Ronda, when you first see it, you think, how did that city get there, who would have ever thought to plop a town atop a plateau that can only be reached by a long narrow road up to it? The Moors originally settled here way back when, but were eventually overthrown by the Spaniards, who expanded the town by building a bridge to connect the two very close together mesas. We had a blast walking around the town, gazing at the gorge and valley below, and hiking into the gorge itself. Our miserably freezing apartment was located right in the heart of the town with the bull ring on the right, and the extremely long commercial walkway on the left. We didn’t end up going to an actual bullfight, (even youtube videos were enough for my mom) but did visit the museum. The pedestrian walkway is perfect for anybody who lives off of beer, cigarettes, and designer clothes, but we had fun poking around anyways.Though the town had a charming feel to it, our apartment didn’t. The non-insulated building was equipped only with multiple radiators and some drafty windows. On the nights that we ate home, we ended up hugging our lentil soup, while crowding around two of the space heaters with ski hats and down jackets on. Not only that, we had some trouble with the fuse; it kept on blowing out. This caused us to have to turn off the radiators whenever my mom was cooking. It was a very cold two nights.
On the second day, we decided to attempt to hike down to the bottom of the gorge, but we ended up finding something much more interesting than originally planned. An old abandoned flour mill, a house, and a water generator building, all operational up until 1917 when a huge rockslide destroyed the roofs and foundations of the houses. Apparently, the owners of the molíno (flour mill) didn’t really care because they moved out of that place and didn’t try to repair it at all. The government hasn’t done anything to preserve the over-one-hundred-year-old house because there is nothing fenced off or monitored there. The trails are overgrown with huge vines that block out light and make the area seem like an Indiana Jones movie set. There are aqueducts going through the houses that are still in use, if not a bit overused (they’re overflowing a bit). The whole place seemed like it was not really part of one of the most touristy towns in Southern Europe. We followed the trail, poking our heads into caves and abandoned houses. Every once and a while, a little “Wow!” or “Man, this is so cool!” would pop out of one of our mouths, but most of the time the only sound was the rushing water and the crunching of leaves beneath our feet.
Edie and I raced each other up the trail for winner-gets-a-euro-from-dad (I won by the way) and once we were all together at the top, we began raving about what we had seen.
After over three weeks of struggling through Portuguese, I was looking forward to arriving in Spain and hearing a language I could understand. From the moment we crossed the border on the Southern Coast, I could immediately hear familiar words coming out of the radio on the bus. Our first task was to hail a taxi and get to our apartment~ Easy in Spanish! I even chatted with the taxi driver and asked him about restaurants and good streets to stroll on. I felt like Helen Keller at the water pump- suddenly everything made sense!
Our apartment in the Triana neighborhood of Sevilla is on the West side of the river, while all the major tourist sites are on the east side of the river. While one might think this is unfortunate, we saw it as an advantage as we were surrounded by locals; local shops, vendors, parks and schools. Triana reminded us of the local streets in Berkeley/Rockridge. There was a small local market right across the street from the entrance to our building, and a produce vendor two doors down. Isaac and Eden loved being able to run downstairs all by themselves to pick up produce and play at the little playground out front. It was a lively 15 minute stroll through the local streets to a beautiful bridge that dropped us right into the heart of Old Sevilla.
There is a main pedestrian plaza in Triana where cafes spill out on the plaza, families are strolling (and smoking) together, and vendors are roasting chestnuts on the corners. We finally decided to buy a paper cone of chestnuts when we noticed one particular vendor roasting not only the typical brown nuts, but also sweet potatoes! We all have a weakness for those, so we purchased some of each. We sat on a bench in the sun and people-watched while feasting on this street food.
The historic center of Sevilla is breathtaking. The city takes great pains (and taxes) to clean the streets and sites daily. The stores and storefronts are lively and sophisticated, but approachable. The main Cathedral is the largest in the world, and its grandeur did not disappoint! Next to the Cathedral, ironically, is the old Jewish Quarter, now known as El Barrio Santa Cruz. After the Inquisition, when all the Barrio’s Jews were either killed or exiled, the streets became a slum of sorts, before being refurbished by the city for the World’s Fair in 1929. It is now a romantic maze of narrow streets and intimate squares filled with cafes, bars, Flamenco shows and shops. We found a small museum about the history of the Jews in Sevilla and went on an extremely thorough tour with one of Sevilla’s few Jewish youths. He told us so many stories and pointed out so many interesting spots throughout the Barrio. We left the tour with such sadness and with a fresh reminder of how many times in our history that Jews have been unfairly treated. We also felt saddened that there was so little recognition of this history within the city of Sevilla. We hope that this little museum (only a few months old) will continue to grow and educate more and more locals and visitors to this beautiful city.
There were many sites that we visited throughout Sevilla, but my favorite for its elegance and splendor was La Plaza de España. It was built as a monument for the World’s Fair, and is now simply a place of beauty for tourists. Sprawling out in front of the plaza are the formal gardens of María Luisa Park. We really got into the Touristic Spirit there, and rented a Surrey to drive all through the park. Eden’s feet didn’t reach the pedals, but no matter! We strolled all throughout the pathways, around the museums from the World’s Fair, and through the magnificent Plaza. I was in love with it all! The weather was cold enough to keep the throngs of tourists away, but the sun was out! The thinner crowds made the whole experience so much more beautiful.
The food in Sevilla is not our favorite. Spanish food is full of Pork and shellfish, which isn’t really in our diet. We haven’t felt tempted to try too much of the tapas because of this, so we have been seeking out vegetarian and foreign food options. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to McDonald’s or Burger King (both of which are everywhere in Spain)! But we have found great Indian, Mexican, and creative Vegetarian. I also have been cooking at home most nights; “peasant food” is what the kids call it. We eat black beans and rice with papitas, lentil soup and crusty bread, Cuban chicken soup without the chicken, burritos with fresh guacamole, and even latkes with applesauce! We are more satisfied and more comfortable when we eat at home (not to mention the financial savings!). I am sure we will go broke when we are in Italy. Until then, we splurge on coffee and pastries almost daily as our “dining out” experience.
After our time in Sevilla is over, we will rent a car and drive to a spectacular, romantic hill town on a high mesa in Andalusia; Ronda. Isaac is looking forward to taking us through a photographic journey of this beautiful and romantic town.