All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Jack Frost in Andalucía
Monday, January 30, 2023

By Pablo de Ronda

This winter has been the coldest in Spain on record with half the country under snow last week.  Here in the Serranía de Ronda it’s also been very cold. There has been snow on the aptly named Sierra de las Nieves, but no snow in Ronda itself.

The last time it snowed in the town was two years ago, in early January 2021.

This extremely cold snap has prompted Pablo de Ronda to look back at a piece he wrote in 2012, the first time he experienced really cold weather here in the Serrania de Ronda.

 

9 March 2012

It has been a very cold winter in the Serranía de Ronda. Pablo de Ronda was inspired to write about Jack Frost by the continuing icy mornings he is experiencing where he lives in the campo outside Ronda.

Our finca is in a bit of a frost pocket, set deep in a valley outside Ronda. The first frosts came back in November and have lasted ever since. Minus 5 degrees Centigrade has been typical but a couple of weeks back the temperature at 8.00 am had plummeted to -15 C!

This has entailed much scraping of windscreens in the mornings if we have an early start.

 

 

But, who is or was Jack Frost?

Commonly referred to in English folklore as Jack Frost, this sprite or elf of Anglo-Saxon and/or Nordic origin is known in Spanish as Padre Invierno or Jack Frío. In Britain and the United States, Jack Frost is a variant of Old Man Winter and is held responsible for frosty weather, for nipping the nose and toes in cold weather, colouring the foliage in autumn, and leaving fernlike patterns on cold windows in winter.

Jack Frost is regarded as a friendly sprite, but if he’s provoked he can kill his victims by covering them with snow – so beware!

Despite his relatively easy-going nature he sometimes appears in literature, film, television, song and video games as a sinister mischief-maker.

In literature, in L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)Jack Frost is the son of the otherwise unnamed Frost King. He takes pleasure in nipping “scores of noses and ears and toes.”

In Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry series, a character emerges as the original Jack Frost.

Jack Frost has also appeared as a minor character in the Rupert Bear stories, and in Jack of Fables, the titular character became Jack Frost for a period of time.

A second Jack Frost appears as the son of Jack Horner and The Snow Queen.

In the Rainbow Magic books by Daisy MeadowsJack Frost is an antagonist who wants to freeze Fairyland. He is accompanied by pesky goblins who steal fairies.

Jack Frost also appears in First Death in Nova Scotia, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

Jack Frost is also a character in the novels Reaper Man and Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and The Veil trilogy of novels by Christopher Golden.

In comic books, Jack Frost appears as a superhero in works published by Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics) in the 1940s. A man covered in ice, he could project ice and cold.

There is a Russian film from 1964, with the Russian title Morozko – the Russian equivalent of Jack Frost.

The character of Jack Frost also appears in three American films, two of them named simply Jack Frost. In one, Jack Frost is a serial killer who turns into a snowman and continues his rampage. This movie spawned a sequel: Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (great title!). In the other Jack Frost film, Michael Keaton plays a human by the name of Jack Frost, who gets killed in a car-crash on Christmas Eve. A year later he returns as a snowman to spend time with his son.

Before the days of television, Jack Frost appeared in the children’s radio serial The Cinnamon Bear. On television, Jack Frost makes an appearance in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.

He reappears in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. In a Rankin-Bass Christmas TV special of 1979, Jack Frost, the title character falls in love with a human girl and seeks to become human. Father Winter grants his wish, but tells him that if he does not have a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by “the first sign of spring” he will become a sprite again.

Jack Frost is a character in a number of video games including AdventureQuest, Killing Floor, City of Villains, Guild Wars, Granado Espada, and RuneScape.

In music Jethro Tull and Saint Vitus both have songs alluding to Jack Frost. The name has also been employed as a pseudonym by musicians Bob Dylan and Jack Dempsey.

 

 

 

 

Back to the weather here – In the last few days I thought Spring was about to arrive, but it was -3 C again this morning!

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Tags: AdventureQuest, Bob Dylan, Christopher Golden, City of Villains, Elizabeth Bishop, Granado Espada, Guild Wars, Jack Dempsey, Jack Frio, Jack Frost, Jethro Tull, Killing Floor, Laurell K. Hamilton, L. Frank Baum, Marvel Comics, Morozko, Neil Gaiman, Pablo de Ronda, padre invierno, Ronda, RuneScape, Saint Vitus, snow, Terry Pratchett



Like 0        Published at 10:06 AM   Comments (0)


Another - new – Ronda Valley
Saturday, January 28, 2023

Pablo de Ronda, half-Welsh and familiar with the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, has already written about “The Other Ronda Valley”, near Ronda in Andalucía, where he has lived for nearly 15 years.

Now there is another – and new - Ronda Valley.

 

Just down the road from where I live on the outskirts of Ronda in a pedania known as Fuente de la Higuera, is a hotel, which has been known for decades as the Don Benito. The hotel has had a series of different “owners” – Spanish, Dutch, Spanish, Spanish and latterly Portuguese – none of whom, apart from the latter, managed to make it work, despite its prime location, huge car park, large terrace, pool and tennis and padel courts.

The penultimate owners, a small hotel group from Seville changed the name to Posada de Ronda, but after the bad flood in October 2018, they walked away. The current owners are Portuguese and they gave the place a makeover. They “chucked out the chintz”, redecorated in lighter colours, and added a few stunning murals.

They also changed the hotel’s name. To Ronda Valley to fit with their sister hotel in nearby Arriate called Ronda Moments.

With a staff overhaul and a new cook, things are looking up. Their competitive hotel room pricing ensures there are always guests.

And the bar accommodates the locals too: farmers, vineyard workers, gardeners, retired folk and a few guiris like me.

¡Salud!

 



Like 0        Published at 6:26 PM   Comments (0)


POPE, MANDELA, LA LOLLO AND MUM DEAD AT 95 - a good age; BUT 27 is way too young
Sunday, January 1, 2023

Four very important people all died at the age of 95: Pope Benedikt XVI (1927-2022); Nelson Mandela (1918-2013); Gina Lollobrigida (1926-2023) and Pablo de Ronda’s dear old mum, Vera Valerie Whitelock (also 1918-2013).

 

These four deaths of 95-year-olds sound a bit like the27 Club”, an informal list consisting mostly of popular musicians, artists, actors, and other celebrities, who all died at the age of 27, when they were in their prime. These deaths were often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse or violent means such as homicide, suicide or transport-related accidents.

The "95 Club" members simply died of old age.

 

“The 27 Club”

The founder member of the “club” was Robert Johnson, back in 1938, followed by a spate between 1969 and 1971. Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison (The Doors) all died at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971.

However, it was not until Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, at age 27, that the idea of a "27 Club" began to catch on in the public imagination.

