*** Not much food in this one. I wouldn't be the least bit offended if you just came back tomorrow.....
We didn't have to check out of the apartment until noon and our train didn't leave until 1300, so we decided to make the most of the rest of our time in Ronda. To be perfectly honest, we were a bit sad to leave as the charm of this amazing locale really made an impression on us.
As soon as the morning rains had passed, we decided to take a walk around and possibly grab a cup of coffee. It was hard getting the past the views.....
It seems that no matter how many times you stared off into the beautiful valley below; you'd notice something new, something you hadn't seen before.
We headed into the Mercadillo Quarter and found a location of the chain Granier on the main pedestrian shopping street of Carretera Espinal.
While having our morning coffee, the Missus and I discussed what we should do before check out time. I suggested finding the trail on the other side of Puente Nueva that led down to the area where all those classic photos of Puente Nueva and El Tajo are taken. Bolstered by our morning caffeine we headed off.
It really wasn't hard to find. We just basically took a right, where we took a left the day before and headed down the street. From Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora, to the right of the statue of San Juan Bosco, there's a set of steps that leads to the trail down into the valley.
The views from Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora ain't shabby either, very dramatic in its own way. Check the out view of the cliffs or Alameda del Tajo where we'd taken most of our photos of the valley the previous day!
The stairs give way to a cobblestone path.....it was just a tad slippery on this morning, which gave way to a dirt path.
And you get a photo, you'll never forget. We headed back up after taking a few more photos and took a round about way back to the apartment. Passing through the square with the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, which we had walked through the night before.
We took our time getting back to the apartment, where we freshened up, sadly packed, and checked out. Picking up some jamon and bread for our travel days had become sort of a tradition in Spain, so we found a shop right across the street from the Apartmentos Rondacentro and got some Jamon Belotta.
Our train left on time and we had to change trains......
There wasn't much going on here........
Which made it a perfect time for a jamon bocadillo break.....
Even though we'd spent only a night in Ronda, we must have really taken to the place. Arriving in Seville was a jolt to us. The crowds, the narrow streets....the metropolitan area of Seville has a population of 1.5 million people. Making it the fourth largest city in Spain. Our AirBnB apartment was located down a tiny street in Barrio Santa Cruz, a maze of streets and alleyways. We got joyfully lost several times during our first day in the city.
The first thing we needed was a map so we headed down the street and found ourselves at the Giralda (the Bell Tower) and Plaza del Triunfo and the TI was right there.
The Cathedral is quite impressive; the third largest church in Europe.
We took our time and wandered around Barrio Santa Cruz ad ended up at this pleasant square; appropriately named Plaza de Santa Cruz.
As I mentioned earlier, Santa Cruz was once the Jewish Quarter, and a Synagogue once stood at this spot. A distinctive cross rests in the center of the plaza, known as "Cruz Cerrajería" (the Locksmith’s Cross) which dates back to the 17th Century.
Close is another square; Plaza de Refinadores, with one of Seville's most famous, though fictional, personas, Don Juan. So ladies....meet the original Don Juan!
It was starting to get dark and we needed a break, so we headed back to our apartment....
Which meant winding our way thru a maze of streets.....since wifi reception in the alleyways were sometimes problematic, even pocket wifi didn't help. We did eventually find our way back; the apartment was located in an 18th century "casa de palacio", a palace house, it was quite an interesting place to stay. Dinner was coming up. We would soon find the best food of this trip to Spain in Seville.
We were really enjoying our time in Ronda. From the beautiful scenery, to the friendly people, to the, well, I'm not sure I can put it any other way, atmosphere, we were loving it.
At night, with all the day trippers gone and in low season, there just seems to be a rather romantic mystery to the place. Quiet takes over and you almost feel like your an extra in some exotic romantic thriller from another time.
It was sad that we had only one night to spend in Ronda, with one dinner.
