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Pueblos Blancos Experience Part 1, 2, and 3

I have added parts 2 and 3 to this original post and will try to delete the original Parts 2 and 3. Sorry for the confusion!

I have posted this report in the Spain Forum as I've included a link to some photos. This is the first time I have written a report or shared photos so, please, if there is a problem let me know. Thanks! Edited to read: I have also posted this under Trip Reports but without the link for the photos.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/iG72P6htqs7KdG7U9

Having visiting Cordoba, Granada, Toledo, and Barcelona in 2017, and Seville, Madrid, and Avila in 1984, we decided to return to Andalucia in February 2020 to visit some of the smaller towns and to return to Seville. Due to COVID-19, the timing was not the best. When we left on February 22, there seemed to be little risk. There were few cases in Spain and most of those were in the Barcelona and Madrid areas. A few days after we arrived, the number of cases in Barcelona and Madrid escalated and the first case was reported in Seville. Nevertheless, there remained very few reported cases in Andalucia and most of the COVID-19 news was centered on those two cities and Italy. While many people were discussing the pandemic no precautions were required or taken in our region. Most people were concerned but not overly so because there were so few cases in the region. More about our return to the US at the end of this report.

Our first stop was for two nights in Carmona, about 20 minutes from the Seville airport. This was an add-on due to a change in flights by our airline, TAP. Carmona is a small town with beautiful entrance gates, remnants of the city wall, an Alcazar, and many plazas and churches. Many of the churches were not open and due to limited hours of the Alcazar we were not able to go inside. In our 1.5 days there we were able to visit a couple of churches, spend hours walking through the town enjoying the architecture, walls, and plazas. It was a great start to our trip!

Next we moved to Ronda. On the way there we stopped at the pueblo of Setenil de las Bodegas, a white town famous for being built into rock overhangs above a river. It’s also famous for its meat products and we enjoyed some of them under an overhang at our outdoor lunch.
We spent four nights in Ronda enjoying the beautiful scenery. The historic town is built on a hill separated by a gorge. The most famous pictures of Ronda are of Puente Nuevo, with its arches built deep into the gorge below. Ronda has several museums; churches; plazas, parks, and viewpoints; and of course, city walls and gates. It claims to be the birthplace of modern bull fighting and has a large bullring, which we only saw from the outside. We visited Palacio Mondragon and Casa de San Juan Bosco, mostly to see the gardens and views. We also visited Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor. In addition to visiting the church, we climbed up the tower for a walk around the roof and a great view of the town. At this time of the year there were not too many tourists and we were able to wander through the town enjoying all the sights without a crush of other tourists.

While in Ronda we took a day trip to two Pueblos Blancos. First was Zahara de la Siera, a pretty town built under a Moorish castle. Our age got the best of us and we did not climb all the way up to the castle, but we did enjoy the views and the atmosphere of the town. Next we drove over winding mountain roads to Grazalema, another scenic pueblo, this one built below limestone peaks. We spent a couple of enjoyable hours walking around the town, enjoying the views, and having lunch in a plaza.

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2207 posts

Thanks for posting Carol, beautiful pictures! I'm glad you were able to make the most of your time in Spain before it really stared to get crazy. Los Pueblos Blancos de Andalucia is an area I have to explore more once the pandemic is over. I know this may be a difficult question, but I'm curious which Pueblo is your favourite?

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1009 posts

Gorgeous pictures, felt like I was there with you. Will be interested to hear your arrival back in US. Thanks for posting.

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Part 2 - Have combined all parts into one post.
Next we spent three nights in Marbella, set on the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in the historical center, which is very small, but beautiful: white buildings, many of which have flower pots on the walls; streets with potted plants and flowers; public wastebaskets painted with various scenes; pretty plazas and parks. Yes, I was the crazy person taking pictures of wastebaskets. We enjoyed walking on the palm tree lined promenade along the sea. An interesting sight is several Salvador Dali sculptures on Avenida del Mar, which ends at the sea. We also had an interesting lunch of pescaito. It was described as small fish so we thought anchovy size. We asked how many fish were included and the waiter said: A lot, they’re really small. And so they were! This stay was meant to be down time between other towns with more walking so it was a relaxing and enjoyable three days. Marbella certainly lived up to its name!

