IMG_3364

Things To Do in Ronda During Your Stay

Ronda is one of the oldest towns in Europe, people have lived in the district for more than 30,000 years, and Ronda has been occupied for 9,000 years.

If you’re planning to visit Ronda here are the top things to do to help you enjoy your holiday. Ronda is a small city, and almost everything is within 500m of the Puento Nuevo bridge. Tourist office maps are printed in Spanish, English, German, French, Dutch, and Italian.

1. The Bullring (Plaza de Toros), considered to be the most historically important bullring in Spain, and home to the Ronda style with a matador on foot instead of horseback. The building can only seat 5000 people but has the largest central sand surface, known as the rueda, in the world. The structure is entirely built from locally quarried stone, then plastered and whitewashed. Read more.

2. The New Bridge (Puente Nuevo), the largest of Ronda’s several bridges that cross the impressive Tajo gorge that separates the city in two. The bridge is 98 meters tall with a tall central arch, and a room under the road that has been a hotel, a bar, a prison, and is now a small museum. Read more.

3. The Arab Baths are considered the most complete in Spain even though they are ruins, and offer a tantalizing glimpse into medievel Islamic times. Visitors are able to see the pump tower on which a donkey turned a crank that fed cold water to the baths. The water was heated and distributed in three rooms, a hot room for sweating out impurities, a warm room for massages and soaking, and a cold room to cool down. Read more.

4. The Mondragon Palace is a 13th century palace that archeologists believe was the home of Ronda’s Islamic King Abomelik when Ronda was the capital city of a large kingdom in Al-Andalus. The palace is home to the city museum with displays from the paleolithic, neolithic, Roman, Moorish, and Christian eras. Read more.

5. The medieval walls, with numerous gates and Islamic arches, high defensive towers and long stretches of impregnable stone wall that surround the old city and would take at least an hour to walk around. The most impressive sections are located at Almocabar in the Barrio San Francisco, Calle Goleta, and near the ruined flour mills in the Tajo gorge. Read more.

6. The Water Mine, a dark and scary escent to the Islamic era fortress carved into the gorge below the Casa del Rey Moro. Known as the Water Mine because for hundreds of years it operated as the only source of water into the city, with slaves chained to the steps to pass water bags upwards. Read more.

7. Visit the Santa Maria la Mayor church to see Ronda’s largest church, and also home to many of the Easter floats used in processions during Holy Week. The church was built on the foundations of an Islamic mosque, part of which is still visible in a small alcove as you enter. Read more.

8. Walk to the bottom of the gorge, though not for the faint hearted because this is a steep descent, but completely worth it to get that perfect photo of the bridge. Follow Calle Tenorio to the end and after the plaza take the walking track to the old Arab gate. If you wish, you can go through the gate and walk down and then under the Puente Nuevo.

9. Enjoy local tapas at one of the many outdoor bars in Ronda, with popular places being Plaza Socorro, Calle Nuevo, the Plaza in front of the Almocabar Gate, or Plaza Duquesa de Parcent.

10. Stroll through the old town at sunset as the tourists leave and Rondeños reclaim their city. This is the time when the real Ronda comes alive, with children playing in the plazas, families preparing their evening meal, and the sites and smells change completely.

Alcazaba in Antequera

Antequera’s Alcazaba Fortress

Originally part of a Roman citadel, the Alcazaba of Antequera has been an important fortress for and community centre for well over 8000 years as can be appreciated from the Dolmen structures situated just 2km away.

Excavations around the hill containing the fortress show several Roman ruins that are under investigation, including tombs and the Roman baths. During the Visigothic era some of the Roman walls were modified, but little of the Visigothic period remain that is visible to the eye. In the 11th century Antequera became a minor caliphate (taifa) and the beginnings of the current Alcazaba were started, including the overall geometry.

By the 14th century however Christian advances from the North had reduced Al-Andalus to little more than a rump state with Antequera, Ronda, and Almeria defending her borders from encroachment. To this end Antequera assumed an importance beyond her economic value to the Kingdom of Granada, and the Alcazaba was rebuilt and strengthened, including the addition of towers and extensions to protect access to the river below the fortress.

Entering the Alcazaba today the visitor is struck by how large the complex is, though part of this is made up of a church and two small streets of houses with a plaza between them. From the city we pass through the Arco de los Gigantes, which was named after a huge statue of Hercules and two robed figures that supported him. These have since been removed for protection and are now housed in the Municipal Museum.