An excerpt from a statement that Cobain's mother, Wendy Fradenburg Cobain O'Connor, made at the time, "Now he's gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club." led to a "set of conspiracy theorists [to suggest] the absurd notion that Kurt Cobain intentionally timed his death so he could join the 27 Club", according to biographer Charles Cross.

In 2011, seventeen years after Cobain's death, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27, prompting a renewed swell of media attention devoted to the “27 Club” once again. Three years earlier, she had expressed a fear of dying at that age.

An individual does not necessarily have to be a musician to qualify as a "member" of the “27 Club”. Painter Jean-Michel Basquiat (1988), television actor Jonathan Brandis, who committed suicide in 2003, and Anton Yelchin, who was primarily known as a film actor, in 2016, are also included.

 

The “95 Club”

 

Pope Benedikt XVI

Emeritus Pope Benedikt XVI died on 31 December 2022 aged 95.  He had stepped down nearly a decade earlier after being the Bishop of Rome and Head of the Roman Catholic Church for almost eight years. He was only the second Pope out of 265 to abdicate and the third German to hold the post

After the death of John Paul II, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was chosen by a conclave of fellow cardinals as the next pope on 19. April 2005.

I was in Metz in France at the time and I remember going with my staunch Roman Catholic friend Alan to Metz Cathedral to hear the news.

Pope Benedikt’s time as Pope was clouded in controversy because of his failure to tackle sexual abuse within the church. On stepping down he said he was old and tired.

 

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela died on 5 December  2013 aged 95.

Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid activist who served as the first black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country's first black head of state and the first elected in a fully-representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by fostering racial reconciliation.

Ideologically an African nationalist and socialist, he served as the president of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997.

He was arrested and imprisoned in 1962, and, following a trial he was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, split between Robben Island (1964–1982), Pollsmoor Prison (1982 -1988) and Victor Verster Prison (1988-1990).

Amid growing domestic and international pressure and fears of racial civil war, President F W de Klerk released him in 1990. Mandela and de Klerk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid, which resulted in the 1994 multiracial general election, in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became president until 1999.

He declined a second presidential term and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.

Mandela became an elder statesman and focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the charitable Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Although critics on the right denounced him as a communist terrorist and those on the far left deemed him too eager to negotiate and reconcile with apartheid's supporters, he gained international acclaim for his activism.

Globally regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is described as the "Father of the Nation" and "the founding father of democracy". 

Outside of South Africa, he was a "global icon" and "one of the most revered figures of our time". One biographer considered him "a modern democratic hero". Some have portrayed Mandela in messianic terms, in contrast to his own statement that "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances." He is often cited, alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, as one of the 20th century's exemplary anti-racist and anti-colonial leaders. He has been described as "a totem of the totemic values of our age: toleration and liberal democracy" and "a universal symbol of social justice".

 

Vera Valerie Whitelock

Vera Valerie Whitelock, my mum, also died in December 2013, two weeks after Mandela. Vera was chuffed that she had outlived the great man.

I was due to fly to England two days later to spend Christmas with her, but she passed too soon. I still went and was able to register her death, apply for probate and tie up all the loose ends. Not what I had envisaged.

Vera Valerie Whitelock (nee Lemon), was born in Barnstaple, North Devon in 1918, the same year as Nelson Mandela.

Vera Valerie lost her father at a very young age and was raised along with two siblings by her widowed mother, Sarah, my gran.

Very bright, Vera Valerie won a scholarship to the local girls’ grammar school, but couldn´t take up the place because they couldn’t afford the uniform in those bleak and austere interwar years.

So she left school and trained as a clerk. She married quite young but was widowed within a year when her husband John died of tuberculosis.

She met my dad, also called John, who was lodging with his sister in the house next door to my mum’s, while he worked at RAF Chivenor. Dad was divorced with a young daughter, who was being looked after in South Wales by one of his brothers. (Dad’s wife had run off to the USA with an American GI, leaving Heather behind).

Vera Valerie and John Albert got married in 1948 and I came along two years later and my brother Simon three years after me in 1953.

At first we lived in a brand new council house before my mum and dad bought a two-up-two-down terraced house which they did up, sold for a profit and bought the rented house where my gran lived and where my mum grew up. Were they early property developers?

In 1964 we moved to Exeter, the county town of Devon, where I completed my education before going up north to Salford to university. My brother went away to uni in Bristol three years later.

After Simon got married to Norma and had a daughter, Nicki, our parents moved to be near them, to Yate near Bristol. They stayed there until Dad died in 1985. Mum stayed put and successfully built a new social life as a widow.

After my two kids, Amy and Tom, were born in 1983 and 1987 respectively, Vera Valerie surprised us all by moving to Thelwall near Warrington, where we were living, so that she could “enjoy my grandchildren growing up”.

After my marriage to Jeryl ended in divorce in 2005, and a subsequent failed relationship, I lived for a year or so with my mum in her bungalow in Thelwall. It worked well. I paid the bills, did the shopping and cooked dinner every night. Mum continued with her healthy social life and, she said, enjoyed not living alone again.

Despite that, I decided that living with my mum at the age of 58 was not a cool look, so I sold Casa Blanca, a house I owned in RondaAndalucía, and bought a Victorian pile in Latchford, WarringtonTunstall Villa was a project, a "doer-upper".

Then I met the “Lovely Rita“ in Ronda and the rest is history. I moved to be with Rita in Montejaque (Andalucía) at the end of 2008, we married in 2010, and I sold Tunstall Villa and bought Villa Indiana, where we now live, in 2011.

Despite her advancing age and increasing frailty, mum was very active around this time. She attended the graduation ceremonies of Amy at The Queen’s College, Oxford and Tom at Liverpool (LIPA) and Sidcup (Rose Bruford College), saw Tom perform on stage in his West End debut, attended mine and Rita’s wedding in Maulbronn Abbey in Germany and visited us in our new home, Villa Indiana in Ronda.

Mum had been a frequent visitor to Ronda over the years, and she managed it that one last time before she died. She was happy that I was married again and enjoyed her final visit to Spain, pottering around our garden, dead-heading the roses and plucking unwanted weeds out of the ground. She was in her element. I even think she made it into the pool!

Despite the early hardships as a child, early widowhood, the deprivations during and after the Second World War, being widowed a second time, she came through and made a good life for herself. She outlived her brother and sister – and Nelson Mandela, of course.

 

Postscript:

Gina Lollobrigida 

There is a new member of the '95 Club'. Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian filmstar, sadly left us on 16 January 2023. She was also 95. Hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world in her day, she starred in many Hollywood films alongside Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Rock Hudson, Burt Lancaster and others.

