The giant locust. We called him Harold. No idea why. Marigold's choice.
We were in Nerja, walking along minding our own business, and G said is that the bloke from Hastings who wears the toupee? Well, yes it was, only the toupee was worse than ever, very straggly and off kilter. Can only imagine he had come out of the sea after being hit by a big wave. We stopped for a chat. His wife was having her hair done and we both said maybe he should have joined her for a blow wave.
Then, guess what, his wife came round the corner, hair fabulous but very strange puffed up lips and a very smooth forehead. She looked awful. She said “bet you didn't recognise me, everybody says I look 20 years younger”.
As we are very two faced we said “we wouldn't have recognised you”. She looked very pleased, so it was our good deed for the day. Her mouth then said without moving,”it was worth every penny”, except ‘every’ came out as ‘ebbery’. It was all rather marvellous.
Had fab tapas except for the meatballs which tasted funny. We still ate them as there weren't any bins around or dogs, so will probably end up in hospital on a drip.
Next trip up to Ronda. G had booked fab hotel as a treat. Owner very tall about 6ft 5 inches and very handsome in a James Bond type way. He said he had previously captained a boat in the Caribbean taking rich Americans all over. How dreamy is that? Telling all this to G who said “he is probably making it all up. He looks the sort”. Sometimes he shows his jealous side.
Whole set up was lovely. There was even a wine place attached so G could go and poke around. The staircase was all marble and everything very luxurious.
We went for a meal down the road in a fab old watermill run by an lovely lady called Elaine. I ordered pigs cheeks which G for some reason found amusing and after eating them my pigs cheeks were even bigger. Must say they were delicious. G rather spoiled the ambiance going on about pig cheeks jokes. Here is a sample:
A man goes into the butchers, puts his head round the door and says to the fat butcher “have you got pigs cheeks” and gets punched.
There were a lot more but that was the best. See what I mean? There was one about a bottom which I will not repeat, but that one made me laugh a lot.
Breakfast at James Bond’s house was served in a hamper, with fruity things, freshly sliced ham, croissants and a secret note to me saying he fancied me. Well it could have happened but didn't.
I ran around like a loony and changed the clocks and both watches last night, still don't know why. I told G this morning and he gave me one of ‘those looks’ and said nothing, just changed his watch back to the right time. Bet I forget to do it for real tonight.
Over to G now for the proper writing.
‘Ronda is a city hung in the sky over a mountain broken into two parts by the power of Gods.’
Walter Starkie, 1937.
One of the highlights of this latest odyssey, so much classier than ‘trip,’ was the Eagles’ Nest, Adolph Hitler’s mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps and rightly so. Here we are today, deep in Andalusia, in a city with its roots dating back thousands of years.
So why the connection? Ronda has been referred to as the Eagles’ Nest by the locals for hundreds of years. Perched on a rocky outcrop and riven in twain ( sorry, been flirting with the poetic all day today) by a dramatic gorge and spanned by a bridge separating la ciudad and el mercillado – the Roman/Moorish old town and the ‘new’ town – we never tire of visiting Ronda. The New Town was mostly built in the 18th century so not exactly ‘new’ and the ‘New Bridge’ was actually built in 1735. Only in a city steeped in history is anything built in the 18th century regarded as ‘new.’
Ronda ranks third in the ‘most visited’ cities of Andalucia, behind only Seville and Granada. I still can’t decide which of the three I prefer. They all have rich and varied histories and as such are endlessly fascinating.
On our way here we called, yes again, at Nerja and breakfasted on the terrace of the Hotel Balcon de Europa. Even first thing in the morning there was plenty to entertain us. We met a man we used to say hello to in our favourite café in Hastings. He was the second fellow customer of that café we’ve met on this trip. It’s not a big café either. The majority of the people we knew from there were ‘friends of Dorothy*,’ perhaps reflecting the artistic/bohemian nature of the Old Town.