The walk to our dinner destination took us down through the Old Town. Past the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor. Like many churches built during the Reconquista, this was constructed on the remains of a mosque. A quick look at the bell tower belies the Moorish roots of the structure.
Across the way, the light on top of Santuario Maria Auxilium shone brightly in the night.
Our destination was a little shop just inside the Almocabar Gate, once the main entrance to this side of the city. The name of the place? De Locos Tapas.
This place gets a ton of love, so I went ahead and made reservations a month before our trip. It's a good thing too; the place has but 5 tables. When I mentioned we'd be having dinner here to the lovely lady at Apartmentos Rondacentro, Hilde, she went, "aaaah, you've made a good choice, it is my favorite place in the city."
The place is run by a Husband and Wife team. It is Guillermo who is the front man, originally from Basque Country, he is very friendly, quite chatty, warm, with a great sense of humor. He speaks perfect English and is one heck of a storyteller. We were the first customers to arrive, so he took his time with us, telling us about working in a Japanese restaurant. When he found out we live in San Diego, he mentioned he lived in San Gabriel for a time. When I mentioned being from Hawaii, he regaled us with a story about his cousin (if I recall) who came back from Maui with some board shorts for Guillermo. The main pattern on those shorts was, ahem; the "cash crop", if you know what I mean. His dad pointed to the pattern on the shorts and inquired what it was. So quick thinking Guillermo, who remembered the "local" name for said herb said "pakalolo". His dad, thinking it was some kind of exotic tropical plant was satisfied. And so Guillermo got to keep his "special" board shorts.
The menu at De Locos is a combination of various traditional and some very non-traditional tapas. Many with an Asian twist from the time Guillermo worked in the Japanese restaurant. There was also a menu written in Korean. According to Guillermo, there are many Korean visitors during January and February. The Korean menu is an abbreviated version of the hand written menu, consisting of items that their Korean clientele often order.
We had a blast figuring out what to order and decided (quite rightfully so) to stray from the norm except for a few dishes.
We started with the "Quail's Nest". Quail eggs lying in a "nest" made of "Kataifi", shredded filo dough. As you can tell from this dish, the presentation of some of the dishes are composed in a lovely, flashy-whimsical way. The quail eggs were nice but nothing special, the filo a bit too dry and crumbly. Not bad.
The Artichokes and Jamon, a more mainstream dish was downright delish.
The artichokes were nicely seasoned, the texture excellent, a bit of crunch, but not tough. The jamon added that nice savory touch that paired nicely with everything. The mustard based sauce was a nice slightly pungent touch. The Missus (of course) loved the fried egg.
The Truffle Egg presentation was very nice.
Lovely flavors, just enough truffle oil, the jamon again adding a nice touch of savory. The only complaint was that the egg was overcooked for my taste.
My favorite dish, hands down was the Pork Tataki....yes, basically seared, ultra rare pork.
Man, the textures and the flavors, touches of ginger....good lord, this was so good. I've learned that sometimes I just need to go with my instincts....and while the Missus still sometimes has doubts (see torisashi), she's learned that there are times when you need to throw caution to the wind. Many times, the payoff is a memorable dish like this one. I've heard that Japanese is the "in" cuisine in places like Barcelona now.....so I'm looking forward to returning and getting some "Tataki de presa ibérica".
Meanwhile, Guillermo is from Basque Country, so I had to order the Txangurro (Spider Crab), a Basque regional specialty.
For some reason, this didn't do it for us......not enough crab flavor, a bit too mushy, and in need of some additional seasoning.
And while the Octopus was decent, perhaps a bit too chewy, but nicely flavored....those potatoes, the truffle oil.....was delish.
The Sea Bass Ceviche was nicely seasoned, refreshing, though I prefer mine with a bit more citrus.
