Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from Ronda

I'm spending a long Thanksgiving weekend in Andalusia. I just arrived in Ronda this afternoon, by bus from Malaga, my airport of entry to the region. Along with Seville, Granada and Cordoba, Ronda is one of the most visited towns in Southern Spain, but most of the tourist traffic is day trippers from Costa del Sol resorts like Marbella (Michelle Obama was recently one of them). I'm staying two nights, one and a half days, before moving on to Seville, one of my favorite cities in the world. This is my first time in Ronda.

Ronda has plenty of charm, but its most striking aspect is its position atop two hills with an 18th-century "new bridge" joining the old and new(er) towns. From the Puente Nuevo, one has fabulous views of the hundred-meter-deep El Tajo Gorge. That and the winding, narrow streets of the old town make it an ideal spot for a wanderer like me.

Lunch today, just after arrival, between the bus station and my hotel, was at Pedro Romero, a noted restaurant near the bull ring. The restaurant is named for Pedro Romero Martinez, who is credited with the invention of modern bullfighting (right here in Ronda) in the 18th century. The food was decent enough, but I suspect I'd have done better if I hadn't gone for the cheapskate fixed menu at 15 Euros for 3 courses and a glass of house wine. The typical soup of Ronda, with eggs, ham, rice and bread was quite good, as was my dessert, a cinnamon custard. Main course choices were either grilled salmon or beef stew. Since I couldn't expect to be surprised by grilled salmon (and figured it's farmed), I decided to try the beef stew. And you know what? It was beef stew!

My hotel is a delight. The San Gabriel is a converted mansion (built in 1736) with charming public areas, pleasant rooms, and surprisingly reasonable prices (I'm paying 68 Euros a night for a single). My predecessors at the hotel include Isabella Rosselini, Robert Plant, John Lithgow, George Hamilton, and a number of Spanish celebrities. My predecessors at restaurant Pedro Romero include Orson Wells and Ernest Hemingway. Ronda is tiny, but it has plenty of names to drop.

More about Spain later. Happy Thanksgiving, all.


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