Grazelema, Arcos de la Frontera, Cadiz and Puerto Santa Maria
Ronda to Puerta Santa Maria (via Grazelema, Arcos de la Frontera, and Cadiz)
In the morning we drive from Ronda to Grazelema. The 35 kilometer trip was about an hour's drive on narrow winding road through olive groves. Grazelema sits sheltered in the shadow of craggy mountains and is a tiny town of whitewashed buildings with terracotta tiled roofs.
Once in town, we stop in the main plaza for coffee and then walk around. It was very quiet and cute, though probably sometimes on the tour bus route because there are parking lots on the edge of town with large spaces for busses. We enjoy sitting in the main square, sipping our café con leche, and watching the ubiquitous group of older men in cardigan sweaters and caps stand around gossiping and staring at the few tourists walking by. On the edge of the main square sits and ancient public water fountain with four different funny faces spouting water into a trough.
As I walk back to the car, I notice a little porch covered with colorful pots filled with flowers, two caged canaries, and a beautiful, long haired, Siamese cat. I stop to take a picture and the elderly women in the house comes outside to chat. She tells me the cat's name is Sofia and she found her as a kitten. Shortly after, we're on the road again, headed to Arcos de la Frontera.
Sometimes it's a mistake to search out your past. Sometimes memories are best left alone.
In 1991, when my husband and I lived in Spain, we spent a week in Andalucia during Semana Santa. Both of us have an idillic vision of that week; women in mantillas, processions of purple hooded penitents carrying heavy church icons slowly though the streets, eating seafood by the pound on the coast, and an exhilarating, but stupid "run with the bull" in Arcos de la Frontera. Yes, that was "bull" not "bulls" plural, as the town was way too small to have more than one bull run down its narrow streets. It was stupid because I realized almost too late that it was incredibly dangerous to be standing in a barricaded square waiting for a large black bull with 3 foot horns to charge down the street. I leapt over the barricade with moments to spare and a good friend wound up covered in the blood of the man standing next to him who was gored.
As traumatic as the run with the bull was, I was determined to see if I could find where we had been. I remembered the town as charming. It still is, but it has also grown significantly in the last 14 years. We parked in public underground garage in the main square at the bottom of the hill and walked up into the old town. Unfortunately, it's not as I remember it and absolutely none if it seems familiar. We walk around, admire the view and the winding streets instead, and lunch at a nice little local restaurant called Hostal San Carlos.
Since it was getting late in the day, we drive straight to our next night's stop, Puerta Santa Maria. This stop was another attempt on my part to recreate a past experience. During that fantastic week in '91, we had an amazing experience where a Spanish friend brought us to the sea and we bought seafood by the pound in an open air restaurant. In '99 when were were back in Spain, we'd spent a frustrating day trying to retrace our steps to no avail. This time I was determined and after a little research online figured that Puerto Santa Maria was the place.
We arrive just in time for siesta and to find everything closed (tourist office, castle, sherry bodegas, internet cafe, cathedral, etc). We are also too late to take the ferry trip over to Cadiz. Frustrated, we drive the 20 minutes over a bridge to Cadiz in search of a tapas bar I'd read about which also turns out to be closed. So instead, we walk around during the nightly paseo, and stop at an internet place where I have to feed coins into a machine to get the computer to stay online.
Back in Puerto Santa Maria we rest in the hotel before dinner. The Hotel Casa Del Regidor has 2 stars (Ribera del Rio, 30) and sits one block in from the water. There's very little street parking, but an underground lot 3 blocks away gives a discount to hotel guests.
The room has a nice bathroom and what turns out to be the best hairdryer of the trip. There are two single beds and a sitting area that looks out onto central courtyard. In terms of decor, it's basic, but the room is good sized, and has CNN on the TV. It's also the least expensive hotel of the trip at $74 including tax and overnight parking in the garage.
For diner we eat at the famous Romerijo which is just two blocks from the hotel. This place does sell seafood by the pound, both eat in and to go. You can order it boiled or fried. Most of the other restaurants along the water seemed to be closed for the season. We order fried calamari and steamed clams with garlic. Both are good, but we're underwhelmed and a bit disappointed by the experience.
Day 7 total miles 5.46