Following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Tennyson and a few other tourists, we have just spent four days in Ronda…an amazing town perched on top of sheer cliffs, deep in Andalucia. We stayed at Camping El Sur, a good site about a mile to the south of the town. It is quick to walk or cycle in…the old town is about 20 minutes walk away.
Occupied since neolithic times, the town was a Moor (Muslim) stronghold for many centuries. These are the gates through which you enter the old town from the campsite direction. Just behind the walls here is the church of the Holy Ghost.
For a euro you can walk into the Church and climb the tower on its south wall.
There is a good view of the Almocabar and Carlos V gates and walls from the tower.
Just past the church, hidden around a corner, is this small cafe, with a delightful terrace and great views over the countryside.
Perfect for the first coffee stop of the day.
Ronda is split in two by the El Tajo gorge which divides the old town in the south from the Mercadillo, or market town, to the north. This is the new bridge (new is relative…built in the 18th century), which joins the two towns.
The River Guadalevin runs through the El Tajo gorge….this is the gorge to the east of Ronda.
One of the many old houses worth visiting is that of San Juan Bosco, on the west side of the old city. There are elegant interiors and a pretty terrace, much be-tiled in an Islamic style, with stunning views over the gorge to El Mercadillo and the surrounding countryside.
Hemingway’s bust adorns the plaza just by the bullring over the bridge in the Mercadillo. He spent much time in the old city and based his novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ on events here in the Spanish Civil War.
A little further on from Hemingway is the Plaza de Socorro, home to this elegant church and a number of restaurants…it’s a good place to sit and refuel.
The Casino restaurant overlooks the Plaza Socorro.
This handy pigeon perch is on the Plaza de Socorro.
Also a good spot for an ice cream. And a lie down, if you are a terrier with old town overload.
This is Eugen, brilliant spanish guitarist who played on the Plaza Maria Auxiliadora, close to the Bosco house, while we rehydrated in the cafe here. We bought some of his CD’s to remind us of the trip.
Another local musician; he was playing in the Restaurant Casino, on the Plaza Socorro.
This seemed a civilised way to get around. We hopped aboard one of the carriages for a leisurely drive around the old town.
The last time we were on one of these together was our wedding day. (Before any one comments…this wasn’t because we were married before the internal combustion engine had appeared).
This is the viewpoint in El Mercadillo, just behind the bullring and close to a good woody bit to let the Krays off in. There are good views over the gorge and live music each time we walked by…harp and pan pipes today, accordion yesterday.
There is a good walk down from the Jardins de la Muralla coffee stop, outside the town’s walls, to the Arab baths to the east of the old town. Built on the site of preexisting Roman baths, the sophisticated hot pools were for the use of travellers before they entered the town.
Colin and Penny weren’t allowed in to the baths; we took it in turns to go in. Pity…Penny would have loved to dig up some old Roman bones.
Just next to the baths is the Arab Bridge (also known as the Roman bridge) to El Mercadillo, at a much lower level than the New Bridge.
This is the old bridge, just above the Arab Bridge (confused yet?..we were).
Walking up from the Old Bridge, on the Old Town side of the gorge, you come to the Palace of the Moorish King and Gardens. The palace is closed for renovations but the garden is worth a visit, as is the ‘water mine’ which is a vertical shaft sunk down from the gardens to the river 80 m or so below. 300 steps lead down to the water and provided a water supply in times of siege.
Slaves on the steps formed a human chain to pass water bags up to the thirsty townspeople.
Walking down the steps you eventually come out, not unexpectedly, at the foot of the gorge.
This is the Restaurant Goyesca, close to the Place of the Moorish King, and home to some excellent tapas.
Another good walk is along the Xijara walls to the east of the old town.
The gate is in the Moorish style.
We have eaten so many tapas that we won’t be able to get through any more gates if we stay any longer, so we are moving on now, in the direction of Cordoba.