We had a five and half hour drive from Ronda to Toledo. Toledo is our final destination before getting on a plane tomorrow and heading home.
Toledo is an interesting city. I believe most people come here as a day trip from Madrid. The center is packed with tourists and then, after they leave, it is quiet at night. The town is getting ready to celebrate Corpus Christi, which is next Thursday, so the town is decorated with flags and lights everywhere. Toledo is an important city to Spain because it is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” having been influenced by a historical co-exhistence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures.
We spent our main day walking around until a big rain storm headed our way. At the end of the video there is a strange looking bird. It caught a lizard for lunch.
I have gotten used to all this sunshine so hopefully home will have plenty of sun. This trip has been great and different than all other trips I have been on before. I am looking forward to getting back home and eating at my normal hours again though.
We stayed at a bed & breakfast/winery in Ronda and it was so wonderful that I thought I would share some photos. Breakfast was delivered in a picnic basket every morning around 9:00. You then could take your basket and find a table around the house that you wanted to sit at for that morning. The basket contained bread, fruit, meats, cheeses, fresh orange juice and my favorite was the yogurt with honey and granola.
The first night we got there we signed up for a wine tour with other people staying at the place. The wine tour was a little walk around the bodega and then 3 very generous samplings of the wine made with grapes from that vineyard. The evening was fun because we met the people staying there. Once we finished the wine sampling (2 hours later) we headed down the street to a restaurant for dinner where I had some of the best food ever. Dinner took another 2 hours and then we ended up trying to find our way home in the dark. After one wrong turn, we finally made it back.
For our last day in Ronda we took a very scenic drive in the mountains to visit 3 different Pueblos Blancos (white villages). The drive was another curvy road with steep drop-offs and no shoulder. Some of the video is from the car as we were driving. The road wasn’t really wide enough for 2 lanes so you just have to hope someone isn’t flying around each bend.
My favorite village we visited was Setenil. Some of the houses were built into the rock walls of the gorge. I’m guessing that they don’t have a lot of roofers in this little village. I’m not sure how they built the houses but since they are built into the rock it acts as a cooling system in the summer and a heating system in the winter. I’m not convinced this is a great idea still but these houses have been here for hundreds of years so I guess someone knew how to build a house under large boulders.
The area around Ronda has a lot of beautiful scenery and has easily been my favorite region on this trip.
We took a scenic 2 hour drive from Ronda to Gibraltar. The drive was magnificent but not recommended for those that get car sick. It was constant turns the whole way. We parked our car on the Spanish side and then walked across the border. You just wave your passport in the air showing you have some sort of documentation but they honestly don’t even look. You are walking with a herd of people so there is no way they would catch if you weren’t holding anything. On the other hand, if you drive across the border they do a thorough search of your car. We probably saved 2 hours by just walking across the border. This is also the closest I have been to Africa since, from Gibraltar, you can see Morocco across the Straight of Gibraltar.
Once you are on the Gibraltar side of the border, you can either take a bus to town or walk in. Either way, you go across the airstrip from the International Airport. They just say to look left, right and up to see if there are any planes. I never saw a single plane the whole time we were there.
I can’t say Gibraltar was my favorite place. We took the cable car up the rock and had nice views but the town itself wasn’t very charming. I guess it is one of those places that I can say I have been to but probably don’t need to go back.
There were apes (they call them that, but they are really a type of monkey) at the top of the rock. The video is probably half apes, but they were one of the highlights of the trip to the top. They do like to hop on the cable car when it arrives to see what they can steal from the tourists. When I got back on to go back down the cable car driver told me to watch out because I had my sunglasses on my head, and the monkeys had stolen a hat off a guys head just the other day.
After visiting the cave, we made our way to Ronda which is the town we are staying near. The main attraction is the very tall bridge which is impressive. The main thing I learned in Ronda, is that you go up and down a lot of hills and stairs. Well part of that is my fault. I was intrigued by the secret mine that took you all the way down to the water. It sounded a lot nicer than than the 200 plus stairs down, and really you didn’t see much once you got to the bottom. It was a lot of stairs for the day once you count the cave and the mine 🙂
We arrived in Ronda Sunday afternoon. We are staying at lovely place surrounded by vineyards. The owner was giving a wine tour that night so we joined in, and we got to sample the three different types of wines they produce.
We visited a cave on Monday morning and it was one of the most speculator caves I have been in. Pictures and videos weren’t allowed in the cave (cell phones had to be off as well so they don’t harm the bats) but if you google the title of this post you should be able to find some youtube videos of the caves. The cave had many drawings dating back thousands of years ago. They believe some of the drawings are 30,000 years old. They also found some remains in the cave which date to 8,000 years old. Two of the remains were moved to museums but 1 of the remains (which is not where the public walks) is still in the cave because it petriefied into the cave. Some of the drawings didn’t make sense to me but I could always make out the horses eventually, and the person and the seal once the tour guide pointed them out for us. I also found it interesting that they were able to make red and yellow by using the fat of animals mixed with different minerals. The cave was well worth the 100 stairs to get to the entrance and another 243 in the cave. However it was very slippery and hard to see since only every other person had a light.
Since I could only take a picture of the cave entrance, I included some pictures of the surrounding hills. This area is quite beautiful and more peaceful than the cities we started with in the trip.
We left Granada two days ago and drove towards Ronda. Since we had some time before we could check in at our next hotel, we decided to stop at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra to see if there were any flamingos. The flamingos come to the lake to lay their eggs in early spring. By the summer time they either will fly to Africa or to other parts of Spain as the lake will usually dry up. The flamingos like this lake because it is shallow salt water. They like to be located in about a half meter of water.
We were lucky as there were a lot of flamingos there. However, it is very hard to get a good view of them. The area is protected and unless you take a guided tour, you have to view them from pretty far away. The lake is supposed to be a good area for bird watching as there are a lot of other species that live in the area.
You can see the flamingos much better in the video, but it was hard to hold the camera still.
After eating pretty rare pork for dinner last night, I decided to try a burger for lunch (at 5:00) today. The waiter asked if I was OK if my veal burger was cooked medium, and I told him that I was fine with that. Little did I know that their idea of medium is my idea of just buying the meat at the meat counter. Here is a picture of my medium cooked burger. I tried convincing myself that they put tomato in the middle of my burger but they really didn’t.
My burger cooked medium
One might ask what I had for dinner after eating a raw burger. I had 2 scoops of ice cream 🙂
Alhambra was originally built as a small fortress in 889 and then was renovated and rebuilt in the mid-11th century by the Moorish. Napoleon’s troops did set up camp at Alhambra and used them as barracks. Some of the sights were destroyed while Napoleon was there so it is hard to imagine how some of the buildings would have looked.
The palace was similar to the one in Seville but this was much larger. We spent a good five hours there and it was a good thing we had two tickets because the first ones expired at 2. I’m still amazed at how much detail went into every piece. I never really understand how they built the palaces they did thousands of years ago without all of the power and technology that we have now.
(This video is a little longer than usual because there was just so much to see.)
The pictures just never capture all the detail that I can see with my eyes. I guess you will all have to come and visit Spain and see it 🙂
Here is a brief video of the sights in Granada including one of the many tea shops with the largest licorice I have ever seen.