Southern Spain Sampler Platter: Part 1
The final week of our Iberian Peninsula Tour happened in the blink of an eye, and simultaneously seemed to last twice as long as it actually was….which is to say it was a dream, a very fun and lively dream!
A combo of train + rental car whisked us down to the very southern edge of the peninsula, to what is reportedly the oldest city in Western Europe, Cádiz. This city seemed slightly seedy and a bit in decay in comparison with the well-kept and wealthier towns of the north, but in a relaxed and easy-going way. The old town is great for a long walk, weaving this way and that. It has a weathered look, due to the high winds that give the old buildings a daily beating and there are long stretches of alleyways and tiny hidden plazas to add to the allure. Given that the city is situated on an island (or maybe it was a peninsula) there is a long stretch of beach, although too windy for my liking. Sunset on Playa de la Caleta (aka “James Bond Beach” given a famous scene filmed there in Tomorrow Never Dies“) is a standard stop for locals and visitors alike. While Cádiz didn’t blow me away (well it sort of did, it was SOOOO windy), it still made for a unique and interesting stop and introduction into Andalucía.
From there we headed along the coast towards Gibraltar and a hopeful sighting of the Mediterranean. This stretch of coast is called Costa de la Luz and is a delight as it is fairly wild and undeveloped. The road climbed several times to places with a long view and before long we could see across the strait, to Africa! In the town of Tarifa, we made an impromptu pitstop to admire this small town, gateway to Morocco and do a little daydreaming about the tiny towns with white houses that could be seen across the way in Morocco. As we drove out of Tarifa we came across a really beautiful view of the Rock of Gibraltar. This view ended up being one of my favorites from the entire trip and I wish we’d snapped a photo of it as a keepsake.
We all agreed that spending a night in Tarifa would have been fun, but we had places to be, specifically the white town of Ronda. As we headed further inland into Andalucía we entered the region that projects out to the world as the most Spanish. This is the land of bullfights and flamenco, castles and andaluz villages, and is an area that has a unique history as it flip-flopped through the centuries between Moorish and Christian rule.
We passed the ruins of small castle-like structures along the way, before reaching our destination. Ronda is built on the top of a cliff, on either side of a deep and narrow gorge. The older part of the city is all white and with the vast expanse of green valley and farmland off in the distance, offers a beautiful view. We were here for a late lunch and had time for a long walk, criss-crossing the gorge on a few of its famed and old bridges. Ronda was a bonus stop, as we would have skipped it if we’d been short on time but thankfully we did have the time as it made for a much more well-rounded view of Andalucía.
It was one of those 40 hour days – we saw so much, enjoyed a great day of driving and arrived at our destination for the night and what we all expected to be a highlight of the trip: Granada.