Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine

Gadding in Europe

Ep 18: Ronda

The next day I took the car out of the parking garage and ventured out into the streets of Marbella. Having spent a couple of days getting my bearings and watching how the traffic flowed, it was like chalk and cheese compared to the day we arrived. We had been told that a visit to the town of Ronda up in the mountains was a must, so that was where we were headed.

       As we left the cooling influence of the sea and wound our way up the unbelievably narrow and tortuous road to Ronda, it became warmer and warmer. For almost 40 kilometres we twisted and turned, never knowing when an oncoming vehicle would suddenly appear on a bend, and I had to drive well below the speed limit as Mother is a poor traveller at the best of times, so the journey was rather uncomfortable for her. We stopped for coffee and to give Mom a rest at a building that housed a restaurant and a retail outlet for leather goods – dresses, jackets, long coats, pants, bags and purses. All very beautiful and soft to the touch, but we really didn’t need anything and were not tempted.

       At last we arrived and were ill-prepared for navigating our way around yet another strange town with no English signage and plenty of traffic. Having no idea of the distance we were from our purpose in visiting Ronda, the aqueduct on the cliff top, I turned into the first parking garage I could find. We set off on foot along the pedestrian way, lined with many interesting and unique shops and plenty of pavement cafes – we had really good paella at one and Mom and Dad revived themselves with cold beer! It certainly was a scorcher, and we took the walk very slowly, browsing and window shopping. Mom saw a very stylish twin-set in a boutique and Dad insisted that she have it – she wore it to the wedding and looked extremely smart. Imagine going to a small town in Spain to find the ideal outfit for a wedding. We had a good laugh.

       At last we reached the edge of town and looked out over the gorge below. Well, having spent four days literally living on the edge of a cliff in Arcos de la Frontera kind of took the edge off the experience and it wasn’t long before we were ready to go back to Marbella.

       The return trip to the car was during siesta. It was as though we were walking through a ghost town. Every shop was closed, not a soul walked the streets (apart from us and a handful of other tourists) – on the way down, the streets were crowded. Every window was firmly shuttered against the heat.

       We then realised that we had walked downhill all the way and the uphill seemed to become steeper as we progressed. It wasn’t kind to Mom and Dad, who struggle with long walks as it is, and combined with the heat and hill, we would have done better to have stayed at home! However, she did get a lovely outfit and we saw some magnificent caricature-like statues in a toy shop – if they had been open, I am sure our wallets would have been, too!

       Eventually we were back in the comfort of our airconditioned car and on our way down the barren mountains to the sea. There is very little natural vegetation in this part of Spain and we wondered if they had very little rainfall. (Not too long after we left Spain, the entire area from Malaga to Marbella was devastated by runaway bushfires, which probably helps to account for the barrenness.)

       The drive down, although at a snail’s pace, proved too much for Mother’s constitution and I dropped her off at the door of our hotel before driving a couple of blocks to a parking garage. She fell into bed and declined to attend the wedding dinner that evening, preferring to have a very quiet evening in after weeks of intense activity. After all, the Big Wedding was the next day!

       Dad and I were not going to miss a moment, and we headed off to the old town to Las Pasqueras, a large venue filled with photographs of matadors and memorabilia, as well as several stuffed bulls, bearing the scars of battle in the bullring. Apparently the bulls are as famous as the matadors, although it was a little unnerving to be surrounded by them while eating. I have to say I have no desire to attend a bullfight, just as I wouldn’t attend a boxing match.

       We met the wedding guests – family and friends from all over the world – while tucking into tapas and plenty of wine, but after our long day in the mountains, we left early and left the youngsters to party on. I was very happy to put my head on my pillow! You must remember that you have to do a lot of walking in Marbella – no cars are allowed in the old town and it’s pointless to hop from parking garage to parking garage, as you don’t really get much closer.

       Next morning we awoke bright and early and put together our usual breakfast of eggs, melba toast, fruit, yoghurt and cheese. We bought these items at the supermercado behind the hotel and, being in self-catering suites, had fully equipped kitchens. It was good to be able to do a little self-catering after being at the mercy of the timing and preferences of a different culture – not that we were not enjoying the Spanish culture, but I think that when it comes to eating, you tend to be more comfortable with what you are used to.

       As it was our last free morning in Marbella, Mom and Dad decided to just relax before the wedding, while I wanted to find a special cardigan like the one my sister had bought the day before at a little shop in the old town. I left the parents in a lovely tree-filled park where they could sit on benches and listen to the birds, drink coffee and eat ice cream, while I hoofed it up the hill to the old town – again! – and wandered through the alleyways for what seemed like hours. I searched and searched, but could not identify the restaurant where we had had the fish dinner (things do look different when the tables and chairs are not set out), nor the shop with the jerseys. Eventually I gave up and immediately found what I was looking for!

       I bought a jersey with a beautiful pink shawl (€50 well spent!) and told the lady that I was going to a wedding at the cathedral just around the corner that afternoon. She was also going to the wedding, she said! We eventually established that there were three weddings that afternoon, so it was going to be quite a scramble – no late brides were allowed, guests had to move off as soon as possible to allow the next wedding party in and apparently the flowers were the same for everyone! It turns out that this very beautiful cathedral is very popular for ceremonies and brides come from all over to be married in Marbella!

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