Since there was Foie Gras on the menu, you know we had to order it, right? This came with a very nice tangy, passion fruit sorbet which acted like a nice intermezzo. The foie was decently seared, the texture wonderful. I did find it a bit too much on the sweet side. Of course, perhaps I've become a bit jaded having had so much foie gras over the last couple of years.
The Ox Cheeks were nicely done, I've yet to meet a version of carrillada that I didn't enjoy in Spain.
We also ordered the Deer Tenderloin which we affectionately called "Bambi".
Tasting like a more gamey version of the Ox Cheeks this was very tender and quite tasty.
For dessert the Missus chose the Gin and Tonic Sorbet which has a wonderful combination of tart, sweet, citrus tones, and black pepper (!). It was the perfect end to this meal.
While not every dish was a hit....and with this many, it's hard to do...remember, this isn't Azurmendi or even Disfrutar, the meal topped out at 60 Euros! That's right, with a couple of glasses of wine...all of this, a shade over sixty bucks! Plus, we had a blast chatting with Guillermo. And while, perhaps, this wasn't the best meal of our recent trip, it was by far, the most fun we'd had during a meal in a while! And that really does matter.
If you're planning to visit De Locos Tapas; make reservations, have an open mind....and relax....you'll have a good time!
De Locos Tapas Arquitecto Pons Sorolla 7 Ronda, Spain
We took our time walking back to our apartment. The Missus climbed up one of the stairways on the city wall and took the photo of the Old Town above. We stopped at the same spot where we took a photo of Puente Nuevo earlier in the day. It's just as beautiful, if not more so, at night.
As we got back to the apartment......
We decided to take a detour and walk around the building overlooking the valleys, where we came across this......
Whenever we travel, time permitting, I try to schedule something a bit different. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Ronda before this trip. While doing a bit of research I saw a photo, then read that Ronda is easily accessible by train. So I decided that we'd stay for a night on our way to Seville from Granada. We're so glad we stayed here. And to be perfectly honest, wished that we had more time.
Everything just seemed so perfect; the hotel, the Apartmentos Rondacentro was our favorite on this trip. About a 20 minutes walk from the train station, we had Unit A1, which had a fantastic view from the balcony.
Though I don't think there's a bad view anywhere around here.
But first we had to get there. We left Granada fairly early, walking from Plaza Nueva to Granada's Train Station, stopping for a "café solo" from Cafe Opera 5. Construction of the rail line to Granada and renovations around the station were going on during our stay. So we were bussed from Granada Train Station to Antequera-Santa Ana Station.
And while I sorely wished for some Ekiben Stands, we'd come prepared. We call it the "Madrid plan" where we purchase bread, jamon, and olive oil in advance and have that on the train, in the airport, or in this case in the train station. The nice olive oil we bought in Mercado Augustin and we'd found some decent Jamon Bellota Iberico Pata Negra at one of the shops on the way back to the apartment the night before.
Which kept us satisfied and made our train trip a lot more pleasant.
It was drizzly when we arrived in the White Hill town of Ronda. The walk to the apartment was easy....as I mentioned before, the location is spectacular with a view of the valley below. The place was also quite new and the woman who runs the front desk named Hilde was a joy.
There was a mini-kitchen and the all important washing machine/dryer. After freshening up a bit we headed out.
Plaza de Toros was a mere few steps away. Ronda is the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Francisco Romero is said to have invented the cape (Muleta) and sword system in Ronda. Before this, knights on horses fought the bulls. His grandson, Pedro Romero is said to have been perhaps the greatest ever.
The Bullring is a much visited site, but we'd arrived rather late and decided that we'd use our time to visit other places. Like the Alameda del Tajo, a park which wraps around the Bullring and has a beautiful balcony from which you can view the valley and the mountains.
The clouds and approaching rain added an even more dramatic touch to things.
As you can tell, Ronda is located above the valley and gorge. This served a purpose providing protection for first the Romans, then the Moors until the city fell in 1485.
