Friday, 17 August 2018

Of R♥nda and First Love

I discovered Ronda during the cusp of my very first romance. I was 25. Spain was an unfamiliar territory. Love was a concept I have only read about in the many books that lined my bedroom or marathon watched in the early years of my kDrama addiction. It was a new, exciting and different world.

Ronda was our first road trip together and that whirlwind romance turned into a lifetime commitment which led to the continuous discovery of fascinating new worlds, languages and cultures. But that one day remained rooted in my heart in a way that first love does, for it was, with all the nostalgic memories that still make my heart flutter.

Many years later when we briefly set up home in the south of Spain, I came back to visit with the little boy who felt more grown up than the three year old he had been and my friend Kamille who came to see us all the way from Dubai.

For no trip to Andalusia will be complete without the pilgrimage to what is often described as the most romantic of the Spanish pueblos blancos, perched on top of the many mountains of Serrania de Ronda, about 100kms from Malaga and reached either through a train journey as beautiful as its destination or through the long winding mountain road on a car for those who are braver (or more foolish).

We took the train from San Roque and as soon as we got out of the station, I realised that I had no idea how to get to the centre of town. I had thought that because I had once been there I could just as easily find my way around again.

But memories are often deceptive. How often do we remember the street names of the towns and cities we have visited? And yet we remember random moments made meaningful with the people we shared them with.

Under that tree we took a nap, my head rested under his arms, savouring that moment and dreaming of other places we were yet to explore.

On that vista, we listened to someone playing music, the melodies reaching our beating hearts.

In the park, on a path lined by trees, we sat by a bench and held hand while watching the world pass us by.

This second visit has been memorable too. By walking around without a map, we made took turns we wouldn't normally do and made discoveries we wouldn't have otherwise, looking at Ronda not as a tourists with a tick box but a travellers guided by our feet.

But we did find ourselves back on the tourist track, where art and inspiration was in abundance, from artists setting up their easels along the vista, to street musicians filling the air with passionate music and peddlers showing off their local creative wares.

We found a homely restaurant overlooking the valley below for lunch, filled our bellies and our souls and walked down the steep path leading down the ravine where we looked up Puente Nuevo, a 390-foot feat of engineering and the most famous bridge in Spain, to admire its full glory.

Alas, the uphill climb was not as easy as the way down, as they often are, but a promise of an ice cream cone when we reached the top was enough to make Isaac race to the top, well ahead of the adults who were left behind. It was an ice cream cone he deserved.

The harsh afternoon sun did not hinder the many tourists walking around the cobbled streets of the Old Town where we also found ourselves wandering. Later, while sitting on the picturesque square of Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, we marvelled at all the beauty we were able to see and experience in just a day.

My return to Ronda was like the reunion of first loves, bringing back memories of the rush of excitement that comes with the discovery of new emotions. And with it came the happy realisation that this quirky little Spanish mountain top village is as beautiful and romantic as I remember, just like the first and only love I know.

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