 

Acknowledgements:

Google Images

The Guardian

Whitelock family archive

Wikipedia

 

©  Pablo de Ronda

 

Tags: 27 Club, 95 Club, African National Congress, Amy, Amy Winehouse, ANC, Anton Yelchin, Barnstaple, Benedikt XVI, Bishop of Rome, Brian Jones, Bristol, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Casa Blanca Ronda, Charles Cross, Emeritus Pope, Exeter, F W de Klerk, Gina Lollobrigida, Head of the Roman Catholic church, Hollywood, Janis Joplin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeryl, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, John Albert, John Paul II, Jonathan Brandis, Josef Ratzinger, Kurt Kobain, Latchford, LIPA, Liverpool, Lovely Rita, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Maulbronn Abbey, Nelson Mandela, Nicki, Norma, North Devon, Pablo de Ronda, Queen’s College Oxford, RAF Chivenor, Rita, Robert Johnson, Rolling Stones, Ronda, Rose Bruford College, Salford, Sidcup, Simon, South Africa, The Doors, Thelwall, Tom, Tunstall Villa, Vera Valerie Whitelock, Villa Indiana, Warrington, Wendy Fradenburg Cobain O'Connor, Whitelock, Yate 



Like 1        Published at 8:21 PM   Comments (0)


Travelling by Public Transport in Spain. Does it Work?
Thursday, December 29, 2022

Retired English friends of ours regularly come on holiday to Andalucía, at least once a year, more often than not to Nerja (Málaga) on the eastern Costa del Sol.

Although they can afford it, they choose not to hire a car. They fly to Málaga Airport, catch the airport train into Málaga City, then pick up a bus to Nerja.

While they are there they use the bus to get around. There is a good service to Cómpeta, Frigiliana, Rincón de la Victoria, Torre del Mar, Torrox and beyond.

My wife and I normally go everywhere by car but decided to give public transport a try also. It’s eco-friendly and potentially cheaper, especially since the recent across-the-board price rises.

 

Madrid by train

In October 2021 we travelled to Madrid by train. That was surprisingly comfortable and really pleasant. A friend drove us to the train station in Ronda, where we had previously purchased  half-price tickets with our free RENFE railcard courtesy of CaixaBank.

Even better, our train was running late and arrived more than 30 minutes after its scheduled arrival time at Madrid Atocha station, which entitled us to a 50% refund. So the trip there worked out really cheap.

The Madrid Metro is so simple to use and so cheap, that if we didn’t walk, travelling around the capital was easy.

Thumbs up for public transport!

 

Sevilla by bus

This October we decided we needed a break, a change of scene away from the Serrania de Ronda. So after a bit of research, during which we considered Córdoba, Granada, Costa Tropical and Costa de la Luz, we plumped for Sevilla.

We had discovered a charming old hotel, Hotel Murillo, right in the heart of the casco antiguo, at a knockdown price – 100€ for two nights including breakfast.

We decided to use public transport for the trip. Let’s be honest, a car in Sevilla is a problem. Above all, you have to pay to park the damn thing. That’s if you can find a parking place.

We caught the bus from Ronda to Sevilla and took an 8€ taxi ride from the bus station to the hotel.

Two days later, we reversed the process to come home.

It was very relaxing being driven on the coach and we didn’t have the stress nor cost of driving to Sevilla, nor the parking issue already referred to above.

Here is a price comparison:

Public transport: Return bus ticket for two 24€*; Taxis 16€; TOTAL 40€

By car: Fuel (estimate) 30€; 48 hours parking (estimate) 40€; TOTAL 70€

Another thumbs-up for public transport!

 

Ronda to Germany by bus, train and taxi

We went to Germany for Christmas. Normally we drive from Ronda to the airport and park the car there. This time because we were flying from Málaga but back to Sevilla (flights back to there were much cheaper), we had to find a different solution.

Taxi? Too expensive at around 150€ each way!

Friend’s "taxi"? Also expensive at around 80-100€ each way!

Friend driving our car? With fuel and gratuity for friend’s time, also not cheap. Around 120€.

After our recent positive experiences with public transport, we decided to do it this way again.

Because our flight out was very early in the morning and our flight back late in the afternoon we would need a hotel at both ends. We costed it all and, lo and behold, the public transport option worked out cheaper.

Public transport:           

Outward: Taxi to Ronda bus station 17€; bus to Málaga City 12€*; train to hotel 3€; Hotel Royal Costa, Torremolinos 40€; taxi to airport 15€; TOTAL 87€

Return:   Bus Sevilla airport to hotel 3€; Hotel IBIS 60€; bus Hotel IBIS to Sevilla bus station 5€; bus to Ronda 10€; taxi to home 17€; TOTAL 95€

With more conducive flight times we could have cut out the taxis and the hotels. Then we would have paid around 40€ in total.

Taxis for the airport runs would have totalled around 300€, and a friend’s "taxi" around 200€. A friend driving us in our car would have come to an estimated 120€.

I have to conclude that public transport in this case was a no-brainer. Not the cheapest, cos of the hotels, but worth it nevertheless, to be more relaxed before and after the flights. We liked the experience. 

 

* discount price with a tarjetasesentycinco.

***

So, does public transport work in Spain? Between large towns, cities and airports it works very well and is not expensive, especially with a tarjetasesentaycinco.

Rural routes are more problematic. Montejaque (Málaga), where we live some of the time, only has one bus to Ronda a day in each direction. Other villages have no service at all.

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Further reading:

5th Time Lucky! In Love with Sevilla at Last!

"WHEN I'M 65 ...": HOW TO ….. get a tarjetasesentaycinco

 

Tags: airport, bus, CaixaBank, discount, fuel, hotel, IBIS, Madrid, Málaga, metro, Montejaque, Murillo, Pablo de Ronda, parking, public transport, railcard, RENFE, Ronda, Royal Costa, Sevilla, tarjetasesentaycinco, taxi, train



Like 2        Published at 8:18 AM   Comments (0)


The Cities of Andalucía Part II
Wednesday, December 28, 2022

 

Recently Pablo de Ronda wrote about six of his dozen favourite towns and cities in Andalucía.

In this article he turns his attention to the remaining six: Almería, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Tarifa and Úbeda.

 

Amazing Almería

Much under-rated as a city, Almería is in fact amazing.

It enjoys the best winter climate in the whole of Spain. According to the online travel agent www.loveholidays.com, Almería was ranked the brightest city for British people to escape the UK winter for a break in the sun. With a daily average of six hours and 18 minutes of sunshine between December and February, and highs of 16 C in January, the temperature rarely drops below 9 C.

The capital of the province with the only desert in Europe, Las Tabernas, and the most plastic „greenhouses“ (invernaderos), this city of just under 200,000 inhabitants lies on the coast and has a busy port.

The Alcazaba, a medieval fortress, is magical with superb views. It is the second-largest of all the Andalucían fortresses after the Alhambra in Granada.

