Ronda, perhaps the most famed and loveliest of Andalucia’s pueblos blancos, sits atop a massive cliff, rising sheer from the valley floor a hundred metres or more below. The old (read, Moorish) and new parts of the town are cleft in two by the Tajo Gorge, crossed, as I noted in my previous post, by the not-so-new, 18th century Puente Nuevo.
‘Spectacular’ is a word which has been rubbed dry of its meaning through overuse and repetition, yet it is really the only word to use of the vistas that open before and beneath you, when you gaze out from Ronda’s parapet, across a sea of rolling hills and olive groves and distant, tiny buildings, like small ships on a heaving ocean.
Puente Nuevo, the ‘new’ bridge, dates to the 18th-century and spans the 100m-deep Tajo Gorge, connecting the old and new parts of Ronda.
Ronda was a surprise: approaching up a steep hill, and entering the town through drab, less-than-interesting neighbourhoods, we wondered if we had made a mistake, booking for two nights. We checked into our hotel, headed out to explore, and immediately fell in love.
Indeed, Ronda quickly became one of our favourite towns in all of Andalucia, and we would happily have stayed for several days more.
We came across this tapas bar near the City Hall in Sevilla one evening, liked what we saw, went inside, and liked it so much we came back the next evening. It must have been someone’s birthday – there was a celebratory group of people, laughing, drinking, singing, clapping, and the whole scene, the ambience, the joyousness, was quite lovely and quite mesmerising.
One of the best decisions we made on our trip to Spain was to head off the main road from Sevilla to Ronda, and take a detour through the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema. The ‘park’ is an area of wild beauty, rugged, steep, sheer, spectacular, dotted with isolated farmsteads and whitewashed pueblos blancos – the roads making for some nail-biting driving, the countryside for some dramatic photos.
Here is the road leading into – or out of – Grazalema. The farmer was tending his pigs a few kilometres outside and a couple of hundred metres below the village.
The little white village of Grazalema, one of the pueblos blancos of that rugged region, has the highest rainfall in Spain. True to form, lowering dark clouds clung to the hills and mountains when we visited. We parked on the outskirts of town, walked down the hill to find a beer and something to eat – and suddenly, while we were eating, the clouds burst like a sack full of liquid, and a torrent of water rushed down the street. Needless to say, we got drenched walking back.
Images, in black-and-white, of Zahara de la Sierra, the first of the pueblos blancos on our path from Sevilla to Ronda….
I like the harmony and balance, the silent concentration, in these photographs of pied avocets with their swooping bills wading in the waters at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary.
Time for a break, I thought, in the Spanish series…
The delicacy of the decoration at the Real Alcazar in Sevilla is a breath of poetry, the colours of god….