Idle times bring forth idle questions – how is it that Spain is such a social nation, such a familial place? Oh, maybe not in Madrid – who knows what takes place there, behind the formidable walls of tightly packed buildings. But elsewhere?
It’s Saturday and again the streets are packed – initially along the pedestrian shopping street, then flooding the cafés and restaurants, outdoors until the sun sets, then indoors for another round.
I smile as we pass this young man – holding hands with his girlfriend, but, too, with an arm around his mom’s shoulder.
This grandmother is waiting for her children and grandchildren to arrive. I know this because a second later they do arrive and the kisses come and the loud banter begins. [They are not quiet here, in the south. Animated and boisterous, their voices carry in a friendly, outgoing way. I am alive! – as if to say. I am here with you, bursting with things to say!]
Sounds carry. Ed and I do a trail hike – not too long, some five hours of walking and just one hour of it uphill. This is what I knew about Ronda: it offers fantastic walks in the hills that surround it and you don’t need a car to get to a good path.
[Though I have neglected here showing off the real reason visitors come to this town. It's to stare down at the gorge and admire the incredible old bridge that spans it.]
Why was it built? How was it built?
But we're walking away from it all. Among greening fields and olive groves at first...
...the sun is dazzling, the cool air is perfect for hiking. I’m down to a tshirt early on, regretting the jacket and scarf.
As we get higher, the olives give way to oak trees – not used for cork here. Not yet anyway,
Goats. Now we come across the goats, with their funny beards and curved horns.
They run away as we get closer. They like their own company. They move in packs.
We go off trail to follow a path that climbs a mountain – a hill really – and it offers lovely views, some vines, too. Wines and sherrys are made in the terrain between Ronda and Jerez.
But the road ends before we reach the summit. There is a farmstead...
...and the farmers and their daughter watch us walk the road as their dog barks and barks. They pose for a photo too, grinning in their doorway.
We ask if we can climb the hill to the top, even as there is no road or path here.
Yes, yes, go there, it is a bonito view! Down to Ronda!
So we climb further still, carefully finding solid stepping places between rocks and clumps of wild sage and at the top, the view is indeed so splendid and the air so breezy and warm that we spend a good half hour perched on a rock, me in the sun, Ed in the shade of an oak tree.
And the sound carries so well that we hear the roosters and the baby goats from the valley below. It is oddly soothing, even though it sounds like there are wailing babies somewhere there, in the distance.
We go down the mountain and resume the looped trail. There are the occasional joggers and mountain bikers here. Fitness is on people’s minds. I saw that in the Lorca park in Granada where every few steps we’d come across signs telling you how you might stretch or exercise. True, a vast majority is sitting around tables eating, drinking, but there are those who, like us, take to the hills.
And in the evening, late late evening, as we look around again for a place to eat dinner, this other question comes to mind – how can a restaurant survive with prices like these? We choose a very nice little place with a set menu – 11 Euros per person, including three courses (we pick huge raw vegetable salads, but it could have been soup or paella, then for the second course a fish baked in lemon juice and olive oil, then a flan for dessert) and including a glass of wine and all taxes and service charges? Where in there is there room for profit?
Ah, the mysteries behind the Spanish way of life, in the land where oranges are plentiful and the sun keeps shining down on us day after day.