*For anyone not familiar with the expression, look it up. I’m not intending to be more specific, but those concerned added greatly to the ambience, both in conversation and dress sense.
We've invariably approached Ronda from the coast in the past, turn inland at St Pedro and go straight up, which is a glorious driving road, but better for passengers as the driver is, hopefully, aware of the sheer drop on one side and the coaches coming the other way and swinging wide on every bend. Today, we thought we'd do it different.
Past Malaga we headed inland and followed the road in the general direction of Ronda. After passing a million or so olive trees, we branched off the main road onto a narrow country road, to see where it went. Climbing all the time with rocky outcrops in huge fields scraped bare and awaiting fresh crops on both sides, we came to a forest of mainly chestnut trees with cork trees as variety. We stopped at a small bar, the only one we’d passed in twenty miles and discovered whatever the collective word is for tanks, complete with half the Spanish army were parked outside. The tanks, a dozen of them at least, were on camouflaged flatbed transporters with so many tyres on I lost count. Presumably they're on the way to invade somewhere or other; will have to try and watch the news tonight.
Interestingly, when we saw Ronda appear on a sign it didn’t appear to have significantly extended our journey by taking the back roads so a win-win situation. We parked up and wandered around for a while, bought a bottle of olive oil, but decided to make a full day of it here tomorrow and go to find our hotel instead.
The hotel was a delight. Reminiscent of an English country house, albeit not a mansion, with vines all around and a fully working bodega on site, La Perla Blanca is delightful. Here’s a link, if you're interested.
I spent time browsing the various winemaking equipment- it's a weakness of mine, this fascination with the cultivation and production of wine – and then we went in to unpack.
A wonderful meal tonight at Restaurante La Cascada, just along the road from our hotel, where Elaine and her staff did us proud. Marigold had delicious pork cheeks, I had breast of chicken, then a sumptuous lemon tart and homemade ice cream. Fabulous, but don't expect hamburger and fries There’s even a friendly black cat who visited each table to say hello. There's a hotel here too as well as a restaurant – Hotel Molino Del Puente - check them out here
Walking back, with a torch as it was pitch black, to the accompaniment of softly rushing water (the restaurant is a former mill house) and a sky overhead ablaze with stars we decided life didn’t get much better than this. The air was fragrant with wild herbs, softly rustling vines on one side and a gurgling stream on the other, with just the feeble glow of a torch to guide us we felt we could have walked for miles. As most people we meet lately seem to be in competition for steps taken in a day, recorded on those watch strap devices that are popular for reasons that escape me, perhaps you’ll forgive me mentioning the 34,000 steps we walked today?
NB, that may or may not be strictly accurate. Given my role as Marigold’s indentured servant, and with her legendary lack of organisation, I suspect I walk well over 10,000 steps in a single visit to Tesco, constantly being required to retrace my steps in search of items to be found many aisles behind us, but I digress.
A good night’s sleep followed by a breakfast hamper left outside the bedroom door made us believe all over again in Santa Claus. As breakfast in bed is reserved solely for the decadent, we toddled off downstairs with our basket, scoffed the lot and went for a walk, all the way around the pool and back again. How many steps? No idea but given the state of my wretched Achilles' tendon - every step a fresh agony, yet I scarcely ever mention it (!) – each time my left foot hits the floor should count treble.
Just as we were about to go back inside, Marigold screamed as a flying creature landed on my arm. It was a bright green locust and absolutely massive. Both Marigold and the locust were grateful it landed on me as I carefully removed it and placed it on the fence without any hysterics involved. A dozen or so more landed nearby so we quickly closed the door to the house. I measured ‘my’ locust, very scientifically on the spur of the moment, by holding my iPad next to it. Bigger than an iPad’s width, but very slightly shorter than its height, making the creature from outer space about eight inches long. They all took off together and disappeared but not before your correspondent took a photograph.
Tomorrow a full day in Ronda and after that we’ll see where the mood takes us.