The Cathedral-cum-fortress is really interesting, having been built in a mixture of architectural styles, predominantly Gothic and Renaissance. It dates from the 16th Century.

Other interesting places to visit are the Archeological Museum, the Civil War Museum (housed in tunnels used as air-raid-shelters while the city was being bombed by the German Luftwaffe on behalf of General Franco), the Photographic Museum and the Casa del Cine, which was a hotel where film stars who made movies in the nearby studios in the Las Tabernas desert stayed.

The nearby Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata is the largest protected coastal area in Andalucía and is a must-see. Unspoilt and beautiful.

 

Gorgeous Granada

I’ve visited Granada so many times that I don’t really need to go again, although I undoubtedly shall, since Granada City and its Alhambra Palace are truly gorgeous.

My first visit was in the late 1980s with my young family. We did the Generalife, the Alcazaba and the Alhambra, despite having one child in a buggy. We were knocked out, of course.

On subsequent visits with different people we’ve enjoyed the old town, the cathedral and the Sacromonte (gypsy quarter).

There is a Parador de Turismo in the grounds of the Alhambra. Despite being very popular and expensive, a girlfriend and I managed to get a room there in the mid 2000s. It was very nice indeed.

If you plan to visit the Alhambra, book online in advance to avoid lengthy queuing to get in.

 

Wonderful Huelva

Often referred to as the “ugliest capital in Andalucia”, Huelva is actually rather wonderful. This city of 145,000 people has surprisingly cool things to see if you just know where to look.

Huelva is located between two short rias though has an outlying spur including a nature reserve on the coast of the Gulf of Cádiz. The rias are of the Odiel and Tinto rivers and are good natural harbours.

While the existence of a pre-Phoenician settlement within the current urban limits since circa 1250 BC has been tentatively defended by scholars, Phoenicians established a stable colony by the 9th century BC.

Mines in the countryside send copper and pyrites to Huelva’s port for export. From about 1873, the biggest mining company, the British firm Rio Tinto, catered to technological breakthroughs on both sides of the Atlantic which needed high quality copper, such as for electrics and alloys.

Huelva acquired the status of city (ciudad) by means of a royal decree from 17 September 1876.

The ore smelting caused severe sulfur dioxide pollution and was frequently accompanied by protests by local farmers, peasants and miners.

Because of all this industrial activity the population increased dramatically to its current size.

Things to see and do include:

Exploring the Muelle del Tinto and the Barrio Reina Victoria, visiting the Cathedral, the Museum, the Church of San Pedro, Casa Colon, the Christopher Columbus Monument and the defunct railway station. You can take a trip to the Odiel Nature Reserve or spend a beach day at Matalascañas or Punta Umbría. Further afield is the La Doñana Nature Reserve.

In the city there are some excellent tapas bars and seafood restaurants.

Although Huelva City is difficult to get to by public transport, it’s worth the drive, if you stay over. There is a stunning parador nearby, at Mazagón, right in the heart of La Doñana Nature Reserve or you can look for a cheaper option in town.

 

Heady Jaén

Jaén is stunning. At 600 metres above sea level it is also heady, and hot, hot, hot. Not as hot as Sevilla, but close.

Its sandstone buildings make it look and feel significantly different to the other seven provincial capitals of the Andalucía region.

We stayed in the parador which is housed in St Catherine’s Castle (Castillo de Santa Catalina), a major monument in Jaén. which sits on the top of a hill overlooking the city. Previously there had existed a fortress of Arabic origin, of which some remains still exist. The current construction is of Christian origin, raised after the conquest of the city by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1246.

La Catedral is an important Renaissance-style cathedral. Construction began in 1570 and was completed in 1802. Due to the length of time of its construction, different artistic styles can be detected, the most prominent being Renaissance. It aspires to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

The Baños Arabes (Arab Baths) are among the largest Islamic bathhouses preserved in Spain. These Arab baths had the function of purifying all the visitors who entered the city. However, nowadays they are not in use, except as a historical tourist attraction.

Other important landmarks are the Museum of Arts and Popular Customs, the International Museum of Naïf Art, San Andrés's Chapel, the Provincial Museum of Jaén (which shelters an important collection of Iberian archaeological remains), Saint Ildefonso's church and La Magdalena church.

Not far from Jaén is the beautiful town of Úbeda (see below).

 

Tantalising Tarifa

As I’ve written previously, I’ve been to Tarifa umpteen times. As the place where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a go-to-visit whenever we have family and friends to stay where we live, up in Ronda.

We’re blown away every time! Literally! It’s very windy. Not for nothing is Tarifa the "wind-surfing capital of Europe".

All these surfers and campers lend Tarifa, a small town with a resident population of ca. 18,000, a bohemian and trendy feel, yet the town retains its North African atmosphere. Tarifa is tantalising, a place where several worlds collide.

La Isla is a small island that is connected to the mainland by a 30m long bridge. This island and its connecting bridge are considered the official divide between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Andalucía.

At exactly 36 degrees latitude, Tarifa is the southernmost point of continental Europe. The  only parts of Europe further south are islands - including the Greek island of Gavdos, which is the southernmost point of Europe. The North African capital cities of Algiers and Tunis actually lie further north than Tarifa.

Historical landmarks in Tarifa include the well-preserved Guzmán castle, near the port; the remains of the medieval walls; and the Church of St Matthew.

The ruins of the Roman city of Baelo Claudia, the best ruins I’ve ever seen, are located at nearby Bolonia, our favourite beach.

 

Unbelievable Úbeda

I love Úbeda. It’s truly unbelievable. The first time I visited was during a mini-tour of paradores in 2005 with my then girlfriend, Maude. We took in the paradores at Cazorla, Granada, Jaén and Úbeda.

Úbeda is about the size of Ronda, 30-plus thousand population, and like my "home town" up in the hills above Marbella, feels like a village.

Built of the same stone as Jaén and nearby Baeza, it is delightful to gaze at. Everywhere is in walking distance.

The parador itself is a monument, a former palace. It was the first palace to be converted into a parador. It was originally built as the residence of the chaplain of the funeral chapel of El Salvador and is located in a central square where it shares space with some of the city's most outstanding monuments. The building’s Renaissance architecture is notable for its façade and splendid central courtyard, which is one of the most beautiful in Úbeda. The large windows on the façade bathe the interior, its elegant rooms and majestic halls in bright light.

Together with the nearby town of Baeza, Úbeda has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A well-deserved accolade.

***

That concludes my overview of my dozen favorite large towns and cities in Andalucía.

There are, of course, many smaller municipios, including the so-called pueblos blancos.

I like Baeza, Bolonia, Cazorla, Cómpeta, Cortes de la Frontera, El Colmenar, Frigiliana, Gaucín, Jimena de la Frontera, Jimera de Líbar, Mijas Pueblo, Monda, Montejaque, Nerja, Ojén, Olvera, Setenil de las Bodegas, Torre del Mar, Torrox Pueblo and Zahara de la Sierra.

