April 5, 2015: The Running of the Bull and Ronda

This is our last morning in Arcos de la Frontera.  Just a quick weekend trip for us.  Most guidebooks, including Rick Steves, call it a one day, or less, trip.  There really are no attractions, per se, in town except for the city itself.  So the number of people overnighting here and the total number of tourists, in fact, is not that high.  The Pueblos Blancos is not a major tourist stop, in general, and it is very far away from the big tourist areas and cities.

We were pretty tired after yesterday, especially me not having gotten to bed until after three.  So Dominica was up first and showered and started packing.  I went up to the common area and tried to get caught up a little bit while I had some Internet access but there was pretty little to be done.

We got the room all packed up and Nick was nice enough to let us keep a “house” key and leave all of our luggage up in the common area out of the way and he gave us clear directions on how to go see the famous El Toro del Aleluya, the running of the bulls.

It was a good hike, up the hill and then back down again, to get to where the bull run was set up.  Arcos de la Frontera no longer lets the bulls run free through the old town as it was incredibly dangerous and caused a lot of property damage.  Now there is a safe, fenced system that keeps the bull away from peoples’ homes and makes it trivial for the people to escape making it not really a very brave ting to do and very little running.  Mostly it is just people standing and jumping to safety.  No real risk.  So we had to walk up over the hill and down the other side to get to where this was set up.

We arrived just in time.  We managed to get a front row spot right against the barrier so that even the girls could see.  Dominica took the Nikon and I had the GoPro.

It was really cool that we managed to be here for such a big event.  It did not feel like it was too overrun with tourists, although there were lots.  The event left a lot to be desired, though.  The bull was not interested in running much or goring anyone.  They had to work hard to get him to go after anyone.  He was, at best, a mildly perturbed bull.  The people were a spectacle.  Most standing around in good clothes and inappropriate footwear holding a beer and acting like idiots.  The run was not very long, just a long, narrow barricaded area with room at the ends for the bull to turn around and go back.  So the running of the bull was it running back and forth in this contained area.

We got a great view of the bull right in front of us where it fell twice, the poor thing.  At one point, and this was a little exciting, it decided to charge me and I got, I think, some great footage of it coming after me and hitting the barricade.  I had to back up as it could have reached me easily where I had been.  The girls actually had a great time.  But I saw people in the audience lose it and not be able to stand the site of the bull.  Lots of paramedics but no one punctured or tossed around on the horns.  The most dangerous thing that happened was a rapid (possibly even literally) American tourist waving a red jacket tried to knock the girls down to frantically get at the bull.  He grabbed me so forcefully that I thought something was wrong and that the barricade was going to come down.  But no, he was just some American who had lost his shit and had gone mad.  Like he didn’t even know that people were there.  It was like how people in fantasy novels are supposed to act when they see a dragon.  It’s called dragon fear.  Except this guy got it with a mild, slightly annoyed bull beyond a barricade.  Sad.

After the running of the bull, probably the last time that we will make the effort to see that but we are glad that we did this one time, we walked back up the hill and ate at Meson Don Fernando where we had eaten last night because it was so good, we wanted to try it again.  And, like last night, it was truly fantastic.

Dominica wanted paella again, she really loves paella.  Liesl wanted pancakes so the closest thing that we could find were spinach crepes which we got for her.  Luciana got calamari.  I went for tapas so that I could have variety and got the seafood croquettes that were so amazing last night and tuna stuffed tomatoes which were really good as well.  So much great food.  And our waiter tried to get us to get some wine but we told him that we had to drive so he brought us sangria instead – which was absolutely amazing, by leaps and bounds the best sangria ever.  I had no idea that sangria could taste this good!

Everything was superb.  And when our meal was over, our waiter brought us another bottle of wine, white this time, for us to take home with us!

After lunch we hit the ceramic store that we had investigated yesterday and bought the painted tile that Dominica had liked.  We try to always get some art on our trips as memories of places that we have been and this seemed like a really good one.  We especially love our Spanish art having bought nearly all of our art on our last trip to Europe in Madrid.

And that was it, we are done in Arcos de la Frontera.  A beautiful town and we had a nice time.  It would have been so much better had we not had the issues finding our way around on the first night and if we had not had to deal with the disaster yesterday evening.  But Arcos was very nice and we managed to see the things that we had wanted to see.  I hope we return if only to eat here again!

We returned to Casa Blues and talked to Nick for a little while before collecting our luggage and heading out for Ronda.  We decided that Ronda, which we really, really wanted to see was basically on the way home and so worth taking the slightly slower path to get there and see it.  We might have to return to have more time there, but at least we will get to see it if we stop today.

