It’s only 8:40 when I write this. Early night. Got up at 8:00 and had light breakfast with our group. John and I went walking ostensibly to find an ATM, but we did a much longer walk. Went across the “new bridge.” Now, new is a relative term since this bridge was finished in 1790 and replaced a bridge over the same gorge that had collapsed earlier after an earthquake. Across the bridge is the more commercial part of Ronda. On our “old town” area where the hotel is, about less than 1,000 people live while on the other side of the bridge, about 24,000 live. And tourist season (which is still on now) brings in over 2.5 million visitors a year. But John and I were out before the hoards descended.

We found the ATM and then walked into a park that ended up having a spectacular view of the farmlands below. Really below! Then we walked past the bullring, which we knew we were seeing later and back to the hotel. To our rooms until meeting outside at 11:30.

Met Armando, our guide. We walked, he talked. First went to the church behind the hotel, Virgin of la Paz, where a wedding was about to take place and folks were dressed in their finest. Onward into the heart of the city on the other side of the bridge. Now the huge tourist groups were all over the place. And it’s busy on a Saturday normally since this is the only commercial center within a radius of 95km.

We walked down and around to a park overlook of the old bridge from the other side and got its history. From there we went to the bullring (Plaza de Toros) where we got more information about bulls, horses, bullfighting as an industry, the whole process of the bullfight from when the groups of bulls are brought in to what they do after the bulls are killed in the ring … butchered and sold in local meat markets. And we went not only into the center of the ring as we had in Seville, but also to the highest seats to take sweeping images. Played with some shooting through Kathy’s crystal ball, which she had schlepped from home.

At 3:00 we were ushered into a nearby restaurant, Restaurant Jerez, for a huge, multi-course lunch with wine that lasted until 5:00. We waddled back to the hotel. At 5:30, some of took a taxi all the way down to the bottom of the gorge to get some good angles on the old bridge. Then back to hotel. Around 7:30, we all congregated in the square we were in last night and had wine/beer an olives. It got chilly and it’s been a long week, so Bruce, Pam, and I walked back to the hotel.

Images from the day are downloaded. Might play with a few, but intend to be in bed by 11:00 instead of the normal 1:00AM. And tomorrow is my 77th birthday.

Got up at 8:00, finished packing, had nice breakfast with the group. Left parador around 10:00 with suitcases in their truck and us walking downhill with all our carryon stuff. Trip to Ronda was through nice farming land with olive, cotton, hay, corn. Did a potty stop along the way at nice village good for pix.

Drove to Zahara, a hill town. Big reservoir at foot of the city. Parked and climbed narrow, steep streets to the top and the church up there. Stopped in a deli and got some cheese which we shared back on the bus. Got into Ronda about 2:45. Lots of people and traffic. Quite a change from Arcos and Seville, even though a big city, was also different. I’m in room 14 of the San Gabriel Hotel, second floor. Nice rooms, old fashioned. Library even has a full set of encyclopedias along with yearly updates. I remember those.

I wandered around for about an hour and met the group for a walk at 5:00. We walked around the residential/shop center of the city. At one point, John and I split off from the group and sent down steep streets to the remnants of the old walls originally built by the Moors. Did climbing up and down on the wall and then steep ascent to get back to the hotel where we got a drink of water an were off again.

We were off the see a gorge that the  New Bridge crossed. Naturally, we had to go down steep pathway to get about halfway down to the bottom of the gorge and to viewpoints. Pretty neat. It’s supposed to be “the” picture to tank in Ronda. Climbed back up. Sat at the nearest restaurant. Most of the group thought they just wanted wine and beer. Pam, Bruce, and I wanted dinner at sat separately. Nice dinner. As we were finishing dessert, rest of the group comes back since where they wanted to eat was booked solidly as was another place. They sat down, asked us what we had eaten, and ordered. They were still eating when we left about 10:00.

Back to the room for downloading, showering, shaving, washing clothes and it’s now 12:40. Don’t have to get up early tomorrow. Will have free time after breakfast until 11:30 when we are going out with a local guide.

Speaking of walking, climbing, etc., here are iPhone stats:

10/3 13,900 steps, 19 floors, 4 miles

10/4 13,000 steps, 3 floors, 3.6 miles

10/5 8900 steps, 12 floors, 2.5 miles

10/6 11600 steps, 14 floors, 3.3 miles

Tired tootsies, not to mention the rest of me.

Up again for morning shoot out the door at 7:00. Different direction than yesterday. Back at hotel around 8:30, had breakfast, and then to room until leaving at 10:00. Got to bed last night at 1:00, so had about 5 hours sleep, but doing okay.

We walked through a shopping street area and to the Metropol Parasol, a huge sculpture/building you climb up and down walkways for different views of the piece itself and of the surrounding city. Were there for over an hour. Stopped across the street for coffee and pastries. Then into the van and to the Macarena church. Gorgeous alter pieces, quite different than I’ve seen before. No large stain glass windows at all. Just interesting side chapels and alters.

We walked from there all along some of the old city walls, some of which date back to Roman times. Spent some time just walking and then back to van for ride to near the hotel, walk back to hotel around 2:30 for space to catch up in our rooms, rest, grab a bite if we want, etc.  I updated computer, wrote, read emails, and took a short walk until about 5:00.

