Our first day exploring in 2018.
It also just happened to be the first day of a new year. Of course, being in Spain, it was one with an absence of rain, wind or cloud. It was time for us to go out, enjoy the sun and stretch our legs. The main character of our current housesit is our four-legged friend Fudge, who was more than eager to read the latest news bulletin from the last visiting dog along the walkway.
Time to go. Let’s hit the road and head to Ronda.
Once we had parked the car just out of the city, we headed towards the old town. It was a day to do things in a slow amble sort of way. With time spent along the way admiring the buildings with the odd architectural piece worthy of a word or two. Then we came across the reason why we drove here. It was to see the iconic centrepiece of Ronda.
The El Tajo gorge.
Then, of course, it was the buildings that squatted so sturdy on the lip of the cliff. Which unlike most things that perch on the edge of cliffs these structures had nothing about them that screamed fragile, in fact, it was the opposite. They were robust and proud to function as a working part of this small city.
After more admiration of how on earth this city was built and the dramatic landscape, it was time for refreshment, well for two of us the third had to drool until given a biscuit or two to munch on, by the way, I’m referring to Fudge.
We found a spot to quickly sip an espresso and a croissant and go. Yes, not very European of us. We have never spent such a short amount of time in a cafe in Spain.
Not hard to understand why we believe Ronda to be one of the most unique small cities in Andalusia. We were not the only ones to exclaim Ronda’s place as one to visit as it has undoubtedly had its fair share of famous residents over the years. Both Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, among many others, found Ronda inspiring enough to take up summer homes here in the Old Town.
Ronda was also a popular destination for the Viajeros Románticos, which means Romantic Travelers in English, but the Viajeros Románticos were not travelling lovers as the translation suggests. They were travellers in the 18th and 19th centuries who wanted to discover the unspoiled areas of Europe and would take lengthy grand tours that would influence their many pieces of literature and art.
Speaking of unspoiled, Ronda is still one of those rare destinations in Europe that haven’t yet been built up by big businesses or overtaken by the tourism industry. That’s not to say this isn’t a highly popular tourist destination because it indeed is, but at least there aren’t any modern buildings or high rise hotels marring the natural landscape.
As previously mentioned the reason for our visit was to experience the dramatic and famous El Tajo gorge, a vast canyon cutting off the Old Town of Ronda from the New Town and the three bridges that connect them is what drew us to Ronda.
The “Puente Romano or Puente de San Miguel” (“Roman Bridge or Bridge of St. Michael”), is the original bridge in Ronda, and despite its name, it was initially built by the Moors. It would connect the city to the main northern gate. You’ll find this bridge if you head down towards the old (almost intact) Arab Baths from the 13th and 14th centuries.
The “Puente Viejo o Puente árabe “(“Old Bridge or Arab Bridge”), is the oldest of the three bridges in Ronda. Its origin is controversial but from the few records found it was probably built by the Arabs, and re-built in 1616 after being destroyed by a flood. This bridge would connect the city to the market neighbourhood.
The newest of the three, the “Puente Nuevo” (“New Bridge”), which is actually over 200 years old -finished in 1793- is the one that provides the most stunning views over the Guadalevin gorge. 120m above the river bed, this bridge took 42 years to build. If you are adventurous, you can take a stroll down to the river.
We were quite content to stay on the bridge where the surfaces weren’t as slippery to admire the dramatic scenery of the countryside. All in all, it was an enjoyable outing, and the nearly 3-hour car ride was worth it. It was made more memorable with pit stops to view the countryside as we edged ourselves up to the forever climbing road to Ronda.