The drive to Ronda was only about an hour.  Getting there was no problem at all.  Once into the city we drove right down the main drag to the old bridge but took the loop around the circle before going over it and found municipal parking and explored the city on foot.

Ronda is not a large city but is, in fact, just a little bigger than Arcos.  We walked through the heavily touristed restaurant area in the new town and over the “new” bridge (older than the United States) into the old town.  The gorge that you pass over is just astoundingly beautiful.  It is really hard for pictures to tell how amazing it really is.  And how deep it is.  This is a really big gorge.  Everything was so lovely.  It is sad that the city is so completely full of tourists, the views here are really something.  There are hotels and restaurants built all along the gorge so there are tons of places to go and enjoy the views and the views are everywhere.

There is tons and tons of tourist shopping areas here in Ronda.  Even things that aren’t special about Spain or Ronda, just lots of shopping.  We have been looking for some Flamenco stuff for the girls and Liesl has been begging for castanets.  We found a shop selling Flamenco dresses for little girls and castanets so we took the girls in.  Liesl got a pink dress and Luciana picked out a blue one.  Dominica really wanted one of them to get one in red and black but failed to convince either of the girls to go in this direction.

As we walked down the street I saw a shop that had Michelin maps in the window display, the exact ones that were up in the Casa Blues that I had mentioned to dad last night that we wanted to get as wall maps so that the girls could see where we were, where we had been, etc.  Wall maps are perfect for learning an area.  So I stopped in and bought three – the full Iberia map (Spain and Portugal), the Andalusia map and the Costa del Sol map which includes the Alpujarras region.  Each one is zoomed in more than the last so we get differing levels of detail.

We ended up spending some time in the shop and getting a guidebook that was not digital, the TimeOut Andalucía, plus some pencils for the girls and little notebooks as Liesl has been asking for one of those too.

We also found a non-local, but Spanish from Valencia, toro (bull) figurine that we all really liked.  Well, Dominica, Luciana and I really liked.  Liesl picked out a completely different white bull nothing like the black one that we had decided on.  But it is a house decoration and not for Liesl, so Liesl did not really get a vote and she was sad.

We decided that we had seen enough of town and the girls really wanted a playground and Liesl had seen a park that seemed promising so we walked back over the bridge into the new town and down to the city park which was full of kids and people everywhere.  Very popular on Easter Sunday.

The playground was in a big garden area connected to the famous old bull fighting ring in Ronda.  The playground itself was pretty small but enough for our girls.  I went off to explore the gardens and see if I could find anything of interest.  Liesl, of course, decided to come with me which undermined her goal of wanting to be on a playground.  So she and I went for a walk.  Luciana, seeing her sister leave, almost immediately made Dominica take her to come follow us.  So this kind of ruined things.

Along the walk there were all kinds of amusement things that cost money like bouncy houses, bumper cars and the like.  This caused issues as the girls wanted, of course, to do all of that stuff.  We were thinking about trying to figure out how to do the bouncy house when Luciana threw a temper tantrum about the whole affair, a really enormous one, so we called it a day and left.

On the way out of Ronda we passed a shop selling ice cream.  Liesl had been very good so we got her ice cream but Luciana did not get any, she was still being very naughty.

Back into the car and on the road.  The drive home was uneventful.  More gorgeous countryside.  As we approached Granada there was a big rain storm to the north with lightning.  We saw a little rain on our drive but only a very small amount actually landed on us.  We have heard that the Andalucian rain storms can be pretty dramatic, like the big ones in Texas, so while we are excited to get to see one we are hoping to see it from the house and not while out driving – especially when we will have to drive in the Alpujarras mountain roads.  So we were quite glad that we did not get the rain ourselves tonight.

It was nine thirty when we got home to Cáñar.  It felt a bit weird coming “home” after a vacation weekend abroad in Spain to our Spanish house!  Funny but the house already feels a lot like our home and living in Spain feels completely natural.

We all got into bed pretty early tonight.  We were exhausted.  It was a lot of travel and a lot of walking and quite a bit of stress this weekend.  Glad to be back home and ready for sleep.  Luciana begged for me to sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom with her, so we slept up there and Liesl slept with Dominica down in the basement.

No plans for tomorrow.  Nothing really planned all week.  We are planning to do something this coming weekend but nothing too big.  Maybe Cordoba.  In two weeks we are planning to go to Morocco.