Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ronda, Spain

I feel like I've said this in every single post, but I loved Ronda! 
Maybe it was the history, or the fact that I just had the best time in Spain, but every single place we traveled to was AMAZING.

Some information about Ronda; Ronda sits in the heart of the Serrania de Ronda, about 100kms from the city of Malaga and with a population of approximately 35,000 inhabitants. Surrounded by lush river valleys and sitting above a deep ravine, it is a place that literally takes your breath away when seeing it. Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Ronda will understand its appeal. It is one of the most beautiful and visited cities in Spain (the third most visited city in Andalucia). Ronda was first declared a city by Julius Caesar. One of the first routes they followed was the old Roman one, linking Gibraltar with the Roman settlement of Acinipo. Ronda’s most striking feature is the Puente Nuevo, which spans a gorge over 300 feet deep. Can you guess when the "new bridge" was built? 1793. That should give you an idea of how unchanged Ronda has been over the years. It’s also known as the birthplace of modern bullfighting. The town’s bullfighting ring is only used once a year, at the Feria Goyesca, but it’s also a museum where you can learn about the history of this traditional sport.

It was less than 1.5 hour drive from Seville to Ronda. No highways, just 2 lane roads where you are able to see hills, and even castles! 
Roads like these don't have gas stations, so if you're driving, make sure to fill up. We eventually found a gas station, but it was when the gas light had gone on. So just be prepared. Better safe than sorry right?
When we got to Ronda there was construction and the GPS didn't know how to get to our hotel. -_- Thank God for smart phones! Even when they're on airplane mode.  My phone is smarter than me and the GPS was still tracking us so I could just follow the little blue dot to our hotel. (Not sure if that's always a good thing. Guess Big Brother is always watching...)
We finally made it to our hotel! We stayed at the Hotel Sierra Hidalga 3km outside of downtown Ronda. It was nice hotel. The receptionist didn't speak English very well and my Spanish consists of being able to count to 10 and ask if they speak English. Our hotel was 44 Euros, which included parking, and WiFi. The room even had a balcony!
I did my research about Ronda and I know that there were 2 things I just HAD to see. the Puente Nuevo Bridge and their Toro.
Side Entrance to the Toro.
I googled a place to park which took us the long way into the center of town, and about 15 mins away from all the sites. What I loved about Ronda was the fact that all it's sites were right next to one another. I wish I would've known where we were because I would've found parking somewhere closer since we got caught in a thunderstorm halfway through our day. :(
I would suggest if you have a car, first find the sites, then searching for parking by following the "P" signs.
We followed the map we had got from the hotel and found the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Rick Steves suggest we tour the Ronda Toro museum. Of course I had to listen to Rick.
What I loved most about Ronda were the Bulls! There were real size bull statues everywhere! I got my Bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida, home of the Bulls! The year before I graduated a new student center had opened and they had real size bull statues all over the court yard. The story is that the University paid someone to go and study the movements of Bulls and build statues of them. The statues in Ronda are just like the ones back in Tampa! (Maybe they came to Spain?)

GO Bulls!

Before heading into the Toros we checked out the court yard area next to it, the Mirador de Aldehuela and Balcón del Coño Viewpoints. One of the most popular viewpoints of the city and with good reason. The views of the gorge, the Puente Nuevo and the surrounding countryside are spectacular. The viewpoint has been named in honour of the architect José Martin de Aldehuela. The same architect who built the bullring, the Puente Nuevo and finished Malaga's cathedral amongst other projects. We got some beautiful shots of the city. At the time it was a beautiful day!

City is literally at the edge.

It was windy! I had to hold my hat

The Sidles' in Ronda April 2015.

From the Viewpoints we headed into the Toro museum. Ronda is said to be the home of modern day bullfighting. The Real Maestranza bullring is one of the oldest and most picturesque in Spain. It was built in 1785 by the architect Jose Martin Aldehuela - the same architect who built the Puente Nuevo. The ring can hold up to 5000 spectators. Francisco Romero, born in Ronda in 1695, is credited with giving bullfighting its modern day rules with the introduction of the cape and the muleta. His grandson, Pedro Romero (1754-1839) became one of Spain’s greatest bullfighters. He founded the Ronda School for Bullfighting, it is still known today for its classicism and strict adherence to the rules. There’s a museum and guided audio tours around the bullfighting ring. The price of entry is 6.50€ per person or 8.00€ with an audio-guide. Drew got the audio guide, he was walking around talking my ear off about what this and that was, it was pretty adorable.
What a view!

This is where they kept the bulls the day of the match

The Royal Booth

Ronda's Toro

Our day in Ronda got cut short. It had started to drizzle, then out of no where it started to pour down. When we checked our weather apps, it said the rain would continue throughout the night so we cut our losses and headed back to the hotel (Not before buying ponchos, I will never travel without one again. They're even better than umbrella's)
Reminds me of Florida. Must be all that Spanish Influence 

A while later Mother nature decided to be kind and stopped raining. We ended up back in town for dinner. We ended up at the cutest little restaurant next to the Toro. I had the best Sangria, I had to take a picture with it!
It even had a little lemon drink garnish.

The next morning before heading off to Malaga, we headed back into town to find the pathway down the gorge to get a clear view of Ronda. Before it started to rain we saw people down there and planned to head there too. We ended up down the Puente Nuevo which offered unforgettable views over the El Tajo gorge. The Puente Nuevo – new bridge – was actually completed in 1793 and took forty two years to build. The bridge joins the old Moorish town and the newer, El Mercadillo parts of the city.

Sidles' down the El Tajo Gorge April 2015

We were up there the day before! Thats a picture of the View points!

The "New Bridge" of Ronda

On our way our the city, we passed  the Arabic walls and city gates. It is said that Ronda has been one of Andalusia’s most impregnable cities. Mainly because of its geographical position, but also to a series of city walls and gates which were built by the Moors throughout the Islamic era. These walls and gates were continually being added to as the city grew.

Arabic city gates

Today, they provide a unique glimpse into Ronda’s past. Visitors in Moorish times to Ronda would have entered the city via the Puente Arabe, eventually entering the city centre by going through the now decrepit Puerte de la Cijara. The largest and most protected city gate was the Almocabar one. It took its name from the Arabic cemetery (al-maqabir) which stood in this section of the town. The Almocabar gate faces Gibraltar and the sea and would have been a main point of entry for most people.
All in all Ronda was everything it was built up to be. Honestly, if you are ever in Southern Spain and you don't go to Ronda you are seriously missing out.