These are all in Cádiz, Jaén and Málaga provinces. But there are surely many more that I haven’t discovered yet in the other five provinces of the region.

Watch this space …..

 

Further reading:

The Cities of Andalucia Part I

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Additional material:

www.andalucia.com

www.loveholidays.com

Tripadvisor

Wikipedia

 

Tags: Alcazaba, Alhambra, Almeria, Andalucía, Arab Baths, Archeological Museum, Atlantic, Baeza, Baños Arabes, Bolonia, Cádiz, Casa del Cine, Cazorla, Civil War Museum, Cómpeta, Cortes de la Frontera, desert, El Colmenar, Frigiliana, Gaucín, General Franco, Generalife, Granada, Huelva, International Museum of Naïf Art, Jaén, Jimena de la Frontera, Jimera de Líbar, La Magdalena church, Las Tabernas, Luftwaffe, Málaga, Matalascañas, Mediterranean, Mijas Pueblo, Monda, Montejaque, Museum of Arts and Popular Customs,  Nerja, Odiel, Ojén, Olvera, Pablo de Ronda, Photographic Museum, Provincial Museum of Jaén, Punta Umbría, Rio Tinto, Ronda, Sacromonte, Saint Ildefonso's church, San Andrés's Chapel, Setenil de las Bodegas, Sevilla, Tarifa, Tinto, Úbeda, Torre del Mar, Torrox Pueblo, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Zahara de la Sierra



Like 0        Published at 2:24 PM   Comments (0)


The Cities of Andalucia Part I
Friday, December 23, 2022

 

Andalucia is the largest of Spain's 17 comunidades autonomas (federal regions), established in 1978, just three years after the death of General Franco and the demise of his brutal dictatorship.

 

Andalucia is the closest region to Africa. Tarifa (Cadiz), on the southernmost tip of Europe, lies approximately 30 kilometres from North Africa.

It is the home of flamenco, bullfighting, the andaluz dialect and the costas Del Sol and De La Luz. It boasts 8.5 million inhabitants.

Andalucia's eight provinces have the same name as their capital cities. The region was subject to greater Moorish influence than anywhere else in Spain. These North African Arabs were present on the Iberian peninsula for nearly 800 years (711 - 1492). Architecture, irrigation and agriculture were among the positive legacies they left behind, as well as some linguistic influence.

Their architectural influence is all around Andalucia. Some of the most beautiful towns and cities in the whole of Spain are located in this southern region.

Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz), Malaga, Ronda (Malaga), Sevilla, Tarifa (Cadiz) and Ubeda (Jaen). 12 cities to die for.

I have visited them all bar one, Huelva; some a long time ago, some more than once.

I have written previously about my three favourites: Cadiz, Cordoba and Ronda, my home for the last decade and a half. 

Hard on their heels come Granada, Jaen, Jerez de la Frontera, Malaga, Sevilla and Ubeda. I have written about three of these separately and recently. Click on the ones highlighted in blue.

Granada, Jaen and Ubeda are to come. 

Almeria City I visited for half a day with my young family when I was 39 years old. I have little recollection of the visit, as we had sunstroke after touring the Spaghetti Western film set in the desert nearby that morning. I need to go back.

I've been to Tarifa many times and each time I was blown away. Literally. Not for nothing is Tarifa the windsurfing capital of Europe!

Huelva I have yet to visit. It's on the list for 2023.

 

©  Pablo de Ronda

 

Tags: Africa, agriculture, Almeria, Andalucia, architecture, Cadiz, comunidad autonoma, Cordoba, flamenco, Granada, Huelva, irrigation, Jaen, Jerez de la Frontera, linguistic influence, Malaga, Pablo de Ronda, Ronda, Sevilla, Spaghetti Western, Tarifa, Ubeda



Like 4        Published at 5:46 PM   Comments (0)


Jerez de la Frontera
Monday, December 12, 2022

Jerez de la Frontera, the largest city in the Andalusian province of Cádiz, yet not the capital, which is Cádiz city, owes its growth, wealth and importance to sherry production, although it is also famous for its riding school, flamenco and the Christmas zambombas. Pablo de Ronda takes up the story.

 

Sherry

The name sherry, given to the fortified wine produced in the area, is a corruption of the Arabic name for the city, Sherish.  Jerez or sherry is a denominacion de origen, so only sherry wines produced in the Sherry Triangle, the area between the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, may be called sherry.

Jerez city has 71 sherry producers (bodegas) of which several bear English names, reflecting the significant involvement of British entrepreneurs in the development of this unique tipple from its expansion in the 16th Century. These include Garvey, Grant, Harvey, Osborne, Sandeman and Williams & Humbert.

Although the very first mention of sherry wine comes from the Greek geographer Strabo in the 1st Century BC, it wasn’t until the 12th Century, that sherry wines began to be exported to England, where they were known by the Moorish name for the city: Sherish.

 

De la Frontera

Along with several other towns in Andalucía, especially in Cádiz province, Jerez’s full name is Jerez de la Frontera. Other towns with “… de la Frontera” in their names include Arcos, Castellar, Chiclana, Conil, Jimena and Vejer.

They are all ‘on the frontier’, and yet, they clearly aren’t. Jerez de la Frontera, for example, is 242 kilometres away from the nearest frontier – that is to say, Portugal.

To find an explanation for this, we need to go back a few centuries to the time of the Moors and the Kingdom of Granada.

The Christian forces of Aragon and Castile were engaged in la Reconquista, slowly taking the country back from the Moors. These North African colonists had arrived in the peninsula in 711 and had been in control of almost all of Spain and Portugal for over seven hundred and fifty years. The Reconquista finally ended when Granada, capital of the ‘Nazarí kingdom’, fell in 1492, the same year that Spain discovered the Americas. 

Standing between the Christian and Moorish territories, while leading up to the final push in the later XV Century, were several frontier towns which watched uneasily over a no-man’s-land, or Terra Nullius as it was officially known – an unclaimed space between the two forces. During its existence, this border strip had great military, political, economic, religious, and cultural importance.

Beyond being a border like many others, it was for more than two centuries the European border between Christianity and Islam. It was, therefore, a place of exchange and barter, which kept alive in both territories the spirit of the Christian crusade and the Islamic jihad together with the chivalric ideal, already anachronistic in other European territories.

It also made possible illicit economic activities, such as trade in oriental products, as well as regular military incursions, aimed at taking booty, as well as the capture of hostages with whom to maintain the slave business, or simply to negotiate the return of captives.

Religious orders took sides in this regard. The border was a key element in the formation of the identity of Andalucía and in the formation of the vision of Islam throughout Spain.

