Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Most Wonderful Place On Earth :)


We took a train for 2 1/2 hours and we had our own little car because really, who rides the train on a Thursday afternoon?  When we arrived in Ronda, it had just become dark outside so we followed our little hand drawn map from the train station to our hostel.  The street our hostel was on had a giant hole in the road for construction (which is quite often for Spain) and there were only a few street lights.  The door to the street was open and completely dark so it was definitely a little frightening, but we all had our keys between our knuckles and were ready for any sketchy situations :) luckily however, we rang the bell, and Paul the 19 year old from Holland running our hostel answered and let us in.  The first thing we did was drop everything, including our mouths, when we saw the terrace. It was built right into the side of the cliff which overlooked the gorge and the famous "puente nueva" which was covered in dim lights.  Also something that I hadn't known I'd been missing until I saw them again was the stars.  Because Ronda is so small there is hardly any light pollution.  Our hostel was mainly occupied by us and Paul for most of the weekend which made it incredibly fun and very homey.  Thursday night we just stayed in and ate our bocadillos that our host families had packed us for the day, and decided on our plans for the following day.

Breakfast was included: cereal (which I have also been missing terribly), toast with all sorts of different jams and chocolate, and basically tea, coffee and whatever else you could find.  So we filled ourselves up and headed out for a morning hike.  We found a little path the ran along one of the outside edges of the main part of town and walked all the way down through old ruined Arabic doors, found unbeaten paths that ran near the waterfall and the bridge, and little caves or creepy old ruins (that my friends ran from, suspecting they were occupied by homeless people--highly unlikely).  The hike itself was probably only about 20 minutes to half an hour but we were there for at least 2 hours enjoying the view and creating our own little paths (oh the joy of traveling in small groups of people you actually like!). On our way walking back a man stopped us and told us to come look into his restaurant because the view was so great and apparently he had seen us waving to Paul on the bridge (I guess we stuck our a little bit) so we stopped in to take pictures.  The weather was gorgeous and we decided to find a place to picnic, so we went to a grocery store and paid about 3 euros each for a great feast. We ate on a giant square bench along one of the paths that bordered the city and enjoyed the view of the country and the sunshine that was streaming down.  After our picnic we went to find the gardens that were really close next to our hostel.  We got a little lost because the street we needed to take was actually a large row of stairs, but when we made it the gardens were basically a bunch of layered terraces that looked over the gorge and down into the water at the bottom. There was this teenage kid there too that was doing tricks on his bike and had a little group of 12 year olds videotaping him, and they seemed to be following us around the gardens.  After a while we gave up and just sat there and watched him try to do tricks.  Dinner that night was great, Paul made us two dishes of paella and while we were waiting for it to cook we were playing all sorts of games: pass the pigs, go fish, spoons, and we tried to play "sorry" but none of us could remember how which according to Paul meant "we didn't have childhoods".  For desert we had gone out and bought different types of chocolate bars to share, and then danced a little salsa in the kitchen.  It was a wonderful good old-fashioned family meal. :D

Breakfast again was a success (my dearest cereal and I) and then we headed out to the other side of the gardens where there were old ruined Arab baths and the remains of the castle and wall that used to fortify the borders of the town. After we walked through the baths and learned all about how they worked, we climbed all along the wall to view the other side of Ronda and to look back and see the little white town built into the cliff.  From the wall we walked to "la casa del rey moro" which was an old broken down building with gardens and a mine that led down into the gorge.  The mine was exactly how you picture a cave to be: cold, wet, and dark. There were rooms for the armory, treasures, and a room called "la sala de los secretos" or in other words the room of secrets.  If you stood at opposite corners of the room and whispered into the wall the person opposite you could hear you as if you were standing right behind them (there was also a room like this in the palace of El Escorial).  280 stairs later-- the equivalent of 20 stories (or so says Rick Steve's our personal travel agent ;] ) we made it to the bottom where there was a metal platform right on the water at the bottom of the gorge.  If you looked up you could see the old bridge and the castle to the right, the gardens straight up in front, and to the left was the new bridge and our hostel.  The water was the most amazing aqua blue and the bottom was covered with a pure white covering that made it look like Caribbean sands, and looking up were immense rocks that shot out of the ground skyward covered in green vines and moss. After  spending some time down there, we climbed back up the mine and set out for another picnic on our favorite lunch spot. After another magnificent picnic we set off for the plaza de toros, a very famous bull fighting ring in Ronda.  The ring was an immense circle, that didn't seem too large until you tried to walk across and reached the other side 4 minutes later.  The ring itself was covered in a special sand (good for soaking up liquids :P yuck!) and surrounded by balconies and seats that held up to 4,000 people.  There were two little museums along the outside of the ring underneath the stands, that had artifacts from famous matadors and drawings and pieces from Goya from the fights.  It was a little too gruesome for my liking (which just proves the fact that I could never sit through the running of the bulls) but it was all very interesting and educational.  That night we went to a tapas bar called Lechuguita, which was literally 5 seconds away from our hostel.  Each set of tapas was .80 euros and there was a checklist with all of the options that you just put your name and little X's on what you wanted.  Among the many new things we tried we also ordered Lechuguita of course, which is basically romaine lettuce soaked in vinegar and some other mysterious flavors we couldn't pick out, but it tasted surprisingly delicious. Back in the hostel we packed up and played more cards games, spoons especially until we all got a little too into it and decided to stop before someone got injured haha.  We stayed up for a while in our room just talking, the four of us and Paul, except that Victoria and Casey were basically sleeping.

Check out time was at noon, but Paul told us we could leave our things there until we needed to leave.  Our train left at 5pm so we had a little time to kill.  We went to the palace of mondragon, which is also known as the museum of Ronda.  It was kind of like a childrens history museum but it had some pretty gardens and terraces that we sat in.  Lunch was at Don Miguel's cafe today because the supermarkets are closed on Sundays (just like everything else).  Don Miguels was our little coffee spot for the weekend because it was right on the side of the cliff next to the bridge and we could see into the gorge and our hostel from our seats. Afterwards we walked around for a while and went back to the gardens and our lunch spot to enjoy the view the beaming sun. It was very relaxing and we stayed outside all day in the warmth (which actually gave me a sunburn!) until it was time to go back and gather our things.  We said goodbye to our new friend and our amazing little hostel and headed for the train station.  It was sad to say goodbye to Ronda because I really do think it was the most beautiful place I've ever visited but that just means I'll have to go back and share it with everyone! :D