La Ronda and Sotogrande, Spain
In the past when I thought about the South of Spain I used to picture high-rise blocks of apartments, cafes competing for the best price on egg and chips and a lot of burnt shoulders. My recent trip to Sotogrande and Ronda has changed that.
In a hectic world there is a word to sum up Southern Spain: Easy. We took a short two-hour flight from London to Gibraltar and arrived at a small airport where within 30 minutes we were driving away in our hire car. There is a clever trick here and that is to get the car hire from the Spanish side of the border. It is a short stroll from the airport but saves queuing for hours to go through the border control.
Sotogrande is a purpose-built small town with a marina, shops, restaurants and some absolutely gorgeous villas and apartments. If you want sunshine, peace and quiet and the ability to lose yourself in a good book, this place is ideal. It is not rustic and authentic but is it pretty, clean, quiet and utterly relaxing. Our grand plans of adventure and touring melted away into afternoons asleep by the pool in the shade. There is also a lovely beach with a couple of funky beach bars and lots of people watching to be done if you can find the energy (and not a burnt shoulder in sight).
One day we did head out into the countryside and made our way slowly through the famous white mountain villages to Ronda. It is lovely that such a short drive from the more functional coastline of Spain has you driving through narrow winding cobbled streets with the most incredible views and a sleeping dog you have to coax out the way to continue your journey.
Ronda is a really pretty town with the older part and more modern shopping area. We explored the city for a few hours and settled into a lazy lunch of Tapas. If the main areas are busy at lunchtime there is a lovely square in the old quarter called Plaza Duquesa de Parcent and this is a pretty setting for a quieter spot in the shade. It is a great town to explore and the views of the ravine are spectacular.
If you are on the other side of the bridge there is a great Tapas Bar called Traga Tapas on Calle Nueva. They have an outside seating area but in the summer it is actually cooler within the thick stone walls inside so do not be put off escaping the heat.
From there it was back to the villa to relax and enjoy a cold San Miguel by the pool while the swifts and swallows chased the insects in the evening sky.