From there we drove to Cadiz where we spent four nights. Set in the Gulf of Cadiz in the Atlantic Ocean, Cadiz is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Europe. It’s filled with historic buildings and monuments, beautiful plazas and parks, churches, castle fortresses, and promenades along the sea. We were able to visit various churches, including Oratorio de la Santa Cueva which has three paintings by Goya. We also visited Castillo de Santa Catalina. One of the parks has some trees that are claimed to have been brought back to Cadiz by Christopher Columbus from the new world. A visit to the Mercado Central resulted in an interesting lunch of raw oysters. really tiny boiled shrimp, and other sea food. We also spent a lot of time enjoying the various plazas. I felt we needed at least two more days here as there were several sights that we didn’t have time for.

We moved on to Arcos de la Frontera where we spent three nights. On the way there we stopped at Monasterio Cartuja de Santa Maria de la Defension. We were able to enter the gate in the beautiful outer walls but the church itself is only open during services so we could only admire it from the outside.
The historical center of Arcos de la Frontera is really small; pretty much everything can be seen in one day. It is set on a ridge and there are viewpoints throughout the town to the river below and the landscape beyond. The town itself is also hilly with narrow streets so sightseeing was real exercise! There are several historical churches and buildings, and of course, arches. The owner of the apartment we rented knew we would not move the car until we left so he volunteered to take us on a ride outside of town so we could see the town from below and other sights. We repaid his kindness by taking him and his wife to lunch. Though we speak and understand some Spanish and they spoke no English, we still managed to have an interesting conversation.

Lastly, we spent six nights in Seville. We were lucky to stay in an apartment just a five minute walk from the Cathedral and a couple minutes more to the Alcazar. Seville, of course, is beautiful. The Cathedral, Alcazar, historical buildings and plazas, and the outdoor restaurants made it a special visit. We spent a few hours in the Alcazar. We did not visit the Upper Royal Apartments. There are so many beautiful tiled rooms, gardens, and courtyards it was impossible to see everything! The next day we spent a few hours in the Cathedral: so many beautiful chapels and altars and monuments, including the tomb of Christopher Columbus. We did climb the 35 ramps and 17 stairs of La Giralda tower. We had great views of the various roofs and domes, the church bells, and the city below. We did not buy the ticket to visit the roof. Of course there are many other churches in Seville. Two we visited are Iglesia del Divino San Salvador and Basilica de la Macarena.

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Part 3
We also went to Las Setas, a modern, mushroom shaped structure. We took the elevator to the top and walked along the structure, an undulating path with great views of the city. The weather was great so we spent some time each day enjoying the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes. We were lucky to see some outdoor Flamenco near Puerta de Jerez. I felt that we needed another three days to see the sights and neighborhoods that we couldn’t fit in.

The above activity took us through Friday, March 13m which is where our trip got tricky. Due to the time difference, we learned about the order that after Friday no one from Europe could enter the US and the clarification that this did not apply to US citizens all at the same time, so we weren’t too concerned. By Friday night the Spanish news on TV was that there should be no large gatherings and that the government would announce new rules on Saturday, including shelter in place. We shopped for food for the next day’s breakfast and went out for lunch. Knowing what was to come, we bought extra meals to eat in on Sunday and spent our last day in Seville watching TV: the news and travel shows where we watched Spanish tourists enjoying beaches in South America while we sat on the couch. But food and boredom were the least of our problems. We were scheduled to fly on Monday from Seville to Lisbon then non-stop to SFO. Our Lisbon to SFO flights were cancelled and rebooked twice, beginning on Saturday afternoon and then on Sunday. On Saturday and Sunday we spent hours on the phone before receiving notification of each rebooking. But before we left for the airport on Monday we found our flight to SFO was cancelled again. Luckily, after we arrived in Lisbon and after much discussion with ticket agents (will spare the ugly details of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday) we did get flights home. We changed planes in Boston where the screening process was very efficient. We finally arrived at our home at 2:30am Tuesday morning, tired but none the worse for the wear.