The ticket office to enter the Alcazaba proper is inside the arch and to the left, and is one of the two information offices in Antequera. After paying your 6 Euros to enter, make your way across the plaza to the right of the arch and enter a smaller gate from where you’ll climb some steps to the next level, which is the top of the wall above the arch, and from which photos down into the city and toward the church can be taken.

From here most visitors seem to be struck by how devoid the Alcazaba is of any structures within the walls. In fact most of the complex appears to be laid out in gardens with just a few ruined walls to remind that this once used to be one of the most important frontier castles of the Kingdom of Granada.

Only when we walk toward the far corner and the Torre de Homenaje do we see signs that within these walls there once existed an army to defend Moorish Spain from the onslaught of the Christian North. Of course the Torre de Homenaje can’t be missed, but it is the deep well with the steel grill that caught my attention.

Why? Quite simply this wasn’t a well. It was in fact the dungeon where prisoners were dumped. Six metres deep, and only three metres in diameter, and completely exposed to the elements probably made this a hell hole. Part of the bottom has been cut out, either to make room for more prisoners, or by prisoners themselves to give them shelter from the sun and rain. Perhaps we’ll never know.

The torre de homenaje (Homage Tower) stands proud behind the dungeon and is one of the largest keeps in Andalucia, and built in two main stages, the lower two thirds built as part of the original Moorish defences, and the upper third which contains a bell and steepled roof named El Papabellotas.

The keep is also known as the 5 cornered tower because it is actually built in an L shape, whilst the bell tower sitting above it is square. It was from the keep that Fernando I of Aragon celebrated his victory over the Moors and the surrender of Antequera to his forces on the 16th September 1410.

So significant was Fernando’s win at Antequera that part of his official titles became Don Fernando of Antequera after he was crowned King of Aragon in 112. To this day the main street in Antequera is still named Calle Infante Don Fernando.

The tower and bell were paid for when a cork forest was sold by the crown to raise the funds needed, hence the name El Papabellotas, and at the time the bell was one of the largest in the world. It was primarily used to mark the time, specifically to call the faithful to Mass, and to help farmers know when to irrigate their fields.

Also not to be missed within the Alcazaba complex are the Torre Blanca, the Roman tomb, and the views through the horseshoe shaped windows of the Torre Blanca.

As part of your ticket you may also have entry to the Collegiate Church (abandoned 1692) which is adjacent the Alcazaba, and for interest this is worth popping your head in, if only to see the float with the seven dragon heads on it, and the grave stone in the floor with the skull and cross bones engraved in it.

synagogue-cordoba07

Jewish Synagogue in Cordoba

The only surviving pre-expulsion synagogue in Andalucia, and only of only three in all of Spain, the “Sinagoga de Córdoba” has a special place in the history of Jews, it was in Cordoba that the Jews reached their greatest level of influence and from where some of their greatest minds of the medieval era lived and worked.

Built in 1315 (5075 in the Jewish calendar), the temple replaced others destroyed in various pogroms after the fall of the Cordoba caliphate and during the time of the brutal Almohad and Almoravid reigns of Al-Andalus. The Jewish Quarter of Cordoba at this time was to all intents and purposes an independent city within the walls of Cordoba, even to the extent of being walled off.

The synagogue itself was designed by local architect Ishap (Isaac) Moheb and built in the Mudejar style popular in the time, and contains an entrance courtyard from which one enters a small hallway, and beyond which is the prayer room. A stairway in the eastern side of the hallway leads upstairs to the women’s gallery.

Within the prayer room the Eastern wall contains an alcove for the Shabbat candle holder, and to the right (left of the candle) is an inscription that translated into English reads “Provisional sanctuary and abode for the Testimony completed by Yishaq Moheb, son of Mr Efraim Wadawa, in the year 75. So return, Oh God hasten to return to Jerusalem”

Another inscription must have also existed on the opposite side of the alcove, but sadly this has long since been destroyed. Around the outside of the alcove there is an inscription which from right to top and then left reads “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name: For loving kindness and for thy truth, for thou hast maginified thy word above all thy name. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; That may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.”

Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the same year the Kingdom of Granada surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella, during a period in which the ascendancy of the Catholic Church and dogma was renewed with vigour. The synagogue was closed, and Hebrew frescoes on the walls plastered over.