 

The Riding School

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art (Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre) is an institution dedicated to the preservation of the equestrian arts, in the Spanish tradition, The Jerez school is one of the "Big Four" most prestigious classical riding academies in the world.

The school is devoted to conserving the ancestral abilities of the Andalusian horse, maintaining the classical traditions of Spanish baroque horsemanship, preparing horses and riders for international dressage competitions, and providing education in all aspects of horsemanship, coach driving, blacksmithing, the care and breeding of horses, saddlery and the manufacture and care of harnesses.

The Royal Andalusian School is well known for its "dancing stallions" shows for tourists. Unfortunately, there was no performance to coincide with our visit.

 

Flamenco

Flamenco is an art form composed of three elements: cante, toque and baile, ie singing, clapping and dance.

It is believed that the flamenco genre emerged at the end of the 18th century in cities and agrarian towns of Baja Andalucía, highlighting Jerez de la Frontera as the first written vestige of this art.

 

Zambomba

The zambomba is two things. It’s a musical instrument, but also a traditional Christmas “fiesta” of carols where said instrument is played. 

The zambomba is a friction instrument. It frequently accompanies the singing of Christmas carols and popular songs.

It consists of a large hollow cylinder that can be made of different materials (ceramic, wood, etc.) with one of its ends closed with a piece of leather. This is crossed through the centre with a rod, which can be made of wood or other materials. This rod is sometimes replaced by a rope. By rubbing the rod or rope with both hands, the vibration produced by the rod or rope is transmitted to the leather, producing a low and peculiar sound.

Zambomba is also the name of a typical Christmas fiesta in some parts of Spain, especially in Andalucía, at which Christmas carols are sung accompanied by said instrument.

Jerez de la Frontera is believed to be the home of flamenco and of the zambomba

 

Visiting Jerez

I reckon I’ve been to Jerez de la Frontera six times over the last 20-odd years and with three different female companions: my first wife, an interim girlfriend, and my second and current wife.

The first visit was in 2000 with my then wife Jeryl on that fateful trip around Andalucía which ultimately led to me emigrating to the region in 2008. The highlight of that visit was a tour of the Gonzalez Byass bodega, makers of fino sherry Tío Pepe.

Since then, I’ve been three more times. With my girlfriend Maude the highlight was the visit to the Alcázar.

The next two visits were linked to airport runs to Jerez airport. They were “memorable” for the difficulty of finding one’s way out of the city by car. The road signs are appalling or non-existent. And Google Maps isn’t very good with one-way streets and bus lanes.

The fifth visit was on my 67th birthday when we visited the riding school Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza Del Arte Ecuestre with family members visiting from Germany. That was fascinating.

Now, I’ve been for a sixth time ….. last Saturday.

 

Village coach outing to Jerez

Thirty or so folk from Montejaque (Málaga) boarded the coach for a day trip to Jerez. We were a fascinating mix of young montejaqueños and elderly “guiris” (foreigners). We left at 11.00 am and returned around 10.00 pm.

It turned out that the locals were going for the zambombas and a bit of a party, while the seven guirisfour British, one Canadian, a German and a South African – were on the trip for tourism purposes, as some had never visited the city before.

We decided to hang around together and came up with a rough itinerary during the two-hour journey from Montejaque to Jerez. We didn’t manage to complete our programme, however, as the place was heaving. The hunt for an available restaurant table took ages and by the time we had eaten, we’d missed the zambomba we had planned to watch.

But we did manage the Alcázar, the old Moorish castle and palace. What a delight! Well worth the five-euro admission charge (only 1.80€ for senior citizens).

The only drawback to the excursion was that we missed England’s world cup football quarter final clash with France, which took place during our journey back to Montejaque.

But England lost, so it didn’t really matter.

***

Jerez de la Frontera was a great day out. The first-timers loved it and vowed to return. Can’t wait for the next village charabanc trip. Next up for us oldies is the Christmas Lunch provided by the local council.

¡Felices fiestas!

 

Tags: Alcazar, Andalucia, bodega, Cadiz, Christmas lunch, denominacion de origen, England, fiesta, flamenco, France, Garvey,  Google Maos, Grant, Harvey, jerez, Jerez de la Frontera, Montejaque, Osborne, Puerto de Santa Maria, riding school, Sandeman, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Sherish, sherry, Sherry Triangle, Williams & Humbert, World Cup, zambomba



Like 2        Published at 8:57 AM   Comments (3)


Getting Old is Great!
Sunday, December 11, 2022

We’ve all heard expressions such as “Life begins at 60”. Does it really? Well. The body starts to pack up and the cash goes less and less far, but it’s not all bad, writes Pablo de Ronda.

 

I’ve read that the human body starts to deteriorate from the age of 18. Not that noticeable at that age, but as we reach 30, then 40, 50, 60 and 70, small changes, then larger ones, become more and more noticeable.

 

Health Issues

For some of us, cancer, diabetes, dementia, MND and long-Covid and other conditions may rear their ugly heads. Our eyesight may fail, we might suffer hearing loss and/or have dental problems. We become less mobile, our sex lives slow down or stop altogether and we can no longer play football with our grandchildren.

In my case, at the age of 35 my back gave out, which effectively ended my active sporting life, which was centred around hockey, squash and tennis. After extensive treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon, and various osteopaths, I was put back together. I managed a couple of staff v pupils hockey matches (I was a teacher), but a solitary game of squash, aged 39, ruptured my right Achilles tendon, condemning me to a plaster cast and three months in a wheelchair.

Lesson learned, my squash and tennis rackets and my hockey stick all went off to the charity shop and I reluctantly settled into a more sedentary lifestyle.

 

Major Life Changes

The years went by, I had a nervous breakdown, got divorced, was made redundant and retired. Then I met new lady and emigrated to Spain, we got married and moved house to a large villa with a massive garden. I was now 61. Working long hours on my beloved garden put my back out again, big-style. There followed several years of treatment from an osteopath and then an acupuncturist, but I was feeling my age physically and had to slow down.

10 years later I got Covid-19, followed by long-Covid, which has really aged me physically. Nevertheless, this experience kick-started a much more positive outlook on life. I completed a house renovation, which really tired me out. But it was fun.

I am now 72 and have mobility and balance issues and breathing difficulties. Yet I am in a very positive frame of mind and can now enjoy the many benefits of being a senior citizen.

 

Old age benefits

In the metro, younger folk give up their seats for me. I always accept gratefully.

The bank pledges to prioritise the elderly when queueing, although I have yet to try that out. I suspect younger folk might not like this form of legitimate “queue-jumping”.

There are tax breaks for the elderly. Hacienda gives us a higher tax-free allowance, currently 14,000 euros, I believe.

You are first in the queue for Covid and flu injections.

