Let’s face it. When we drove down the coast of Spain from the Northeast to the Southern coast, we weren’t too…well…impressed. What we expected to be a scenic drive instead turned out to be endless desert-like land (reminded us of Idaho), with the occasional seaside town full of high-rises that overpowered any possible local character or charm.

As we drove further South, those towering high-rises were replaced with mile after mile of greenhouses (aka plastic tarps) that are likely sheltering a good portion of Europe’s produce. Yes, I’m all for farming (although I hear those tarps help to keep in all of the chemicals they put on the plants)…but hours and hours of it certainly took away all of the aesthetic appeal.

When we reached the area of Marbella, close to Gibraltar, we were so excited to have reached a destination that would give us a chance to stop and relax for nearly a month. Problem was—it wasn’t that pretty, either!

It certainly has more green than the the rest of Coastal and Southern Spain we’d seen, thus far. However, it’s full of businesses, hotels, resorts, and lots and lots and lots of condos. A friend told us that Marbella is known as the place where the rich people of Europe go—and warned me to beware of mobsters and millionaires. Another person warned us to beware of the Bulgarians that break into homes (we just saw our Bulgarian friends a few weeks ago…but they didn’t nab anything from us—we love them!).

Bulgarians and mobster millionaires have been hard to come by, but we certainly have discovered a lot of Brits. Everywhere. Sure, there are also Norwegians, and Germans, and Frenchmen…but this place has definitely been overrun with folks from the UK. Signs are in English, as are menus and English is the first go-to language that you hear. This made it somewhat easy to find a rental, as the Brits come and go from their Spanish second homes…and we managed to find a great apartment to rent for the duration of our stay. We made sure it had a pool, and we weren’t too far from the ocean.

The kids swam one day (or was it one minute?) in the pool, which was honestly too cold. Then the rains began. We’ve now learned that the Fall is certainly not the time to be swimming or even visiting the beach in Spain, which is one of the prime reasons we had decided to come to this area.

With all of that rain we found ourselves burrowing up inside, instead of venturing out to explore. While we found La Alhambra in Granada to be quite spectacular, our quick spin around the well-spoken-of-city left us deciding that there was no reason to return another day.

Is there no beauty in this big country?

Enter…Ronda.

As soon as we drove into this city, we realized that our pursuit of ocean-side comfort was really ridiculous.

We had given up the chance to see and experience the real Spain.

At least I hope it’s the real Spain! This is what we had hoped for when we planned to come to Spain. Not beaches, and resorts, and condos, and high-rises.

Here is Spain—where history meets modern day!

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I could have hiked up that big fortress wall to walk around, but didn’t make it far after a local looked at me like I was crazy!

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Beautiful winding streets with character!

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The city is perched on canyon cliffs, carved out by the Guadalevín River that runs below.

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Flanked by three bridges that were completed in the latter part of the 18th century, this city does not hold back on beautiful vistas.

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The city was so kind as to have installed (modern or old?) awesome gated view areas throughout the bridge, so you could get right up to the edge and snap those photos!

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For an extra price, it also looked like you could climb further down and walk on the under parts of the bridge.

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The city had a beautiful public walkway that flanked the side of the cliffs, so you could walk almost the length of city while peering over the secure edges.  It gets much wider and more “touristy” than this portion, here (and not in a bad way).

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The city also has some beautiful shopping streets!

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It’s a relief to know that there are some sweet spots in Spain.

I didn’t really have any preconceived notions of what Spain would look like, but I had assumed it would grab my heart. I guess after seeing so many incredible colonial cities in Mexico (which the Spanish influenced), I assumed that Spain would be the “crème de la crème” of that…but it wasn’t.

Perhaps too much time and money has resulted in “advancement” beyond those old classic buildings and architecture in Spain…and it has been left behind in pursuit of modern living, tourism, etc.

I’m sure there’s more…and pretty soon we’re off to see some more potentially very beautiful places. But first, I must thank Ronda for helping me see and appreciate Spain a bit more!

Ronda is a must-see!

My name is Alisa, and I am off traveling the world with my adventurous husband and rambunctious 3 small children. I love mountains, outdoor living, and I am crazy about vegetables. Most of all, I love making memories with my family, and I enjoy sharing our travels with others!

5 Responses to “Oh, THERE you are, Spain!”

  1. Melanie Murrish says:

    OK here goes. I read your last post and was a little miffed but not surprised at your description of coastal Spain and was about to point you in the right direction; but then I thought, they’ll find it themselves and sometimes it’s better that way.

    I have to say even the hell on earth Benidorm has charm and loads of spaniards in it’s old town, off season but I can totally understand your impression of it-it looks deplorable and is in most parts.

    As for Ronda, it’s a must see, but….it’s not “real” Spain; those italian restaurants for instance. Please please go back to Granada, especially at night, it’s divine!

    I’m thinking I’m sounding quite negative about your posts, but truly I’m not; it’s just that Spain gets such a bad press in the UK and it really pees me off.

    Anyhoo-love your website and stories of your travels especially the post from Ella LOL! Sincerely hope to catch up with you guys when I get my ass into gear and do our RTW trip.

    Regards Melanie.x

    • Hahaa! Hi Melanie! I am not offended in the slightest. I believe that EVERY place has its own kind of beauty, and I feel like we’ve just wasted our time with some less-desirable places. More of it actually has to do with the weather…because the cold rain that has haunted us for the majority of our 3 weeks stay, has kept us inside. It’s our own fault we haven’t been able to get out and explore! Of course there are beautiful places scattered throughout Spain…but the drive on the toll road does not show that off…hahaha!!

      I wouldn’t have guessed Spain gets bad press in the UK…judging from all of the Brits here, they LOVE it!! Hahaa!!

      Thanks for speaking up in defense of Spain! I wish we had been here at a time with gorgeous weather that begged for us to explore, explore, explore!

  2. Stunning! So glad you found it.

  3. Breath-taking!

  4. What a gorgeous place! I love the pictures with fog. It hads so much drama and character!

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