From that time until the 1880s the building was used first as a hospital, and then in 1588 was bought by the shoemakers guild of Cordoba and dedicated to their patron saints St Crispin and St Crispiniano. During the 19th century the original panelled roof was replaced with a barrel vault and new plasterwork, but in 1884 a wall partially collapsed exposing the original Hebrew frescoes again, leading to the discovery by Don Mariano Parraga, a Catholic priest, of the building’s original purpose.

The synagogue was declared a national monument in 1885 and restoration started, wih further work done in 1929 by Felix Hernandez, and in 1977 for the 850th anniversay of the bith in Cordoba of Maimonides, one of the most important Jewish scholars ever to have lived, in whose honour a statue was commissioned which now sits in the plaza in front of the synagogue.

Aside from the Synagogue which is open to the public, Cordoba is also home to a small but comprehensive museum and library decicated to the Jewish past of city in the Casa de Sefarad

Online Shopping from the UK

Online Shopping from the UK for Spain Residents.

We frequently hear from expat women living in Spain that shopping can be difficult, Spanish sizes just aren’t the same as UK sizes, or Northern European ladies aren’t the same shape as Mediterranean women, or perhaps a particular brand is desired and not available in Spain.

In Ronda and other small towns most shopping is limited to small family owned fashion stores, Spanish high street brands such as Zara, or to foreign brands that tailor their range to Spanish sizes. Typically this means that plus sized ladies often struggle to dress fashionably without either visiting Marks and Spencer or BHS on the coast or Gibraltar.

However, it is possible to shop online using a debit or credit card, and in some cases a Paypal account, and have items shipped to Spain to your home address. Most retailers also offer free or cheap delivery if orders exceed a minimum amount, and if shopping for the season or several people in the family, this can amount to paying not much more than visiting a UK high street store and all without the cost of a ticket back home.

We’ve excluded online shopping portals such as Amazon, eBay, Pixmania etc because these companies operate in Spain. If you know of any other UK-based online retailers who deliver to Spain that aren’t included in our list, please let us know.

All information below is accurate as at May 2012. Delivery costs quoted may change in time.

Childrens Clothing
Adams operate an online store with a full selection of clothing, books, toys, swimwear, and baby items. Standard delivery to Spain takes upto 8 working days and is free if order exceeds £50 otherwise £4.99. Payment via card, Paypal, or Amazon payments.

The Kids Window operate a large site covering the majority of their product range priced in Euros in the international site. Spain residents need to click the “Outside UK?” link at the bottom of the page and then select Europe from the options. Delivery charges start from €6.50 with items dispatched in 24 hours. Payment with all major credit cards.

Mothercare‘s website is extensive and offers children’s clothing, footwear, pushchairs, cots, car seats, and maternity wear, and they offer to deliver to Spain from their UK website. Couriers are used so fees start from £14.95 and will be delivered in 3-7 working days. All major credit cards are accepted.

Fashion Clothing
Wallis (womenswear) website offers the complete range of instore items, including blouses, pants, jackets, dresses, skirts, accessories, petite clothing, and shoes. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Wallis card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Topshop offers women’s clothing, shoes, accessories, and make-up on their website. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Topshop card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Dorothy Perkins website covers their entire range of women’s clothing, collections, shoes, accessories, and the magazine. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Dorothy Perkins card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Evans Plus Size online shopping is for women sized 14-32, and includes cothing, lingerie, shoes, and accessories. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Evans card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Miss Selfridge have their complete women’s store online including clothing, accessories, shoes, petites, collections, and going out items. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £60. Payment by Miss Selfridge card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Monsoon carry an extensive range of womens clothes and shoes, weddings, children, and mens clothing, as well as accessories. Delivery to Spain costs £3.95 taking 4-7 days. Payment is by major credit card.

Topman men’s fashion provide an extensive range of clothing, shoes, suits, and accessories. Standard delivery to Spain is £5. Payment by Topman card, or major credit cards.

Shoes
Jones Bootmaker offer their range of brand-name shoes including the ever popular Timberland, Birkenstock, Geox, Gabor, Hush Puppies, Sketchers and more online. Delivery to Spain is by Royal Mail and starts at £17.50. Payment by major credit card.

