Stress; what road are we on?
In the morning, we take the bus down to the Plaza Nueva and catch a cab to the RENFE station for about 5 euro. There, we pick up our Autoeurope car from Avis .
Mom had requested a "mid sized" car with a trunk. The car turns out to be a brand new Renault Megane, diesel, with a key card instead of a real key. It has a push button start, big back seat, lots of little storage areas under floor, drawers under seat and a hatchback with covered trunk. Initially, she's not happy because of the car's funny shape, lack of "real" trunk, and her inability to immediately figure out how to move the driver's seat. I pull the instruction manual (en espanol only) out of the glove box and figure out how to move the seat.
Then, she can't keep the car from stalling to get it out of first gear. We'd go about 5 feet and the car would stall. She'd have to take out the card key, re-inset and push the button, drive five more feet and stall. Repeat about 10 more times with frustration mounting. Finally, we manage to get it around to the rental office, where the good man behind the counter assures us there was absolutely nothing wrong with the car. Then, he has the audacity to ask my Mother whether or not she knows how to drive a manual transmission. Not exactly the right question to ask her before she's had her morning coffee. Somehow, we get moving and once on the road, my mother sheepishly admits she thinks she had been in third gear by mistake.
Once on the highway, we finally stop for coffee outside Nerja on the coast. I had wanted to stop in Nerja because from the book, it looked like a quaint fishing village (mistake #4 of the Travel Tyrant), but it turns out to be filled with tons pasty skinned euro-pensioners, real estate offices with signs in English, and not a parking place in sight. After driving in circles for about 15 minutes, we see nothing of interest and do not even get out of the car. It appears that the entire Costa del Sol is one big construction area. There are tons of cranes, big blocks of apartments, and concrete trucks everywhere. Now the building boom seems to be for a honeycomb of condo/townhouse type buildings. It's ugly and congested and I can't wait to get off that road.
We hit traffic after Marbella and finally see an exit sign for Ronda, for highway 397. I tell my mother to take it although they map says to take highway 376. I thought the road would lead us to Highway 376. It never did and the entire drive becomes one big question of "are we on the right road or not"? I could not find the highway anywhere on the map and my mother threatens me with bodily harm if it turns out we're on the wrong road. The highway winds higher and higher up into the mountains. It's a two lane, twisting road with no opportunities to pass the lumbering lorries we follow. As we gain altitude, the trees gave way to bare rock mountains which I find to be starkly beautiful in their varying colors and striations.
We finally arrive in Ronda around 3:30, tired and very hungry.
Almost immediately, we see a sign for our hotel, but it pointed in a direction down a one way street with a do not enter sign. Following that, we spend an hour, lost, driving in circles, trying to get back to where we'd seen the sign. The town is much larger now than I remember it being back in 1991.
We break our cardinal rule, #1: Do not miss lunch. By the time we arrive, we are screaming at each other, completely irritated. Finally, I insist my mother drive down the wrong way street, make a 12 point turn to get around the corner of an ancient city wall, and double park in front of the hotel. At least we're there. Score one for the Tyrant.
I go inside and find the owner, a nice man who speaks very little English. I explain to him that we'd just spent a harrowing hour, lost, looking for the hotel, and he tells me, "well, the door is open".
HUH? I finally figure out that at the end of the street (in the other direction from where we arrived) is an ancient "puerta" (door) to the city, or rather, a large arch in the city walls though which only a small car could pass. Apparently, this was the way we should have come in to find the hotel. Unfortunately for us, we never passed this "puerta" on our way into town, and even if we had, there were no signs indicating the hotel was that way, nor that we could even drive though it!
The Hotel Jardine de la Muralla, (Calle Esperitu Santi, #13). is a darling hotel, much like staying in your rich eccentric aunt's house (if that aunt happened to live in a small Spanish village). We have the "suite" which is a large room, filled with antique furniture, and a view to the garden and hills below. The hotel sits atop the walls on the edge of town, right next to the Church of Santa Esperitu. The gardens of the hotel are stunning and there is a small bouquet of flowers in our bathroom. The room has a large heavy wooden bed and one long pillow.
I ask the owner for another pillow because while I don't mind sharing a bed with my mother, sharing a pillow will just not work. I also have to ask for a remote control to run the heater, but once it gets going the room is toasty.
Our "suite" takes up the all the windows on the back top floor, above.
Back yard of the Hotel.
After checking in, we go in search of something to eat. It's about a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the center of town. Once there, it seems like every single restaurant and bar has a menu in 4 languages posted in the window (never a good sign). We couldn't find anything appealing and wound up buying a bocadillo (sandwich) of scary pink salami. There is a McDonald's here now (right next to the parador), which might have been a better choice at that point, but I just could not bring myself to do it.
Opposite the McDonald's is the tourist office. The woman behind the desk is very nice, gives us a free map of the town, and explains that the highway number has been changed and we were indeed on the correct road the entire time. The road had been re-numbered, but no one bothered to change the maps, or leave the old number in place. We walk around more, check out the inside of the Parador and look at the menu, and admire the gorge. When it begins to rain, we head back to our room for siesta.
Around 8:30 PM, we leave the hotel, walking in search of a restaurant recommendation I had and a place to use the internet. The "new bridge", Ronda's most famous landmark over the deep gorge, is well lit at night and makes for a fabulous photo op.
We walk through the shopping district but all shops were closing up tight at exactly 9 PM. We walk quite a long way, only to discover the restaurant was want is closed! Doh! And we never find an internet cafe either.
Ronda does not appear to be a town for tapas, nor is it one that stays open late like Madrid or Sevilla. Maybe it does in the summer, but certainly not a rainy Thursday night in fall.
Back in the town center, we settle on dinner at the Hotel Don Miguel right across the plaza from the Parador and right on the edge of the gorge. It turns out to be wonderful, and affordable at around 40 euro total for a nice sit down meal for two. We have a 1/2 btl Torres Coronas (Tempranillo 2003 86 % Tempranillo, 14% Cabernet), mom has lamb chops and I had a fabulous duck breast with a port and prune sauce. It's a very relaxing end to a slightly harrowing day. I wish we had more time to spend here, but it's off to bed and on to the next stop in the morning.
Total Daily Miles 6.4
Above, Hotel Jardines de la Muralla in the morning mist...