Blog Launch Week: No Time for Wine!
Let me start this blog with a very heartfelt thank you to all my inaugural readers. You made me feel that starting a blog two days after I retired was a good idea.
This blog is posted a day early, because of the Easter Weekend.
It was an amazing week! I connected with people from all over the world and received wonderful emails from many dear friends. Boomers are clearly on the go, on planes, trains, automobiles, ships and bikes. Here are a few lines from emails that made this boomer want to hit the road for exotic places:
- We are in Cambodia right now on a bike tour en route to Angkor, a World Heritage site. We have just come from Vietnam where we stayed in Hoi An, another site.
- Old San Juan is a UNESCO site. I have been here since the end of October.
- I’m in Ljubljana Slovenia! Drove here from Munich with Anne and her Fiancé.
- I am in Australia for 6 weeks – last day. Had a great time in Melbourne, South Australia, Tasmania (biking tour self-guided on the east coast and a gorgeous guided hike to the Bay of Fires
- Since we were last together I dived in the Solomon Islands and the Maldives. I go almost every year to Bonaire after our family trip to Aruba.
- We are on a ship! We joined the small Seabourn Odyssey five weeks ago and have sailed slowly across the South Pacific before crossing the Equator and the dateline.
- We are in Florida now and the weather is absolutely spectacular. Then we are going on a 7-day cruise out of Tampa. Stops are Key West, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. We are heading to Italy for 10 days on April 10- Rome, Venice and Tuscany.
- The Paris trip flew by. Now on my way down to NY and DC.
- I leave on March 27 for Arizona for 6 weeks.
- Greetings from Indonesia! I am in Bali, coming near the end of a month long tour of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
- Just back from 10 weeks in Costa Rica and booked the same amount of time in Mexico next year
Boomers are on the go! I hope BoomerVoice will become a sharing platform for boomers to exchange travel news.
Please continue to read and share!
This week’s blog continues in Spain, saying goodbye to Granada and travelling to Ronda.
After the Alhambra, what next? We went to Spain with no itinerary after Granada so we needed a plan. I looked at the itinerary that Rick Steves follows on his tours through southern Spain. On his way to Seville, he stops for a night in Ronda, a mountainous town on the road to nowhere. He visits it to see a bridge. I’m not an engineer. Why does Rick Steves take his tours to Ronda? Then I looked at Google Images and saw The Bridge! We were going to Ronda!
It is a two-hour trip from Granada to Ronda, by train or bus. We opted for the train because I get a little carsick on winding mountain roads. However, the train from Granada was closed for construction. Instead, we boarded a bus for the first hour that eventually took us to a train station to continue the journey to Ronda. We were a bit nervous about whether we were on the right bus and train, but it all worked out. Here is a link to RailEurope.
We went to Ronda to see a bridge and discovered an absolutely delightful mountain town, with great bars, restaurants and pedestrian streets.
Our first destination was The Bridge. Finding it was easy: it was right outside our hotel. The first bridge that spanned Ronda was designed with a single arch. It collapsed, plunging 50 people to their deaths. The ‘new bridge’ was completed in 1793.
Canadian engineers wear an iron ring on the pinky finger of the working hand as a reminder of their professional obligations: Do Not Make a Bridge that Collapses! The rings are symbolically made from a bridge in Quebec that collapsed during construction, killing 75 construction workers. As I stood on the new bridge in Ronda, packed with cars, trucks and tourists, I hoped the triple-arch design of the new bridge would hold.
There are several look-out spots on the bridge for tourists to take pictures of the sweeping vistas of olive orchards in the distance.
Don’t look down! It is a sheer 400’ drop!
The Paradores Crown Jewel:
In this picture, you can see a grand old building, perched on the precipice of the gorge. It was built in 1761. It is now the crown jewel of the Paradores line of hotels, owned and operated by the Spanish government. Paradores hotels offer luxury accommodations in castles, palaces, convents and other historic buildings. The revenue from the hotels contributes to the upkeep of these heritage buildings. We booked into the Ronda Paradores for one night but extended our stay for a second night when we saw our room! We had a huge, beautiful room with a stunning terrace and a sweeping view of the gorge. We felt like moving in for the rest of our trip. You can see our room in the picture above. It is the top room on the left side with a rooftop terrance.
