Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Road Trip - Spanish style!

Today was our day to go to Morroco!! Our plans were to drive an hour to Tarifa and then get the high speed ferry across the Mediterranean to the African coast. We arrived in Tarifa, Spain early for the ferry, only to be told that "Today isn't a good day to go!". After questioning the ticket clerk, we finally figured out that the morning ferries had been cancelled and one ferry MIGHT be leaving in the afternoon. However, there was NO guarantee of a return trip due to high seas. She was correct - It was not a good day to go!! :)

Ok - so on to PLAN B - road trip! We had no maps, no tour books, no internet, and no additional resources, so we decided to just explore and wing it. We headed northwest to Cadiz and looked around the old town. Cadiz is a typical Andalusian city right on the Atlantic Coast. It is the oldest city in the Iberian peninsula and possibly of all southwestern Europe. It is also the home port of the Spanish Navy due to its location. I love the ability to stop easily, sit on outdoor tables in tiny restaurants and have cafe con leche and a variety of spanish tapas. Today, we decided to try the iberico' jamon (See earlier post). Frankly, it was terrible! :) The first bite was OK, the second a bit worse, and the third bite just about did me in! It has a wild, gamey taste and a very strong flavor. However, I am glad that I tasted it and now know that I am NOT a fan!! I am attaching a small picture of the iberican black pig that we saw a few days ago. The pig is very dark and has longer ears than I expected. So much for the Spanish ham education!
Our next stop was the town of Jerez de la Frontera. Jerez was a small mountain town famous for sherry wine, Andalusian horses and flamenco......but we didn't see any of this, although we found it interesting! :) We did see beautiful orange trees lining all the downtown streets and some unusual statues along with a monestary. It's a pretty little town and worth the few minutes off route.

We continued on through varied landscapes along the seashore, up into the mountains, around steep cliffs covered with rocks, ranches with olive trees and barren hills all in just a few hours.

As we headed up into the mountains, we discovered the quaint little town of Ronda, which is famous for its dramatic escarpments and views, and also for the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the river through the center of the town. It's also the home of modern bullfighting!! Trying to follow the directions to a local "tourist" site, we ended up on dirt roads below the city with an incredible view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which was ironically built in the late 1700's (not new to our standards anyway). This "new" bridge connects the old and the new city of Ronda and it was an incredible sight to see!

After Ronda, we went down the mountains passing lots of whitewashed villages in the hills, which were spectacular at sunset. We traveled on to the city of Marbella, which brought us back to the Mediterranean side. We traveled along the beach road to the town of Estepone, where we decided to eat dinner. We stopped at 7:45 pm and we were the FIRST people in the restaurant. The restaurants typically open around 7:30 and begin to get busy around 9:00 pm! We had an authenic Spanish dinner, ending with fabulous almond flan. Yum!! It was a very good day with a sweet ending!!!

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