After our time in Granada, we took off for a day of visiting the White Hilltop Towns of Andalusia. I wouldn’t have known these places even existed except that another expat friend did a similar trip earlier this year. We often swap itineraries, and that’s what put it on my radar. It was a bit of an extreme driving day (which you’ll see from some of the pictures), but it was also very beautiful.
Our first stop was Ronda – nearly two hours from Granada. Ronda is home to the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain and a ridiculously huge bridge over a gorge! Other than that, it’s just a little town. But, given the holidays, it was fun to see so many people out and about.
I should take this moment to tell you that it was in Ronda that my bubble was burst. All this time (and by all this time, I basically mean for my entire life), I thought bullfights were like a rodeo. I am not kidding. Only when we went to visit the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain did I learn that they KILL THE BULL (or once in a while the bull kills the matador) in a bullfight!!! I’ve literally looked into seeing a bullfight every time I go to Spain. Imagine how horrified I would have been!!! What’s worse – I learned that the matador waves a red “flag” to mask all of the blood! I’m STILL not over this dreadful new knowledge.
Puento Nuevo is the bridge across this 390 foot deep gorge. The bridge was started in 1751 and took 42 years to build.
Plaza de Toros de Ronda is the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain. Construction began in 1779 and finished in 1785.
From Ronda, we drove to Zahara – an even smaller town perched high up on a mountain overlooking a lake. The road to get there was really windy going up, down, and around the mountains. And as for the roads in the town…well, they were really steep and mostly one-way due to how narrow they were! We hiked up to the tower at the top for a 360 view of the town below and the surrounding scenery. (It’s probably an appropriate moment to note how (yet again) I was ill-prepared in the shoe department. The pathway up to the tower was super steep with relatively slippery stones, and I was wearing TOMS, which have ZERO traction. I was slip sliding on the way up and then holding onto the handrail for dear life on the way down!)
This was our third town, and I really started to notice all of the orange trees! They were literally EVERYWHERE – lining most of the streets, in the courtyards and plazas, etc. Perhaps Florida is like this, but I’ve never seen anything like it!
We left Zahara just as the sun was setting, which meant making our way on the windy roads in the dusk and then dark to Arcos de la Frontera. On this trip all of our hotels were in pedestrian areas, so GPS wasn’t particularly helpful. In some instances, hotels emailed directions in advance, so we would know where to park the car, but it appears the directions from La Casa Grande went to my Spam folder, because I never got them.
With the hotel address in the GPS, we arrived in Arcos. Like the other towns, we were met with steep, narrow, windy streets. At one point, a man driving a truck stopped me to explain to me in Spanish why I couldn’t proceed the way I was going. He told me the road gets too narrow. (I’m not sure how he could go, but I couldn’t, but I’ve come to the conclusion there’s some things we’ll never understand.) I called the hotel and tried to explain to the woman where I was. I did this on the first night in Granada, so it was becoming typical of my arrival at each new hotel. While I was sitting at the intersection trying to explain my location, cars started to back up behind me. I knew I had to make a decision and make a turn, but before I could one of the cars pulled around me. Turns out, it was a policeman. And turns out, it’s a HUGE problem to talk on the phone while driving in Spain. Oops!
He hit his steering wheel and started yelling at me through the window. I rolled down the window and yelled back that I was on the phone with the hotel and that I didn’t know where I was going. After a couple of back and forth yells, he told me to follow him. The unhelpful hotel woman hung up on my mom during all of this exchange, and I proceeded to chase the police car through the windy roads. (The whole while my mom was claiming we never would’ve found our way, and that it was a blessing the policeman stopped me.) At the top of the hill, we reached a very full parking lot. The policeman stopped and came back to the car. He told me it is against the law to chat on the phone in Spain while driving, and that it’s a 200 euro fine. I informed him that I wasn’t “chatting,” I was trying to get directions from the hotel. (After all, the roads are too small for me to pull over, even if I wanted to.) He asked where I was from (Switzerland, of course), and then he told me that he was going to let me go. He said he didn’t know where I would park, but I told him I would find a spot. I followed him in to the parking lot where he stopped and got out again. He waved his hand toward the only empty space in the lot and informed me that it was my “day of luck.” I’ll say…
The next morning, we saw just how beautiful this little town was…
And we also experienced how INSANE these tiny streets are! I was only able to capture one photo – where we pulled the side mirrors in and I made my mom get out to watch that I didn’t scrape the car. But this wasn’t even the worst! I had to make two 90* turns that were SO TIGHT!! For someone with really bad depth perception who can barely park in her parking spot at home after two years, this was a huge accomplishment!!
Whew! After all of that drama, I won’t forget the White Hilltop Towns of Andalusia any time soon!