Help Me, Ronda
We flew into Malaga from Amsterdam. It was a short flight that I booked on Ryan Air for less than 100 euros! If you're anything like me, you're currently thinking, "Where the hell is Malaga?"Shocker. It's in Spain. It's actually in the Costa del Sol region, (which translates to Coast of the Sun) and it sits on the south of Spain against the aquamarine Mediterranean with an average of 320 days of sunshine annually. It's freaking beautiful.
But we weren't stopping at the beach. No, our first part of the journey included renting a car, driving around the airport at least seven times before finding the exit, and heading up into the mountainous Natural Park Sierra de Grazalema.
The owner of Finca Vegana suggested that we make a couple stops along the way. It's about a 4 hour drive from Malaga, depending on how lost you get, and Ian and I tend to find ourselves in a perpetual state of lost-ness. Our first stop was in Ronda, a mountaintop city that sits above a deep gorge, featuring an 18th century bullring, ancient ruins dating back to Moorish rule, and the "new" city which dates back to the 15th century. This makes America feel extremely young! If you look at any sign or pamphlet on Ronda, you are going to see the iconic Puente Nuevo bridge.
Ian and I were already running behind on time because we chose to catch up on sleep, but we were already driving through Ronda and we wanted to stop and snap a picture in front of this iconic bridge. Easy enough, right? Hahahahahaha
First, we drove all the way up the mountain and over the bridge. That's a good start! But you can't take a photo of the bridge while you're on top of it.
There was absolutely no parking anywhere, so we had to drive down the mountain (I'm from Florida so anything larger than a sand dune is a mountain to me). We found a little cafe with ten minute parking and one open space. I threw the car in park and we took off in a jog towards the base of the bridge. I set a timer on my phone because I couldn't deal with getting our rental car towed when the ten minute parking expired. There was a rocky little dirt path that lead in the direction of the bridge, but we couldn't see the bridge because there are so many turns and bends in the gorge we were now running through.
Alas, we came to a bridge! Not the right bridge, mind you, but a bridge nonetheless! My timer went off. We snapped a couple pictures in front of this bridge, (which apparently just in front of the bridge we were looking for) just in case, and ran back to the car to locate some longer parking.
As we walked back up the mountain after locating long-term parking, the sole of my boot came off. Like... completely unattached to the top of my boot! I had to shuffle along the cobblestone roads, up hill, to the top of the gorge where the shops were and purchase a new pair of shoes. We also passed the famous Plaza de Toros, but as an animal lover, I am not a big fan of bull-fighting and decided to skip that bit of history.
After swapping shoes, Ian and I decided to go to the tourist center and ask for directions to the "photo spot" for the Puente Nuevo bridge.We were told to go back down the mountain, then up the mountain, then somewhat around the mountain, and finally, to a small sort of overhang that kind of allowed a view of the bridge. We followed the directions and finally made it to a place where we could sort of get a picture in front of the correct bridge.
At this point, we were WAY behind schedule and also starving, so we snapped a couple pics (we both look ratchet), decided they would have to do, and headed off towards our car. We decided to try to get a bite before disembarking towards our lodging in Zahara, but there were literally no vegan options at any of the tapas places. We read the menus of five restaurants before settling for fried aubergine (eggplant) and a baguette with olive oil.
If you travel through Ronda, I would recommend leaving yourself at least half a day to explore the city and locate the best photo spot for the bridge. It is a gorgeous city and I regret not having more time to spend soaking in the city instead of running around, trying to find a view. I know that we were there during "off-season" and that there are more options over the summer months, like guided hikes down the gorge and donkey rides back up, but if it isn't peak season, you're going to need some extra time to locate your photo op! If you are vegan, bring snacks with you. This region of Spain is known for their acorn-fed pigs and eat "jamon (ham)" is in just about everything. Next time, we will be prepared!
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