Spanish Roadtrip Chapter 1: Ronda and Gibraltar

Posted on 16. Apr, 2010 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, Spain

This article is part three of a so far three part series on my 2009 Spanish roadtrip. You might want to check these out: chapter 2 and chapter 3.

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About one year ago, I officially declared that a Spanish road trip was THE perfect way to end a European one-year adventure. Take in as much sunshine as possible with me over the pond or something like that.

So, with the help of spanophone friends living in Granada at the time, we started to plan our journey,  taking the five of us to every corner of Spain. Quickly we realised two things: we were too short on time to explore an entire country and we would certainly have to wash dishes at some point if we actually went to all those places.


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We decided to stick to four major places: Andalusia, Cuenca, San Sebastian and Barcelona. Yes, we did decide to actually cross the country but on a much more realistic journey than initially planned, starting south and slowly making our way up north and ending on the East coast.

We landed in Malaga, with one of the great Malaga flights options, at around 11 in the morning on a beautiful Andalusian day, meeting our Granada friends there. Drove straight to Ronda, which is about an hour and a half drive. In theory. In practice, however, things turned out a little bit different. Driving to Ronda isn’t exactly a walk in the park; roads are sinuous and steep most of the times, making the travel sick people, well, sick. It took around three hours in total, but not just because of my faint nature. At one point, the road was blocked by wild goats. We stopped for awhile and took a few pictures because it was quite an unusual sight for us urban birds.

Road block, Spanish way

Finally got to Ronda at around 3. We had a small gazpacho at Restaurante Flores, right by the Plaza de Toros. The whole street is actually an outdoor terrace where you can hardly tell the difference between restaurants. They might as well have a communal kitchen for all I know. Wandered around the city and took lots of pictures of the famous 120 meters tall bridge, which is the main attraction.

Then, we hopped back in the car and drove to Gibraltar, stopping a few times along the way to enjoy our surroundings. This time the journey was much smoother and we made it to our destination by 7. Crossed the border (which actually is a runway) without having to open our passport - apparently showing 5 Canadian passports is enough to get in Gibraltar. The customs officer told us the Upper Rock reserve was closed for the day. Shoot. Well, why not drive to the top and take a picture just to show we were there, we said.

Gibraltar

Now, again with the transportation problems, but this time on a whole other level: not only are roads very narrow and sinuous, but you can literally see the bottom of the Rock, right there, at your feet - 400 meters below. Yes, that’s scary, especially when sitting on the wrong side of the tiny, tiny car. Got distracted at one point by my friend who started yelling something about monkeys. Through my nervous and exhausted tears I didn’t get it a first, but then - what, monkeys? Oh my God, monkeys ! Everywhere ! Luckily, the observatory gate was still open and unattended. Not only did we get in after hours, but we saved some serious bucks and had a truly unforgettable experience - alone with monkeys, in Gibraltar, overlooking the sea and catching a glimpse of Morocco, at dusk. We just couldn’t get over it.

After a while on top of the Rock, it was time to call it quits and head back to our friends place in Granada for the night. We had a GPS (tenderly called Albert) who indicated us to go that way - but of course we decided to go the other way because it looked much more simple. So we drove down the Rock for 5 minutes only to face the worst possible scenario: locked gate. Someone, somewhere, must have been really upset we didn’t respect the rules. We couldn’t go any further. And no, we definitely could not turn the car around and drive back up. May I remember you that the road was about 2  meters large, merely enough for a car, let alone the fact that the sea is right there below us without any sort of protection other than a half-foot high cement block. We did the only possible thing to do: we drove in reverse, back up the hill, not knowing whether another car was coming behind us or not.

View from the Upper Reserve

Probably one of the scariest experience of my whole life. We had no idea where we were supposed to go and the darker it got outside, the more nervous we were, Gibraltar not being recommended for tourists at night (especially in such a vulnerable situation I guess). We drove into another lane, but this time we sent two members of our team in search of locked gate before going any further, which they found. Back on reverse mode. At one point, we met a couple driving down the Rock too, only they knew exactly where they were going. We followed them and finally got back to Spain - exhausted, high on adrenaline and with what we knew was going to be a good story to tell our grandchildren one day - if my heart doesn’t fail from facing a similar situation again, that is.

Needless to say we had a good night’s sleep when we finally, thank God, arrived in Granada.

Have you toured Andalusia? Or been on a Spanish roadtrip?

You might also like:

  1. Why Should You Include Gibraltar on Your Next Spanish Vacation?

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8 Responses to “Spanish Roadtrip Chapter 1: Ronda and Gibraltar”

  1. Rachel

    26. Jun, 2010

    I am glad you enjoyed your brief visit to Gibraltar.

    There was a road out of the Upper Rock - the people who live up there have to have access after hours, but of course Sat Nav does not tell you this. You have to ‘escape’ North going down by the Tower of Homage.

    I am amazed at the length of your journey - this was the first day of your trip - going to Ronda from Gibraltar takes me a whole day - and then to get back to Granada - that is a four hour trip. I am looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      26. Jun, 2010

      Thank you for your comment - it was indeed a very long journey, especially considering we got up at 0500 that morning! I was exhausted.

      The GPS did tell us to go the right way but to us it didn’t feel like it was - from that point on, we listened to what it told us. The worst part was probably the locked gates and the whole turning the car around thing. At one point a large tree branch got stuck around our tire and made a big sound, we were sure we just had a flat. It was a pretty nerve wrecking experience!

      Otherwise I really enjoyed my visit - the views, the monkeys (which we fed with apples available on site), and slight driving issues made it worth it. I just wish we had more time to explore the area but it was getting too late by the time we got over the monkeys.

      Thank your for your comment! Chapter 2 is already available at http://www.eurotriptips.com/?p=903
      Cheers!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Sonja

    25. Aug, 2011

    Very interesting. We’re headed to Andalusia next summer, so I’m taking notes. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  3. andy

    09. May, 2012

    yeah they love barrier free mountain roads in spain - awful though it is at the time like you say the high afterwards - the high after the high so to speak - makes it all worth it. getting quite itchy for spain at the moment

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      14. May, 2012

      The views are always worth it, but sometimes the journey makes me doubt it!

      Reply to this comment

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