Oh, what a difference a year makes.
Ronda was one of our first trips in Spain. We went on a group tour about a week after we got here, still carless, eager to see our home beyond the confines of the military base.
And, nearly one year later and purely by chance, we were going back again. But instead of for an afternoon it was for the weekend. And it got me thinking.
Daytrips are for short term attachments. The memories are warm, the dialogue is pithy, but it’s all a bit fleeting.
Staying overnight is when one really falls in love.
In that first trip we had the convenience of a tour bus picking us up from Base and driving us through Andalusia. But that also comes with other inconveniences, like the large, loud family of six sprawled out across six empty rows just in front of us, airing their unshodden feet across the arm rests and doing things like stroking their adult son’s scalp for an hour nonstop. But hey, maybe I’ll understand when I have an adult son some day.
The heat on our 2016 daytrip was oppressive. I remember feeling heavy and fatigued and a lingering sense of something-is-off-ness. I remember thinking, is Spain always going to be this hot? Am I always go to feel this bad in this heat? It was over a plate of so-so bull’s tail that I first tried saying the words, “I think I may be pregnant” to Cody. It was sort of an unsettling experience, and it felt ridiculous saying it out loud. As we made plans to get a pregnancy test to prove it was probably just a dubious suspicion, we did our best to appreciate this new place and searched all the remaining shops for an adequate post card for our scrap book. That was our Ronda experience.
Flip the calendar one year and the changes that have taken place make it almost unrecognizable. As we made the drive up to Ronda this time in our own car with me in the backseat next to our baby and our dog, things felt familiar and brand new all at once.
Our current road trip was after a successful first train trip with the baby, then a first airplane trip, so we thought, why not a road trip too? We started it late in the afternoon after Cody was done with work and we had shuttered up our house, telling it to sleep well until after we got back.
This time, I wasn’t pressed up against a tour bus window feeling queasy on the curves in the road. Instead, I was doing surprisingly ok in the back seat buckled up next to a chubby little baby and our panting fur ball, Penelope, calming her with constant ear rubs. We were driving past dusty hills and a picturesque Zahara de la Sierra that was no longer unfamiliar thanks to a trip to it with my parents back in the spring when James was brand new-brand new.
I was also grateful that the other person in the car wasn’t a member of a loud family I was trying desperately to ignore as they oozed across their seats and into ours. It was our dear friend Ahnya, fresh from two other continents in the middle of her world trip, visiting us specifically and bustling with a sense of home and ideas and reflections of her own.
Basically, our short road trip from Puerto to Ronda was a little piece of the past and home all rolled up in a neat, sun baked package, jettisoning over a European highway to a centuries old city in the Spanish hills.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
Getting into Ronda that Friday night, navigating the cobble stoned streets and avoiding pedestrians trickling over sidewalks with a GPS telling us to illegally drive over some stairs, it kind of felt like we had made it in a much grander sense than just arriving to our weekend getaway. Spain was, overall, a much less scary place than it had been one year ago. The feeling of oppression that weighed me down and made afternoons in our hotel room feel like long narrow corridors that just kept going and going… had lifted like the drawing of curtains.
Spain still presented plenty of challenges for us and roadblocks in particular for me to navigate, but we were at a new place in our one-year relationship where we could firmly shake hands and know who was who and what was what.
You don’t go to a place that has evolved out of a millennium of overlapping cultures and languages and conquests and expect it to be the one doing the changing. I had mourned the loss of whatever identity couldn’t survive the arid summers and cold marble floors and was comfortable enough with the new one forming to fill up that space.
And if you don’t mind, please let me ingratiate you now with a few other gleaming takeaways from Ronda, our July 2017, trip:
To be an ant in the hive
I never thought I would say this, but after our first slow, hot summer in Spain, something I’ve come to appreciate is a city alive and crowded with bodies just humming along, enjoying the views and the patronage and what the day brings. Maybe it also comes from the quiet winter when our beach side town slept through the colder months, but there’s a different energy about a city filled with people on their summer holidays. That’s also probably why it felt so nice this time to travel with a friend, especially a friend I had last hugged on the streets of Waikiki over a year ago on an island far far away. After a year of new faces, it was nice to get to experience a bustling European destination with an old one.
“¿Qué tipo de perro?”
Penny was, for the most part, a hit. Despite her tugging disobedience on the leash in the constant quest to sniff sniff sniff and greet greet greet, she was still just the right amount of fruit bat, street rat, and wolf puppy to tip your head back for a second look. Smiling in her harness with her ears tipped up in salute, she was a sight to make people stop and remark, “What kind of dog is she?” Although with my limited Spanish, “un poco de siberiano” had to do, I wanted to answer: she’s an evolved street dog, look at how well her fur camouflages with the walkways, look at the way her long nails can hug the cement ledge and to keep her from plummeting to her doom.
Sometimes Penny got in the way, and even though she on occasion was found particularly terrifying by the tourist children of one particular origin, she was also garnering praise and adoration from most of the Spanish children who would effortlessly switch to English and ask about petting her.
I am now trying to figure out how to include her on every trip we make.
Traveling with a wide eyed baby popping his head out of his carrier has its advantages, and those are all wrapped up in the lovely things the Spanish communicated his way as we tottered through the streets with him strapped to our chests. He’s a pretty little thing to be sure and seems to relish the outdoor spaces.
The friendliness in Spain towards babies is also extra helpful when your baby has exploded the confines of his diaper and you only realize this as you’re sitting down at a restaurant’s patio, ready for tapas and cervasas. Unstrapping him from Cody’s chest on the chic, cliff-side patio, we and the restaurant establishment immediately noticed the brown rivulets dripping off of his and James’s shirt and onto the cement.
Que sera, sera…isn’t that what they say?
So as the ladies cooking on the other side of the window laughed, we trundled both James and Cody off to the bathroom to clean up the mess.
Speaking of poop, getting Penny to do her business, any business of any kind, meant walking her at all hours of the day and night until she finally relented, surprising both herself and her walker by squatting with immediate necessity. But, those late evening and late night walks afforded beautiful, dusk lit views and quiet back street locales I wouldn’t have ever thought to see. Plus, I would never have noted every single patch of feasible vegetation growing through the cobbles if it weren’t for Penny’s stubbornness to hold everything in until one single half hour of the day. Turns out there’s a fair bit of green sprouting up in all of these paved, white walled cities.
Lovely meals shared in the open air
Getting to sit down and enjoy food and drink from the cheapest menu to a more impressive expense, eating passable pasta for dinner, flaky apple pastries for breakfast, and giant langostines alongside gorgeous, crackly lambs ribs for a late afternoon lunch, these experiences defined the remainder of our trip. If we weren’t walking around enjoying the sights and the sunsets, we were parked at a table without being made to breathe in car exhaust while listening to the chatter of passersby, sipping cafe con leche and espresso, and listening to traditional singing troupes and the victorious ringing of church bells in the Plaza del Socorro.
The lighting in Spain just can’t be beat. Whether sharp winter sunshine or rosy summer sunsets, the land and the faces are always lit from within. This time in Ronda we got to do something that wasn’t possible that first time, and which only further cemented our new love for it: the sunset overlooking the bridge.
|Mode||To and from||Overnights||Accommodation|
|Car||El Puerto de Santa María to Ronda||Ronda (1)||AirBnB|