Tag Archives: Ronda

Bad Bones in Ronda


Ronda is two distinct towns: the old bit and the older bit. They are divided by the Puente Nuevo – the ‘new’ bridge – which is in fact, old. The bridge spans the gorge which featured prominently in the Civil War and, quite rightly, attracts a lot of visitors. Mainly though, when we make the 40 minute drive to this historic epicentre it is to visit the dentist, ITV (MOT) the car, to search for spare parts (oven / bike / scanner / printer), replace watch straps, upgrade mobiles, buy flipflops and unsweetened yoghurt in SuperSol . . . and other tedious stuff. It’s always a race against time before the lunchtime lock-down (from which SuperSol is exempt).

Now most visits include a visit to the Fisio Terapia centre, making Ronda not only a place where boring things happen, but a place where painful things happen too. A combination of excess incoming work and a haphazard chair-desk set up turned my shoulder into string and concrete. The harder they pummel it, the more gnarly it gets. I have illustrated this – how things are (left), how I believe they should be (right).

Last time I lay wincing and battered under an ice pack with needles in my ears listening to crocodiles of tourists shuffling up the sunny street beyond the window learning about this church and that church, it occurred to me that I’m not really getting the best out of my days out in Ronda. Next time I’m going over to the other side, to spend the day people-watching in the plazas, drinking cold beer and buying trinkets with bulls on like everyone else.


Where to begin?

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I think it started with a picture of a derelict farmhouse in Almeria. What was standing was standing in a landscape that seemed to be made up of bits of rock and dust that had fallen off it. It was remote, and came with what looked like a quarry dotted with prickly pears and views of cardboard-coloured dusty mountains. It was available for a very reasonable £22,000. I could imagine myself sitting on the shaded deck of the minimalist pod I’d have erected beside it, sketching eagles while visiting friends, keen to work with their hands, rebuilt the walls of the old place. Then we’d all drink wine and eat olives and splash about in the infinity pool. Except there wasn’t any water.

The property, one of hundreds in a similarly parlous state, wasn’t far to the east of the Tabernas Desert, Europe’s only semi-desert; a place that manages to be too hot (peaking on a regular basis just short of 50C) and too cold (substantially below freezing on winter nights) but still rather compelling. The landscape goes on and on, mesmerically repetitive, gouged by rivers that haven’t run for quite some time, and the only things moving on a still day are birds of prey, riding the thermals in a rich blue sky, and their shadows. It’s the kind of place you can imagine being staked out to music by Ennio Morricone. Sergio Leone must have thought so too; An American wild west outpost was created in Tabernas for A Fistful of Dollars, and the spaghetti western was born (although the ‘pork chop western’ would be more gastronomically correct). You can visit the Mini-Hollywood set. It’s been used a zillion times. Look out for it in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, and The Magnificent Seven, as well as  great shots of the surrounding desert in Lawrence of Arabia,  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and most recently, the Ridley Scott epic, Exodus, slated for a December 2014 release (in which Christian Bale fresh from his success as a 70s sleazeball in American Hustle plays Moses). So, an interesting area but impractical for someone who likes a long shower.

Thanks to a chain of completely random events, I am starting my meandering quest for a somewheresville in not only the wettest part of Andalucia, but the most expensive inland area, in the province of Cádiz, south of Seville in Andalucia’s southwest. It is a spectacularly beautiful area of lakes and mountains and white villages draped over the shoulders of a crag. I don’t know anyone for a thousand miles but the people I have met have been amusing and friendly and equally interested in living their lives rooted in the land as they have for generations, though not without the luxuries of good food, good wine, good company, peace and comfort. This is one of the most difficult areas in which to find an affordable country house. The culture is traditional and the land is protected which means I am unlikely to find a suitable plot for a minimalist, modernist pod either. But still, I’ll try.



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