 

Tarjetasesentaycinco (Andalucía)

If you have a tarjetasesentaycinco you enjoy a number of benefits, including:

  • half-price inter-urban bus travel;
  • deals on spectacles and hearing aids;
  • free legal consultation;
  • 24-hour help-line;
  • home improvement grants;
  • discounts on lunches at Day Centres;
  • reductions on entrance to monuments and other attractions, the theatre and the cinema, sporting and entertainment events.

To find out how to obtain a tarjetasesentaycinco, which is free, click here.

 

Free meal

And, as we approach the festive season, our local village council has invited all

“jubilados empadronados” (retired people registered on the electoral roll) to an “almuerzo navideño”, free of charge!

 

Getting old is great, isn’t’ it?

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Tags: almuerzo navideño, Andalucia, balance, cancer, day centre, dementia, dental, diabetes, discount, empadronado, entrance, free, getting old, hearing aid, flu, Hacienda, hearing loss, help-line, hockey, inter-urban bus travel, jubilado, long-Covid, mobility, MND, Pablo de Ronda, physical, sex lives, spectacles, sport, squash, tarjetasesentaycinco, tennis



Like 0        Published at 9:07 AM   Comments (0)


House-sitting is a-changing
Saturday, December 3, 2022

House-sitting has been around a long time. The concept of having someone stay in your home to look after the house and the pets when you go away on holiday, is a great thing. For years it was done informally on a quid pro quo basis. Then companies sprang up and began to charge home-owners. This provided a guarantee as sitters were vetted and insurance came into the frame.

For the sitters, it was a great way to get a free or cheap holiday, maybe abroad.

 

History of house-sitting

Angela, 75, and her husband Richard signed up to an agency 12 years ago. They were semi-retired and back-to-back pet-sitting offered an otherwise unattainable lifestyle.

“It allowed us to travel more and do more than we ever thought possible on a limited income,” says Angela. Their housesitting has seen them crisscross the globe: Scotland, France, Australia, America, Italy, Canada and the Caribbean.

Here in Andalucia, Spain, where we live , there is a lot of it going on.

Friends of ours, Hazel and Peter from Derbyshire, do it regularly in the Serrania de Ronda, in order to get a free – or very cheap – holiday. No money changes hands – it’s a classic barter situation. Now that they are retired, they do it even more frequently, sometimes more than once in the same houses. As a result, they are here so often that they have become part of our wide circle of friends.

Other friends and near neighbours, Nick and Julia, use the same married couple whenever they go away. They are currently in Indonesia and Malaysia for six weeks and their sitters are delighted to be staying in a large finca with a pool and sauna, slap bang in the middle of open countryside near Ronda for a six-week winter break.

Another couple of friends, hoteliers Iain and Elaine, have closed their hotel for the winter and are taking an extended holiday in India. They have a Spanish couple living in to take care of their pets and keep an eye on the hotel.

Another friend, Michael, has turned house and pet-sitting into a part-time job. He charges by the day and people are happy to pay him for his services. He gets lots of repeat business from his clients who live mainly in posh villas on the Costa del Sol.

Twenty years ago, I was living in North Wales with my then girlfriend, Maude. Whenever we went away, she would hire a couple via an agency to look after the remote cottage where we lived, her two dogs and to keep the garden in check. From what I remember, it wasn’t cheap. As I recall it was the agency that made the money, the sitters received a pittance. After the first time we suggested to the sitters that we do a private deal and cut out the agency. But they didn’t want to. Insurance, I think.

I kind of had house-sitters for six weeks in February and March of this year. A German family, Ollie and Lily and their four children stayed free-of-charge in my house in Montejaque (Málaga) in exchange for Ollie’s carpentry skills. He did some super jobs in my house, such as fitting wooden banisters, building a shelving unit, hanging doors and fitting wooden handrails on the stairs to the roof terrace.  In our other houses he fitted sliding drawers to the Spanish kitchen “cupboards” (you, know, the ones made of bricks and concrete with just the one shelf in each, where nothing is easily accessible).

 

A new phenomenon

Since the pandemic a new form of house-sitting has started up. According to The Guardian a new phenomenon is emerging, especially in the UK, that of people using house-sitting as a means of keeping a roof over their heads in these stringent economic times, where mortgage repayments and rents are on the increase.

Confronted with an unstable housing market, inflation at a 40-year high and soaring food and energy costs, increasing numbers of people of all ages and walks of life are turning to house-sitting to keep a roof over their heads.

After all, who wouldn’t want to live rent-free in a nice warm home in return for looking after the owner’s pets and keeping burglars away?

 

Megan and Sean, both 27, are full-time house-sitters. Seven months ago, the couple decided to quit London’s rental market and go on the road. Their belongings in bags, they have moved from house to house across the UK. In doing so they have managed to dodge the cost-of-living crisis and the rent or mortgage hikes that are ravaging many people’s lives and savings in the UK. They plan to continue living like this for at least another year.

Nick Fuad, of House Sitters UK says, “More and more people are struggling to find a place they can afford to live in, so housesitting is definitely a desirable alternative.”

The number of house-sitters on his site is double what it was before the pandemic. TrustedHousesitters, another house-sitting platform, reports a 275% increase in UK growth since 2021.

With no rent or utility bills, Megan, a PR and marketing manager, is now able to put a significant portion of her salary into savings, while Sean has been able to set up his own business.

As sitters, their overheads are small compared to what they were previously forking out.

Corinne and her partner Jack, both 30, began full-time house-sitting earlier this year. Over the past six months, they have notched up 11 house-sits, staying in a tiny cottage in south Wales, a flat in Notting Hill in west London, a Tudor house in Bath and a residential compound in Spain.

“The only way to live together and save money at the same time is essentially to make yourself homeless and live in other people’s houses,” says Corinne. “Even before the cost-of-living crisis, the numbers were creeping up. This was our chance to get off that treadmill of renting, working, buying.”

The pandemic has brought more owners to the market, too. On House Sitters UK, homeowner memberships are up 400%. This year, 5,000 new sits were posted on the TrustedHousesitters site each day. The surge has been fuelled partly by people itching to travel post-pandemic, and partly because of the mass puppy purchases that swept the UK during lockdown: pet owners looking for holiday cover now account for 85% of members on HouseSit Match.

 

‘I’m a homeless guy looking after a palace!’

David, 55, turned to house-sitting after his divorce. With nowhere to live, it offered a lifeline while he sorted out his finances. He says it has been transformational, partly because of the kindness of strangers, now friends, he has met along the way.

“I’m technically a homeless guy looking after a palace,” he says.

For those who have been catapulted into house-sitting because of strained finances, it is the community and friendships that inspire them to continue.

Alejandro, 34, felt isolated living with relatives in a small village in Derbyshire. Unable to afford city rents, he began to search online for free accommodation, exchanges, or sofa-surfing opportunities. Then he discovered house-sitting.