The scenic bridge in the first photo is called "Puente Nuevo" and crossed the ravine named El Tajo. It connects the "Old Town", with the whitewashed Moorish buildings to the El Mercadillo; the new town.
The Missus decided that She wanted to the bottom of the gorge through the Old Town, but first we decided to finish checking out the park.
This memorial caught my eye, because it looked distinctly Japanese.
It had the name Miki Haruta inscribed. I was intrigued. Turns out that Miki Haruta was an artist, who came to Ronda, fell in love with the village, and didn't leave until his death in 1995.
We then headed up Calle Jerez until we came upon this shop.
Looking into the shop, I was met with this sight, which I described to my friends as, "I think this is what heaven looks like"!
Of course we got "cien grams" Jamon Bellota Pata Negra and a bottle of some local wine for the Missus.
Boy, the smells were intoxicating. Though I'm not sure what's up with the framed slice of jamon? Is it like the "framing the first dollar earned" thing? I do know the guy in Chef's Whites, it's Dani Garcia who got a Michelin Star for the now closed Tragabuches restaurant while at the helm.
It was a nice interesting stop.
La Casa del Jamón Calle Jerez 28 Ronda, Spain
We headed on back to the apartment, got a load of laundry going, then crossed the Puente Nuevo into the Old Town.
There's a nice viewpoint from across the bridge.
From here we headed on down....taking a break at the Palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra.
It's quite a distinct structure with an even more interesting feature. Take a look at the four pre-Columbian figures framing the windows and above the balcony. These are Inca Indians! Symbolic of the far reach of Spanish Colonialism.
Right below the palace you can get a nice view of the "Puente Viejo", the Old Bridge which was constructed in 1616 upon the ruins of another bridge.
And the Arab Baths.
Taking a quick turn you come to a gate. This is the Arch of Philip V which was built in 1742 on the site of another gate that was located there.
We headed on down the stairs right before the Old Bridge, then swung around when we arrived at the cute, tiny, little church.
And arrived at the oldest bridge in Ronda....yes, older than the Old Bridge; called either the Arab Bridge, The Moorish Bridge, the San Miguel Bridge, or the Roman Bridge, depending who to talk to.
For many centuries, this was the entrance to Ronda. Nice view of the Old Bridge as well.
Heading back to the Old Bridge; you could really get an impression on how imposing a task it would be to take this fortified village.
We made our way back to the New Town by crossing the Old Bridge and walking up via the terraces.
At the highest most terrace, I saw a guy standing outside the gate to the street. I got kind of worried as he just seemed to be loitering around. Turns out, he had the keys to the entrances to the terraces and since it had started to rain pretty hard it was time to close the gates. He was waiting for us to finish taking our photos........what a nice guy. I felt so bad for making him wait. It took another 15 minutes to get back to the apartment, where it was time for a shower and a nap.
But first things first.
We needed some sustenance.....something to keep us going....something like; well the jamon we bought earlier. Great thing about jamon, it doesn't need refrigeration. I just like to leave it out and watch it sweat....I hope to see some sweat. That tells me there's a good fat content. As things stood, this was cut well, but it lacked that jamon sweetness and deep flavor and was too salty.
Well, this one is pretty much in the books as I write this up on the train back to where we landed. It's been a great one. We stopped for one fantastic night in a hill town famous for it's bridge.
You can see why, right? Our apartment was perched over the valley below with an amazing view.
The town is also famous for one other thing.
We had one meal which turned out to be surprisingly good and somewhat innovative. Adding Japanese touches to dishes seems to be the thing here right now. Like this really good pork tataki...yes, that's raw pork and it's delici-yoso!
Our next stop was a fun one.....a live and vibrant, if somewhat confusing city.
With the third largest cathedral in Europe.
And a wonderful plaza.
We had several excellent meals as well. In fact, we may just have found our favorite city in this country.
As you can see we ate well.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. But I'm fairly certain we'll be back as we left out several key places/events here.