My parents came to visit us in Spain this past summer (all about their time with us in Madrid here!), and like I mentioned earlier this week, spending nine straight days in the city just felt like a bit too much. About a year ago Danny and I spent one of our extended weekends off of school in the south checking out a couple places that are kind of "must-sees" in Spain (Granada and Córdoba), as well as a few others (Ronda and Setenil de las Bodegas) that seemed interesting. While in Ronda, we decided we really liked it (our first trip here!), as well as the place we stayed at while in Ronda and after spending weeks (okay, months) this past spring tossing around where to go and what to do with my parents, we finally decided on my first thought - an extended stay at Finca la Guzmana just outside of Ronda with a few day trips from there.
On the Tuesday morning of my parents' visit, we picked up a rental car and drove an hour south to Toledo. Toledo is one of those day trips from Madrid that, along with Segovia, you kind of have to do. Crazily enough, it had been almost two years since we'd first been - we spent a whole weekend there on our first visit (see it and all our new-to-Spain-ness here!) but had just never returned for some reason. In some ways it felt like we were doing it for the first time (you know, me and my terrible memory!), so we were all experiencing it anew together. We did the classic Toledo tourist things - walked the narrow streets (still decorated from a recent festival) and on and around the old city walls and went in the cathedral.
D - At this time I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Tom and Nancy to jamón by getting these super thick ham sandwich type things but as it turns out it wasn't a good idea and it almost made Nancy throw up. Oh well...not every idea is a winner and besides, more ham for me. Actually though, then I didn't feel so well. I can't remember what these sandwich-type things are called but they are pretty much just a truck load of ham.
After spending the morning in Toledo and a few more hours in the car, we arrived in Ronda and headed straight to the finca (Spanish term for a country estate or ranch, usually on a good bit of land as well) for a late lunch and a swim for the heartier member of our group (the pool is heated by sun only, and it was quickly disappearing - the sun, not the pool!).
Every morning we enjoyed breakfast made by our host (the finca operates like a bed and breakfast) before we drove into Ronda for a walk around for views of the Puente Nuevo, the gorge, and the surrounding area. We spent the majority of the remainder of the day lounging around the finca, swimming, reading, eating ice cream, and really just taking it easy. I had originally planned for us to drive (two hours) to Sevilla, but I think we all agreed that this low-key day worked out much better. Three out of the four of us had visited Sevilla before, and besides, we'd been going pretty hard seeing sights and doing it all in the heat, too, so taking a day to just relax felt like a breath of fresh air.
We enjoyed Wednesday's laid-back pace so much that there was talk of doing more of the same (i.e. not much) on Thursday, but some of us also had hopes of getting to the coast, so off to Marbella we went. None of us had ever been there, which was certainly part of it's allure to me, and a reason why I chose it - something we could all experience together for the first time! - but it also meant that if it was a terrible, dumpy place, we'd have no prior experience with it. A simple Google search put my mind at rest a bit - Marbella is coastal city with a swanky marina and pretty beaches, all set along the backdrop of the Sierra Blanca mountains.
It took us a little over an hour to drive from the finca to Marbella, and after walking through the well-kept, whitewashed old part of the city on our way to beach, we stopped for lunch at Gourmet Burger Room - not only did we appreciate the great food and eating outside on the patio, but their spacious bathrooms came in handy for changing into our swimsuits! ;) We swam at a couple of different beaches, and had a really good experience. We didn't pay for chairs or umbrellas (we also didn't stay all day), but the sand was soft where we were and the water was warm (enough) and the waves in some places were almost non-existent.
D - The second place we swam was actually one of the better natural swimming spots I had been to up to this point in my life: clear water, clean and super sandy ocean floor, a few little fish here and there. Unfortunately, all of my wild swimming adventures are a bit dampened by my constant paranoia that a shark is going to come out of nowhere and viciously bite one of my prized body parts. "No please! Not my right arm! Take my left instead!"
Back in Ronda for dinner, we ate pizza out on the street - a whole street has been closed off (perhaps permanently it seems?) and restaurants have set out tables and chairs for customers to dine al fresco as long as the weather is good - which it seems to almost always be in this part of the country. Afterwards, my mom suggested we take a final walk around town, and I'm really glad she did - Ronda is so lovely.
Friday morning we began our trek back to Madrid, this time with a stop in Córdoba. Danny and I took a day trip to Córdoba back when we went to Sevilla, and while we weren't too big on the town itself, we were big fans of the Mezquita (see all that here!). We figured it'd be a fairly easy in and out since Córdoba isn't huge, and we mostly wanted to see the Mezquita and eat lunch, and it'd be a good way to break up the five hour drive from Ronda to Madrid. Overall, it was a good stop (the Mezquita was pretty stunning, as could be expected), but we unfortunately experienced the return of the extreme heat we'd been having in Madrid while in Córdoba. We were even able to track down the Moroccan restaurant we ate at last time we were in town, Taberna Bocaito Andalusi, even though it had relocated and it felt like a real shot in the dark as we walked across town to find it (still good, but not serving the honey fried eggplant that captured us on our first visit). With full bellies, we were ready to wrap things up and get back to Madrid - if you didn't see the rest of our time with my parents (essentially the weekends on both sides of the road trip), you can check it out here.
We covered a fair amount of ground in our four day trip out of Madrid, from the center of the country to the coast - from the smaller towns of Toledo and Ronda to the coastal resort town of Marbella to Córdoba, a city with diverse influences like the Romans and the Moors, among many others, and back to Madrid, the EU's third largest city, my parents really got a decent taste of Spain, I think. I'm really thankful we were all able to take this trip and create so many fun memories together. We had to spend a bit more time in the car than I had anticipated, but our usual form of contact these days is via text message, video chat, or snail mail, so a few extra hours spent driving wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I think the road trip, and in particular, the low-key time we spent at the finca eating meals by the pool, sleeping in a little, swimming, and just being together were the highlight of it all. It had us planning out summers to come and saying things like, "Next time let's all just meet up at the finca!" and "What's the closest airport?" So, Mom and Dad, you fly into Málaga (only 60km away!), and we'll meet you at the finca - anytime! We don't even have to wait till next summer! ;)