For the past month, he has been pet-sitting in London. He will continue until he can find work and get on his feet. “This has been the most incredible thing for me,” he says. “As a gay man, being in this diverse city, it really is life-changing. House-sitting opened doors for me.”

 

A win-win situation

So, house-sitting, whether you do it to get cheap holidays in lovely houses in beautiful places or as an alternative to squatting, seems to be a win-win.

I look forward to getting feedback on how house-sitting worked for them, as home-owners, from Nick and Julia, and Iain and Elaine, when they return from their extended holidays in Asia and the Far East.

And I hear that Hazel and Peter are heading back to Andalucía soon to sit.

As for whether we do it is another matter – my wife isn’t keen to have anyone in our home.

House-swapping, maybe? It worked for Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in the film “The Holiday” (2006). I wonder…..

 

With acknowledgements to The Guardian (UK)

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Tags: Andalucía, barter, Cameron Diaz, cost-of-living, crisis, Guardian, home-owner, house-sitter, house-sitting, Kate Winslet, Montejaque, pandemic, pet-sitting, Ronda, The Holiday, win-win



Like 3        Published at 7:31 AM   Comments (1)


The other "Ronda valley"
Sunday, November 27, 2022

A first impression of the City of Dreams 

 

Pablo de Ronda wrote this article around 15 years ago when he first moved to Ronda, the main town of the Serrania de Ronda.

Being the grandson of a South Wales miner, he was more familiar with the Rhondda Valley until he discovered the Andalucían version. Hence the title of this article.

 

As we turned the corner between two huge rocks, we glimpsed Ronda shimmering in the distance, white and bright atop its huge cliff.  Moments later it disappeared from view, but then there it was again in all its glory as we drew nearer to our destination.

Approaching this most impressive of the white towns in Andalucía from either the Costa del Sol or from Algeciras and Gibraltar is to marvel at its location and to be impressed by the ingenuity of the Moors who first established a settlement there 13 centuries ago. 

Small wonder, then, that Ronda is part of the Grand Tour of Andalucía, along with Granada, Sevilla and Córdoba.  Small wonder too that Ronda numbers amongst its 35 000 inhabitants as many as 656 foreign residents, according to the most recent census.  As a resident myself now, it somehow doesn’t seem that many.  Expats are there if you want them, but they are easily avoided.

The popularity of this town is demonstrated by the groups of day-trippers from the coast who wander the streets in their shorts and sandals, marvelling at the stunning architecture in the Old Moorish Quarter, staring unbelievingly into the deep gorge, el Tajo, that divides old Ronda from the new, and taking advantage of the wide range of shops at their disposal. 

Occasionally, these visitors may wish they’d donned something warmer for Ronda is 723 metres above sea level and can be chilly and wet out of season.  On such days the enterprising proprietors of the tourist shops do good business selling plastic macs and umbrellas.

Arriving at the Almocábar gate on the southern edge of town you are in what was the old Moorish cemetery, now the up and coming San Francisco quarter.  Walk through the gate and up the cobbled street via a short visit to the bell tower of the church of the Holy Spirit, Espíritu Santo, continue up the vehicle road for 100 metres before climbing the steps into Duquesa de la Parcent square, which is home to the delightful Town Hall and the intriguing architectural mix of the Cathedral Church of Santa María la Mayor

Head for the back right corner of the square and wander at random through the old Arab quarter with its magnificent mansions, palaces and tiny squares full of orange and lemon trees.  Do not miss the Palacio de Mondragón with its delightful patios and gardens, which also houses the Municipal Museum.  Also worth a visit is the Casa de Don Bosco, in honour of the canonised Italian priest St John Bosco, who never actually visited Ronda!

Emerging from the old quarter and turning left you find yourself on the 18th Century Puente Nuevo, the newest of three bridges joining the two halves of the town.  The view from either side of the bridge is spectacular: to the west a fertile valley with a distant backdrop of brooding mountains; to the east deep cliff walls topped by hanging houses. 

A trickle of water runs through the bottom of the gorge 130 metres below whilst hundreds of birds nest in the cliff faces.  At dusk these rise into the air; among them Crag Martins, Pallid Swifts, Black Redstarts, Blue Rock Thrushes, Choughs, Griffon Vultures, Rock Doves and Blackcaps.

Beyond the modern and stylish Parador de Ronda, a luxury four-star hotel, you find yourself at one of the oldest and most beautiful of Spain’s bullrings. Ronda is the home of modern bullfighting, which was developed by one Pedro Romero born 252 years ago in the town.  Built in 1785 it boasts the largest bullfighting arena in the world, yet has one of the smallest crowd capacities.  Tickets for the infrequent bullfights held here are very difficult to come by.  Nevertheless, the Plaza de Toros is open to the public and houses an interesting museum about bullfighting.

Away from the bullring and back down the northern side of the Tajo you come to the Fountain of the Eight Spouts, Fuente de los Ocho Caños, before crossing the Roman bridge back to the other side, and climbing through the Arco de Felipe V, the Arch of Philip V. 

This whole area was used as the location for the 1984 film of the opera Carmen, starring a very young Placido Domingo

A brief detour down the hill takes the visitor to the Arab Baths, Baños Árabes, which are a delight.  Recently restored the tour includes a film presentation (also in English) about the history of Ronda dating back to Roman times. 

Back up the hill and you come to the Casa del Rey Moro and the Water Mines.  Climb down 365 steps hewn from the interior of the cliff to the bottom of the gorge to see where the Arabs used to ‘mine’ their water and transport it up to the town above.  On resurfacing you can get your breath back in the beautiful gardens.

After all this sightseeing it’s time for something to eat and drink; the choice is amazing.  There are innumerable bars and restaurants where you can nibble on the wide variety of tapas, sit down for a reasonably priced and wholesome three-course menu of the day for about £6 sterling, or, if you want to, splash out on an a-la-carte meal. 

Specialities of the region include cured ham, bull’s tail, suckling pig, wild boar, rabbit, goat and other game dishes.  For vegetarians there are interesting choices such as fried aubergines in honey, wild asparagus and a wide range of tasty salads.

Ronda, traditional Spain at its best.  As a taxi driver in another part of Spain once told me: “Aaa, Ronda, un sitio para volver” – a place to return to over and over again.  That’s what I did and Ronda never disappointed. Now I live in the area full time, but that’s another story ...

 

Pablo de Ronda (aka Paul Whitelock) lives in the Serranía de Ronda. A former UK languages teacher and Ofsted school inspector, Pablo is now retired and runs a local holiday website, A1-HOLIDAYS.NET.  He is also a sometime property developer, gardener, DIY-er and prolific blogger. He can be contacted at paulwhitelock@hotmail.com or on +34 636 52 75 16.



Like 0        Published at 10:03 AM   Comments (0)


Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know




This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x