A lot has happened since my last post in March of this year. In April 2018, we went to southern Spain covering the Malaga-Sevilla-Ronda-Gibraltar region. In the summer, we went up to the bay area in Northern California and ate the finest meal we have eaten in the US. French Laundry (thank you Amiben)! In November, we had the most amazing trip to India. This blog will only cover Spain. I will blog about other trips soon.
|Poente Romano, Ronda, Spain|
In a short week in Spain, we ate superb food, drank fine wine, and saw a bunch of touristy and non-touristy places. We rented a car and somewhat whimsically visited random places including gorgeous blanco villages that were not on any tourist map.
One of my friends had plans on visiting the same area of Spain in the summer; here is an excerpt of the email I wrote to her.
Ronda: A bit touristy but I would recommend going there to enjoy the superb views, narrow cobblestone streets, Roman origins and excellent views. We enjoyed a lazy lunch at a restaurant overlooking the famous Puente Romano (Roman bridge) and the vast valleys while sipping wine. The drive to Ronda is also nothing short of spectacular.
Cueva de la Pileta: Not many people go here, but this is a cave with petroglyphs 40,000+ years old. It’s on private land and reservations are recommended, but we just walked up and joined a tour (they accept cash only). The tour was led by one of the farmers; who happened to be the great grandson of Jose Bullon who discovered the entrance to the cave more than a hundred years ago. Apparently, the cave has tens of thousands of bats, but we only saw maybe a dozen.
|Halo Boutique Hotel, Sevilla, Spain|
|DDG Retreat, Caseras, Spain|
Sevilla: Another touristy town but there is a palace inside called Real Alcazar that I recommend visiting. We stayed in the heart of old Sevilla at a pretty cool hotel called Halo Boutique Hotel right next to Real Alcazar. The palace has some pretty incredible history with Islamic, Jewish and Christian symbols right next to each other (shows you how times have changed). Sevilla also has superb food – it is a foodie destination with old-world charm.
|Real Alcazar, Sevilla, Spain|
|Laguna de Fuente Piedra, Spain|
Laguna de Fuente Piedra: This is where we saw 10,000+ flamingos in a sea of pink (along with egrets, stilts, herons, avocets and other wading birds). Apparently, this is the largest nesting flamingo colony in all of Europe with 30,000 flamingos coming in each year (we were there a couple of weeks after peak season). This place is surprisingly not crowded and only an hour from Sevilla. If you are into birds and photography, you should definitely go early in the morning or late in the evening.
|Blanco Villages in Southern Spain|
|Laguna de Fuente Piedra ,Spain|
Caceres: This area of Spain is dotted with small white villages scattered in the hills. We stayed in a villa called DDG Retreat right by Caceres. It’s owned by a Russian couple and has Indonesian (Balinese) décor. It’s very secluded and somewhat hard to find but if you are looking for serenity, this place is great (don’t expect the best of service but you will enjoy the peace and quiet). The drive from Caceres to Ronda is nothing short of spectacular. On the way, we randomly met a couple of naturalists (who spoke zero English). We struck up a conversation and were able to see wild boar, bighorn sheep and wild mountain goats! There are also stocks of domestic sheep, goat, horses and donkeys along the route to Ronda. You can park your car and just walk in to any one of the dozen or so blanco villages to enjoy completely local culture. There was a bacon festival with flamenco singing and dancing that we walked right into. There were zero tourists; all locals and us gringos (Indian gringos at that)!
|Old Spanish Man, Caceras, Spain|
|Goat Cabra, Spain|
Marbella: We swung by here but found it way too commercial. We are not beach-type people, hence avoided it!
|Real Alcazar Canal, Sevilla, Spain|
Tarifa: It’s a gateway to Morocco (Tangier). We didn’t go!
Gibraltar: If you are going to Tarifa, swing by here. While Binita sipped coffee at a local café, I went out for a run along the marina. It was somewhat fun, but nothing special. Gibraltar is British territory; hence you will need your passport to cross over. People are enamored by the macaques on the rocks; but I have seen plenty of monkeys in India.
Malaga: This was the airport we flew in-and-out of. Apparently, it has an amazing museum with old artifacts and some excellent parks to see birds but we had no time for it. There are plenty of flights to and from London to Malaga.
That’s all for now. I have qualified for the Boston Marathon in April, 2019. Training begins on December 25. I have also signed up for the Ironman 70.3 Goa, India in October, 2019.
I plan to blog often in 2019. Stay tuned…