late morning the weather had improved but it still looked dangerously unpredictable so we thought we might find something to do under cover. The choice was Bullring museum or bar?

We chose the bar!

Flamenco Red Chairs

But not just any bar, we selected ‘El Quinque’ because it had a two o’clock show of Spanish guitar and Flamenco dancing.  We took our seats and ordered some tapas  and eventually the lights dimmed and the show began.  First some exceptional guitar playing and then a lot of hand clapping and traditional singing and then eventually the dancing.

Spain Flamenco

To the lyrical sound of Spanish guitar, clacking castanets, the rhythmic stamping of Cuban heels and clicking stiletto rather like the sound of an approaching steam train, the dance show began and we enjoyed an hour of genuine Spanish music played by an assembly of musicians and a young woman dancing the flamenco; stamping, posturing and pouting in a rapid, aggressive, staccato style – wonderful vivacious movement, flicking to the left and sweeping to the right, stamping down the centre  and  accompanied all the time by the sound of chattering music like a machine gun firing into an empty sky.

El Quinque Flamenco Show

We enjoyed the show and were even happier when we emerged from the gloom of the bar into bright sunlight outside.  This was a good time to visit the bullring and the museum.

The Plaza de Toros in Ronda is one of the oldest operational bullrings in Spain.    It is only used once a year now for fighting but is important as a Matador training school because Ronda is well-known as the spiritual home of the modern corrida or bullfight.

The founder of this style was Francisco Romero, the patriarch of the famous Romero family of Ronda.  Before Francisco, bullfighting was an activity normally fought from the back of a horse in what was known as the ‘Jerez style’ but Romero introduced the style that we are most familiar with today when the brave Matador stands and fights on foot.

Bullfight Poster Spain

We visited the museum and took a backstage tour and then wandered around the arena itself and as we imagined ourselves to be famous heroic bullfighters the sun began to leak through the clouds and everywhere was magically transformed.

In a bullfight six bulls are killed in an event and this involves three matadors with their band of attendants, the picador horsemen who lance the bulls and the banderillos who stab them with barbed spikes.  If the spectators approve of the matador’s performance they wave white handkerchiefs to signal to the president of the fight that he should reward him with a trophy, one or both of the bull’s ears and/or its tail.  Personally I would rather have a cup or a medal or even better – a cheque!

It is called a fight but it is far from fair and for example the statistics show that in two hundred and fifty years only three matadors have died at the Seville bullring but they have dispatched almost two hundred and fifty bulls a year, so I can’t imagine that a lot of money changes hands betting on the outcome of the competition.

After the bullring tour we took the steps down from the old town along a path which led to the base of the Puerto Nuevo which gave a different perspective to the bridge and some more photo opportunities.  The climb back was arduous so once back at the top we stopped at a bar and ordered a beer which came promptly accompanied with an inevitable dish of olives.

Ronda The Bridge

There is always a complimentary dish of olives in the south of Spain because the country is the world’s leading producer and is by a long way the country with the highest number of olive trees and with more than three hundred million, is nowadays the world’s leading olive and olive oil producer and exporter, which explains why cafés and bars are always so generous with a plate of olives to accompany every drink.  They can afford to be!

We liked this bar/restaurant in a good position at the top of the canyon and made the decision that we would return later for evening meal.

Seville Flamenco

While Kim rested I went to the local shop for some wine and whilst there I asked about the cheese on display.  Just enquired.  I had a mind to take some home at the end of the week.  Unfortunately, due to language difficulties the shop owner interpreted my tentative interest as a firm order and to accompany the wine I ended up with a slab of cheese as big as a house brick.  I really must get back to Spanish lessons!

The weather continued to be moody and unreliable and when we walked out later the grey clouds were crawling like a contagion over the surrounding mountain tops as white dainty lace bonnets were replaced with grey skull caps and we dodged the showers until the sky broke in two, the black clouds disappeared and left behind a glorious sunset.

The day ended in spectacular fashion!

Ronda Spain Sunset