We all left at 5:30 walking over to Hotel Inglaterra to meet the van. Then eventually ended up on other side of river down opposite the Gold Tower (a watchtower for when treasure was coming in from the Atlantic in days of yore). Walked out onto one of the bridges for images and then slow walk down the street by the river ending up at the Triana Bridge where we set up for moonrise. Long wait and by the time it had cleared the horizon, the Sun had set so we did not get sunset images although a few toward the west with post-sunset colors.

Van took us back to Inglaterra, which is as close as it can get to the hotel. Walked back and sat with some others at hotel tapas restaurant and had a satisfying steak and potatoes. To the room about 10:30. We need to be packed up and ready to leave hotel at 10:00 AM tomorrow for ride to Arcos de Frontera. Have asked about Barcelona and have been told the Spanish tour agency that works with Strabo is assessing the situation. It’s still a week away, so we shall see what Plan B is if we cannot go there.

Set the alarm for 8:00 and slept until it buzzed. Breakfast downstairs and then we left hotel at 10:00 and had to roll and carry luggage to the van which was parked over by Hotel Inglaterra, closest it could get to us. But one of the tires on the van was low. The driver and Jose, our guide, took it to be repaired so we walked across the square and onto a shopping street where some had coffee. I wandered.

In about an hour, van returned and we climbed in for the 1.5-2 hour trip to Arcos de la Frontera. It’s a hill town and the frontier is when the Spaniards were driving the Moors out and this was on one of the dividing lines. It’s one of the “white” towns … all the buildings are white. Van could only go to the lowest level of town. Streets are very narrow and one-way. We took what we could carry, leaving our heavy suitcases for the parador’s van to come and get. It was a LONG way up steep streets to the Parador of Arcos de Frontera. Had to stop a couple of time to let my legs rest.

Very nice inn, lovely rooms, great view over the valley and of the nearby churches from rooms and the terrace. Went partway downhill and ate lunch on the street about 3:00 or so. Oh, I’m just drinking beer over here. Beer and water. Thirsty. Really have no desire to rink wine so far. When we were done, I went off on my own to find a high spot to try a 360-degree set of shots. Have not processed them as yet, so don’t know how they turned out. And I went up and down various streets and alleys and took pictures.

Got back to hotel at 5:00 just in time for a two-hour walk up and down through streets I had not taken. Was tired and cranky by the time we got back to hotel about 6:45. At 7:15 we met on the hotel’s terrace to see about sunset and/or moonrise images. Ended up that the moon rose not where my app said it would, so we didn’t see it until it was fairly high in the sky. Best view would have been from the window in my room (#19) had I known. We played around shooting sunset, post sunset, one of the churches until we finally gave up. Dinner was at 9:30 and ended about 11:00. Hey, it’s Spain and they/we eat late. But that always means a late night in my room with downloading and doing the trip log and taking a shower and shaving ……and it’s close to Midnight now and not done with computer stuff, no shower yet, no shave yet. Getting there.

A very long day. Up at 6:00, outside to take predawn images at 7:00, back for fast breakfast about 8:15, out the door for the day’s adventures both walking and in a van, back to hotel at 5:45, out the door and walk to Hotel Inglaterra at about 6:00, staying there through sunset to get pictures of the cathedral, brief dinner nearby, to the room about 10:30 and am now downloading images from the day. About 14,000 steps and around 1,000 images.

So, 7:00 it was out to take shots of narrow streets and the cathedral until the sun was fully up. Then back for cold meats, cheeses, toast, lots of coffee. Antonio, our guide for the day, met us at 9:00 and we walked to where our van was. From there we drove around getting the lay of the land. First stop was Plaza de America for its gardens and different architecture on all four sides. Next was Spanish Plaza (Plaza de Espana), huge open area surrounded by a building on three sides. Wandered around there taking images. Next into the old Jewish Quarter, Santa Cruz (yes, that’s right). Then to the Alcazar, which is huge both interiors and gardens.

By then, it was after 1:00 and we were all hot and tired. So we found a nearby place for sandwich lunch. Next stop was the Cathedral of Seville, St. Mary of the Sea. Wonderful, huge cathedral. After taking images and walking around, most of climbed the ramp to the top of the cathedral spire. Figured it’s like going up about 15 floors. But nice views of the city. And down we went to grab some ice cream and off in the van again, across the Guadalquivir river one way and again back across on another bridge (drove though areas where ceramic tiles are made, residential area). Stopped for tour of Plaza de Toros which included walking into the empty bullring. Strange, interesting, but a bit creepy if you don’t like the idea of bullfighting. By now it was 5:30 and we went back to the hotel by van. Threw stuff into the room, grabbed tripod, walked over to Hotel Inglaterra to the rooftop terrace to grab a good spot and wait for the sunset about 8:00. Lots of shots of the cathedral from up there as the light changed. After it was full dark about 9:00, walked back to a local spot for light dinner and then back to hotel. Really long and tiring day, but got in most of the main sights of the city. Know it’ll be after midnight before I get to bed with downloading, shower, and shave. And up tomorrow to be out the door at 7:00 AM again for predawn shooting.

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