Department Stores
Debenhams, every item on the Debenhams website can be delivered to Spain, with delivery fees starting at £7 and taking 5-6 days. Payment by Debenhams card, and all major credit cards.

Harrods website covers fashion and clothing, shoes, sport, food and wine, and gift hampers. Delivery costs to Spain start from £20 and expect 5-6 days. Payment can be made with a Harrods charge card, and major credit cards. Harrods gift certificates cannot be used in their online shop.

House of Fraser claim to have over 1000 brands catalogued in their online shopping website, including beauty, clothing, shoes, handbags, furniture, electrical, and more. Standard delivery to Spain starts at £6 and takes upto 8 days t deliver. An express service delivered in 3 days starts at £10. Payment via House of Fraser store card, and major credit cards.

Marks and Spencer have stores in Spain, but their complete product range is available from their UK website such as clothing, lingerie, home and furniture, technology, food, and gifts. Delivery charges start at £7.50 with arrival in 6-9 days. Payment by Marks and Spencer cards or gift certificate and major credit cards.

John Lewis have a very large website, covering home and garden, electrical, clothing, beauty, babies and children, toys, and sport. They deliver to peninsula Spain (sorry, no islands) with fees starting at &pound7.50; and between 4 to 7 days to receive the package. Payment by John Lewis card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Littlewoods have put almost their entire catalog online, including mens and womens fashion, child and baby, sporting goods, home and garden, electrical, entertainment, jewellery, beauty, and toys. Delivery fees are quoted as £5, with occasional free delivery over &pound30; and taking upto 8 days. Payment by major credit cards and Paypal.

Next have their catalog online, but it’s necessary to change location to Spain to see which items are available to delivery amongst clothing, shoes, accessories, sports, and homeware. Delivery is currently free, taking 3 working days via DHL. Payment by credit card.

Lidl and Decathlon May Soon Come To Ronda

After the huge debacle of the Eroski Shopping Centre project collapsing amidst police investigations of corruption against the former mayor and some of his closest colleagues, news is beginning to emerge that other major brands, namely Lidl and Decathlon, may soon announce projects to establish a presence in the city.

The Eroski centre on Avenida Malaga had been intended to house a new bus station, a hypermarket, cinemas, food court, and other retail space, and the project collapse means hundreds of jobs that were to have been created during construction and then as part of ongoing operations have not materialised, leading the current PP/PA government to seek out new opportunities for investment in Ronda.

Ronda still does not have a current general plan (PGOU) for urban development, leaving many hoped for projects in a state of limbo, including hotel developments in the Casco Historico, and the much hyped tourist information and welcome centre along the Tajo. Of more pressing concern however is the lack of space within the industrial area for job creating investment.

Danial Harillo (Delegado de Obras y Urbanismo) the councellor for urban works has confirmed to Ronda Today that the PGOU is his highest priority, and that in the coming weeks he is hopeful the amendments presented by his team will be accepted by the Junta de Andalucia, and that after a 3 month public consultation it will be possible to sign off on the plan which has been in progress since 1995.

Additional zoning for new industrial and commercial developments is to be allocated on land near to the new hospital, as well as expanding the poligono towards the railway line and ring road, both of which would give much needed space for large developments. Lidl had previously expressed an interest in a plot adjacent to the Ford dealership on C/ Rio Odiel, however this now appears to be in doubt.

Decathlon had been mooted to be interested in taking control of one of the Supersol locations in the city, and the recent sale of the entire Supersol chain to Lithuania’s Maxima group could yet see one of the two stores close despite assurances to the contrary. Maxima group had been linked with France’s Carrefour chain as possible new owners of the two stores in Ronda, though it now appears Maxima will start a rebranding exercise nationally after an audit of store performance and customer profiling is completed.

Rumours around Ronda suggest the Supersol on Calle Genal would be the likely loser if one of the stores was to close, strong competition from Aldi and Mercadona having made the store uneconomic to operate, and despite the possible conversion of a vacant lot opposite Mercadona as the new location for the city bus station.

In related news, the mayor Maria-Paz Fernandez has confirmed she is keen to close a deal on the location of the old military headquarters in the city on c/ Commandante Salvador Carrasco which would see an underground carpark built along with a cultural centre and outdoor plaza that will likely house a library.

Information – Hotel booking – Activities Events in Ronda and Surrounding Villages