Ronda Spain ~ A good plan.
Heed well. There are lessons to learn when plans gang aglay and things go amiss. When rain falls in buckets, and you’re uncomfortably in the wrong place, keep your spirits up. The world may go fine again without much help from you. Ah sweet Ronda Spain.
Our big plan was to take the mother of all vacations. A 13 night transatlantic cruise from Miami to Malaga Spain aboard the good ship Grandeur Of The Seas, stopping in Haiti, San Juan, Saint Martin, and Tenerife. After 3 nights in Malaga we would visit Ronda Spain, and Tangiers, Morocco for 3 nights each. Then back to Spain to fly to Italy for a 7 night Mediterranean cruise on the Navigator of the Seas with stops in Sicily, Turkey, Crete and Athens. We left home April 16th and returned 5 weeks later on May 23rd.
It was a grand vacation – perhaps even a little too much since I picked up stomach flu just before boarding the Navigator on Sunday May 13. It took a month, but I’m feeling better now – thanks.
We loved Malaga. Our Hotel, the AC Marriott Malaga Palacio, was in the heart of town, in the shadow of the cathedral. We could walk everywhere. We spent 5 nights there; 3 early and 2 later in our trip. But we were happy to depart for Ronda Spain. Ronda is perched on both sides of a narrow but deep gorge formed by the Guadalevín River. It is in a mountainous area about 2,500 feet above sea level. People have lived there for 8 thousand years! We were staying at a B and B.
We left heavy suitcases full of cruise clothing with the Hotel Palacio and carried only backpacks for our next journey: three nights in Ronda, then three in Tangiers, in exotic North Africa.
Ronda. The train took us to Ronda in the late afternoon. It was a cold, cloudy, windy day with rain nearby. We had a hard time getting a taxi at the station and, when the stationmaster telephoned one up, we were glad to sit back and say, “Hotel El Gecko, por favor.”
The driver looked thoughtful and said, “Si senor. Pero que direccion en Ronda es el hotel?” Well we didn’t have an address or a phone number, only the e-mail address. Thus thirty minutes later, after several calls to his dispatcher and a visit to the local Parador, we were finally convinced that there was no Hotel Gecko in Ronda. It was in somewhat distant Estacion de Cortes de la Frontera.
I fell in love with the Parador hotel’s lobby while they were making phone calls to locate the elusive Gecko. I tried to convince Daisy to write off the Gecko and stay at the Parador Ronda Hotel for about 150 Euros per night. No dice. She won the argument. Gecko was only 55 Euros per night, including breakfast, and we’d already given our credit card number.
The 50-Euro taxi ride through darkening mountains made Daisy ill. We arrived in the Gecko’s smoke-filled, pub-like entry after dark. Daisy declined dinner in the pub so we went to our room for the night; Daisy to sleep and I to sup on the remains of our lunch sandwich and snacks all crushed up in our backpacks.
It rained the next day. After a simple breakfast we decided to go to Ronda for the day. We were very close to our town’s rail station so we didn’t get too wet. But the rain got heavier and it was in deluge mode for the rest of the day. Once in Ronda we had a beautiful lunch of pasta and salad for 75 Euros. After our long lunch it took only 20 minutes for us to be soaked. We soon took refuge in McDonalds for a cup of hot tea. We walked a little and a passing cab was hailed. He called his dispatcher for us and we made it back to the station in time for the return train to the Gecko.
Dinner was nice and we got to talk to our hosts Bill and Maxine. Fellow guests were all hikers and we’d seen them at breakfast. They were 6 hiker club members, men and women, who had journeyed from their homes in Gibraltar to hike in the mountains. They were a hardy bunch and they’d had a wet and slippery day.
Three days in Ronda were not going so well. I told Daisy all along to look on the bright side but she was having a rough go of it. No amount of reassurances about the flawed plan made her feel good. She felt a little down.
Sunday, our last day at the Gecko, was sunny. Bill told us there was a good place for a hike upstream. “Cross over the footbridge and walk along the Guadiaro River. There’ll be another bridge to recross the river and then an easy walk back home. We decided to try it before the afternoon meal and music. Bill informed us that there’d be no supper that night; just afternoon dinner and music on the porch provided by local musicians.
Daisy made it through the quaint little village but felt tired and sore. She turned back and I continued without her. I enjoyed a very special 5-mile hike.
I was well used after my hike but rallied for dinner at around 3 o’clock. There were 30 people dining on the porch overlooking the woods and rugged mountains rising like Alps above the trees. Everyone else was enjoying hand-rolled cigarettes between courses. Smoking seemed a popular pastime thereabouts. My beef Wellington was great. Bill was a retired Royal Navy cook.
We chatted about leaving for Morocco on the morning train and then crossing the Straits of Gibraltar by ferry. Suddenly, as our time grew short, we were having a great time.
Supper service over, the music began. We had a rollicking good time. Hardships, confusion of travel, wet clothing, cold breezes, and even disappointments seemed like a part of the fun.
Marcus, the Italian, was the main event and he sang a variety of rock songs. The hand rolled cigarettes dangling from his lips seemed exotic. Mimi, our waitress, proudly whispered, “Marcus is my husband.” Bill broke out a guitar and sang You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog. Francois jumped up from the audience and borrowed Marcus’ guitar. He was little drunk, perhaps because it was election day in France and his man had won. He sang a medley of rock tunes in French and accented English. He was very entertaining. When the Frenchman was done and Marcus was back at the mike, Mimi, our waitress, joined him in a beautiful duet.
The joint rocked for hours. The hotel El Gecko rented extra rooms that night because some guests were too drunk to drive.
One of the songs played was Sunny Side of the Street. Daisy and I smiled at each other because that was exactly what I’d been saying for three days.
It was one of the sweetest afternoons of my life.Ronda smonda.
Leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street