Okay, so I’ve been muy lento in finishing up our blog posts from Christmas vacation, but I wanted to get this last one up, because it was one of our favorite days: a visit to a gorgeous little mountain town called Ronda, featuring a bullfighting arena, charming cobblestone streets, a subterranean staircase, the best meal of the week, and an incredible stone bridge that looked straight out of Game of Thrones.
We got up very early – it was still dark out – and cabbed to the bus station in Torremolinos, where we bought bus tickets up to Ronda. The ride took us west along the coast, through other beach cities like Fuengirola and Marbella, then up onto a windy mountain road. Total drive time, about 2 hours.
Our first stop was the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, the oldest bullfighting arena in Spain, dating back to 1785. The ring is huge, surrounded by steep seats and a single Presidential box. No courtside tix here! I think the ring is only in use a few times during the year. There’s a well-laid out museum in the corridors beneath the arena seating, where we could trace the evolution of matadors’ capes and clothing, view famous etchings and paintings by Francisco Jose de Goya, and read about the Romero family, who gave the people of Spain three generations’ worth of famous bullfighters. The greatest of these was Pedro Romero (1754-1839), who killed more than 5600 bulls! Incredible and tragic.
The boys had a little awareness of bullfighting from the recent animated movie Book of Life (which featured bullfighting skeletons), so they were fairly patient as we worked our way through the museum. They mostly enjoyed running around the arena sand though – E’s red jacket subbed in nicely for a matador’s cape.
Afterwards, we walked west through town to the Puente Nuevo, a massive stone bridge spanning the immense gorge that splits the city. It was truly awe-inspiring – and just a little bit terrifying too! Perfectly safe, of course, but since I had a bit of a fear of heights, I couldn’t even imagine what it must have taken to build it! How did they even get a span across in the first place? It was started in 1751 and took 42 years to complete… and 50 workers died during its construction. At least they had a lovely view of the vineyards and mountains on their way down to the river below…
Before exploring the far side of town, we doubled back to a tiny tapas place called Tragatapas, which Yelp had listed as the #1 most recommended place in Ronda. Well deserved too – it was the most delicious meal we had all week, and more than made up for a few of the average tapas meals we’d had in Torremolinos.
It was a more modern take on tapas, with a lot of Moroccan fusion elements. The menu is all in Spanish, but I could make out most everything, so we ordered a couple of Mini Wagyu (wonderfully rich Japanese beef) burger sliders; carnitas tacos with mint, red onion, and cilantro; rich, fragrant Iberico ham with smoky adobado sauce, couscous, tabbouleh, and yogurt; chicken broquettes with coconut milk, curry, and lemon juice; and what I think might have been tempura eggplant or cauliflower with a spicy dipping sauce (can’t remember). I think we might have sat there for even longer and ordered more food if the boys hadn’t started getting squirrelly. If you visit Ronda, we can’t recommend this place enough.
Afterwards, we walked off our lunch by poking around the side streets and shops in Ronda. It was a beautiful day out, sunny but not too hot. We picked up a few new things for our house – a beautiful decorative plate and a shaggy white rug, and the boys even got some candy from one of the friendly shopkeepers.
Our next stop was La Casa Del Rey Moro, and the ‘Water Mine’ beneath it. It’s a crumbling palace (you can’t go inside) said to have belonged to a Moorish nobleman, though the house was built in the 1800s, long after the Moorish occupation of the area in the 14th century. Nevertheless, the steep, 220-step stone staircase beneath the house does date back to that era, and after wandering through the lovely gardens (hello peacocks!), we led the boys down into the dank and dripping tunnel.
It was a fun adventure for them (being big Minecraft fans, of course), with lots of echoey chambers to whoop and holler in on the way down. The staircase lets out onto a dock along the calm green river at the bottom of the gorge. Very peaceful down there. We tried to get the boys to imagine being a slave, centuries ago, and carrying heavy buckets of water up and down the stairs, all day long. They asked why the people didn’t just put pipes in…
One last visit to view the Puente Nuevo from the other side of the bridge, and then we boarded our afternoon bus again for the trip back down the mountain to Torremolinos. Thanks to our friends on Facebook who recommended Ronda to us, it was a wonderful day and one of the most memorable highlights of our entire vacation in Spain!
Oh and if you missed them, here are the entries for the rest of our travels in Spain!