Day 7: Andalucia to Sevilla

We stayed in bed fairly late (for us) on this morning, after a not-so-good night’s sleep.  We ate our warm toast from the hotel, then decided to walk around Ronda in the light of day to give it a look before we headed out.  Ronda is a lovely little town, and it had a great park with lots of flowers in bloom.  After a little while of roaming around, we collected the car, stopped at the hotel to pick up our gear, bid adieu to Consuelo (the lovely front desk woman and possible owner), and headed out of town.  On to bigger and better things.  Or, rather, on to smaller and quainter towns.

Gossipy men in Grazalema, or so I presume

Our first stop was the town of Grazalema, a picturesque White Hill Town with a population of not a lot.  We found parking immediately and set out on foot to explore.  Although the exploration process only took about 5 minutes, we got the full effect of Grazalema:  small town with a main square that is inhabited by the local Lion’s Club (or Spanish equivalent of a senior man’s club) who do nothing but play cards and gossip all day.  My guess is they also catcall the pretty ladies, too, if only in their heads.  Grazalema is also supposed to be known for their wool products, but the only evidence we saw was in the one town shop, and the items seemed a bit overpriced.  Suspiciously, too, we never saw a sheep.  On our way back to the car Jim picked up a “hunka,” which is our new term for a hunk of bread usually in the form of a short or long baguette, and he chewed on that.  I, on the other hand, quite enjoyed a donut-type thing filled with a delicious gooey chocolate that was found in a tiny bakery tucked away in an alley.  This baker could be Spain’s best hidden secret.

Little compact, charming Zahara

Our next stop was Zahara, another precious little hill town (and the one that gets my vote for favorite if we had to pick).  Again, we found our way through the narrow streets to the parking lot in the middle of town and our first order of business was to stop into the TI.  After waking the girl up (ok, kidding), she pointed us in the direction of the town’s chief tourist draw, a Moorish castle up a hill.  And according to the Rick Steves’ guide, it should only be a 15 minute “easy” hike to get up to it.  I would not use the words “easy” and “hike” to describe it, as those words would indicate an effortless stride up to the top.  This was more like a huffing and puffing, beet-red-faced climb, but the end result yielded a fairly cool reward:  the Moorish castle and wide expanses of views.By this point we were in need of some coffee, so we carefully picked our way back down the steep descent and walked onto the main drag.  It was here we saw about 15 men (all dressed better than we were.  What, you say?  Better than my best hoodie?) moving something large and heavy into the church with a woman hollering out instructions (excitedly, naturally, because the Spanish like to talk excitedly, something I hadn’t addressed in this blog until now) and all the men scrambling to comply.  It was efficient and the deed was done in minutes.  We selected a little restaurant with outdoor seating for our coffee break, each had a café con leche, and enjoyed the goings-on of tiny little Zahara.

Then it was time to get back into the car and head towards our final destination of the day, Sevilla.  This turned out to be far easier said than done, as we wound up on a road that didn’t seem to exist on any sort of map we had, one that led us to Villamartin.  How positively Spanish of the Spanish to have roads that don’t exist on maps.

But it is here I’d like to expound on the drive through the innards of Andalucia.  The roads are very narrow, windy, and hilly, with each vista more vast, green, and beautiful than the next.  This expanse is dotted with these tiny White Hill Towns, all gleaming white-white from a distance.  And there was some sort of flower in bloom, making the entire region smell like a flower stall of lilacs.  In a word:  gorgeous.  Like livable gorgeous.

Without further incident, we somehow made it to the main road to Sevilla, found the GoldCar rental car dropoff site (at the Shell station by the airport), and were taken by shuttle to the airport.  Then we hopped a bus into town (it dropped us at Avenue del Cid), and walked about 15 minutes to our hotel, the YH Giralda.

After checking in and discovering we had another room with two twin beds (more camp!), Jim took a quick shower and we were off to explore our new surroundings.  Our hotel was in the cute-as-a-button Santa Cruz neighborhood, with tree-lined streets, restaurants, and shops galore.  It was about a 3 minute walk to the Cathedral/Alcazar, then we wandered further and got to the river.  We crossed it and had a beer at a place situated on the river, watching the hoards of kayakers floating by.  Something remarkable about our riverside spot, we were just about the only ones actually facing the water.  Many other patrons would sit down with their backs to it, something we found odd and chalked yet another thing up to “being Spanish.”

Jim tickled pink with the hot salty almond-selling lady

Then we decided it was time for dinner, and embarked on our Dinner Stroll.  It could have been yet another stressful event, except this time we struck gold:  a lady selling hot, salty almonds.  We purchased a small bag for 2 euro and dug in.  These were the tastiest almonds we’d ever had – quite a treat!  Not only were they absolutely delicious, but they also took the edge off of our hunger and allowed us to clear our heads to select the perfect dinner place.  As we were in the mood for pasta and near our hotel, we popped in to ask the front desk girl where we should go.  She pointed us in the direction of Duplex, for what she assured us would be a great Italian meal.  It wasn’t really an Italian restaurant (only a couple pasta dishes on the menu), and it was just ok.  I ordered penne arrabiata (that came out a good 5 minutes before Jim’s meal, which made Jim panic in thinking that he mixed his Spanish up and told the waiter he didn’t want anything), and Jim had spaghetti with meat sauce (phew, it finally arrived).  We also discovered on our walk home that there was a cute little Italian restaurant steps from our hotel.  Hmmm…  After walking around a bit more, we were off to bed.

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