This is the view from our terrace! If you look closely, you can see a path running down the right side of the photo. The few little white dots on the path are people. The path continues along the sheer face of the cliff, all the way to the base of the bridge. We decided to be adventurous and go for a hike.
As we started our descent into the gorge, I took a picture of people on the path below us, where we were headed. The two hikers at the bottom of the photo look very small….and the path looks very narrow. But undeterred, we set off ….. into the abyss.
We made it!
This is a picture of my sister at the base of the bridge.
Do not back up to get the perfect selfie!
We found another path that connects with a road through an olive orchard at the bottom of the gorge. We decided to take it.
As we walked through the orchard, we tasted the unripe olives. They were hard and bitter.
There is a hostel at the bottom of gorge. We had a nice cup of coffee to give us some energy for the hike back to the top.
Are you game for a 113 km hike?
Near the bottom of the gorge, there is a billboard with information on a 113 km hike that starts in Ronda.
Has anyone taken this hike?
This is what the sign says:
The long distance trail Gran Senda de la Serrania de Ronda or GR-141 goes along six routes with a total of 113 km awaiting for a doughty explorer to discover the most well-kept secrets of Ronda.
For us, a hike down and up the gorge was enough for one day.
We were ready for lunch and then a tour of the bullring, the other major attraction in Ronda. The bullring is a five-minute walk from the bridge. I found the visit very interesting. I did a little research and found lots of connections to the bullring in Ronda.
Romancing the Bullfighter
I’m a Fool to Want You
“I’m a fool to Want You” is the first cut on Bob Dylan’s tribute album to Frank Sinatra, Shadows in the Night¸ released last year. Listen to this album when you are alone, in the dark, with a drink in hand and ready for a trip down the highway of regrets. Sinatra recorded “I’m a Fool to Want You” after Ava Gardner left him and fled to Spain. There, she became friends with Ernest Hemingway and adopted his passion for bullfighting. She had a doomed and stormy relationship with the famous bullfighter, Luis Miguel Dominguin. A new tell-all book about their affair was a featured release while we were in Spain, with copies piled high in every bookstore.
If you want to feel Gardner’s passion for bullfighters, then visit the museum housed in one of Spain’s oldest bullrings, the Plaza de Toros, in Ronda. Gardner was a frequent visitor to Ronda to see her friend, Hemingway, and to follow her Spanish bullfighter.
Hemingway spent many summers in Ronda. He was a foreign correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. His most celebrated novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It tells the story of a young American fighter in a guerrilla unit during the war. The execution of fascist sympathizers described in Chapter 10 is an enduring and pivotal scene. Hemingway based this plotline on actual events where 500 suspected sympathizers were thrown into the gorge in Ronda.
Orson Welles, famed Hollywood actor, director, writer and producer, best remembered for his iconic film, Citizen Kane, spent many summers in Ronda while working on an unreleased feature film on Don Quixote. Welles developed deep friendships with renowned bullfighters, Dominguin and Antonio Ordonez. In accordance with his wishes, Welles’s remains were cremated in Hollywood and taken to Ronda, where they were covered with flowers and buried on Ordonez’s country estate.
Just this year, it was announced that statues to celebrate Hemingway and Welles are to be erected in the bullring in Ronda.
Madonna shot her video for her hugely successful “Take a Bow” in the bullring in Ronda. The song tells the tragic love story of Madonna as the neglected lover of a bullfighter. Her only option is to say goodbye to unrequited love. Madonna sings:
Take a Bow
How was I to know you’d break
You’d break my heart
I’ve always been in love with you
I guess you’ve always known it’s true
You took my love for granted, why? Oh, why?
The show is over, say goodbye
The vulnerability that Madonna showed in the video was an inspiration to Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” video. Britney Spears’s “Radar” is a tribute to Madonna’s “Take a Bow.”
I stood in the centre of the bullring in Ronda and I imagined all the history, all the emotion, all the love, all the passion of Gardner, Hemingway, Welles, Madonna and anyone else who has experienced Ronda.
I am so deeply satisfied that I visited Ronda.