The weather at this time of the year in Andalucia was great. During the day warm in the sun, and cool in the shade and at night. The food was just delicious! We ate lots of tapas, small plates which were almost a full meal. If we are lucky enough to return to Andalucia, this would be the time of the year we would go.

Though our trip ended on a sad note due to the suffering and uncertainty around us, we will not let that spoil the memories of the great experiences we had visiting some of the towns along the Aldalucian highways.

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Carlos - you're right. It is a hard question. I'll answer the way I answer the question "Which is your favorite country?". We always say, the last one we visited!
When we left each city we said, gosh this must be the best town! It's really hard to say because each has its own atmosphere and personality, and the people we met made each one special. So, sorry, I really can't answer you! :)

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1941 posts

Carol, what a treat to be able to read your trip report right now. It sounds like a wonderful time, right up to the last couple of days. The photos are really stunning! I can't believe how you caught that bird with wings up in flight over the walkway. Fabulous! I love how colorful and cheerful everything is. Even the wastebaskets :-)

So very glad you both made it home safely and in good health!

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643 posts

Carol,
Great trip report and I love the beautiful photos! Perfect reading during this stay at home time period!
Thank you for posting!

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CWsocial and Christine, thank you both. Christine, I would not have written a report with out your encouragement.

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14323 posts

Lovely report and photos that brought back a lot of good memories. Thanks.

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Thanks, Chani. Experiences and memories are what travel is all about.

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4604 posts

Carol,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write and post your beautiful trip report!
Also thanks for sharing your wonderful photos!

It’s funny, but I’d probably take photos of the unique & colorful wastebaskets too!

Would you please share your accommodations in Carmona, Ronda, Marbella, and Cádiz? Thanks!

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5011 posts

Nice photos and a nice write-up. It's a beautiful place, your photos brought back many memories of visiting (most of) those places. Thank you!

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Thanks, David and Priscilla. Priscilla. I'll look up the names and post later.

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Priscilla: All of our lodging was booked on Booking.com. If you're interested in any of these you can read the reviews on Booking. They were all walking distance to everything we wanted to see. All had some kind of free parking though it may have been a few minutes away. We booked apartments in all towns but Carmona. They were all very reasonably/low priced possibly because it was low season.

Carmona: Hospedium Posada San Fernando. We had originally booked at Frenteabastos Hostels and Suites but switched because the San Fernando was on the plaza and had parking nearby, which in the end we couldn't access because the streets were closed for the Carnaval celebration. Once we had parked our car in the free lot, a 5-7 minute walk, we decided not to move it. Nice size room, view to the plaza, breakfast included.

Ronda: Apartamento con Parking Centro Historico. Really large apartment right behind the church and a couple minutes walk from the parking lot. Eat in kitchen. Pellet stove in the living/dining room was interesting.

Marbella: Precioso y acogedor atico old town. Beautiful street kind of quirky apartment. It's on the 3rd floor of a private house. The apartment is on two levels, living area kind of small, a beautiful terrace larger than the living area.

Cadiz: Cruz de las Mentiras. Would not recommend this particular apartment. I must not have been paying much attention to the square footage as the apartment was smaller than it appeared in the pictures. There was no living area, just bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen, but it did have a good view to the plaza. There was a desk but barely room for our two 20" suitcases in the bedroom. Luckily for us. We would have stayed there even with the tiny accomodations but the internet and TV weren't working so they took us to another nearby apartment. It was much larger and I would recommend this one but don't know the name of it. This one had a large living/dining/kitchen and a large bedroom. Downside is that it was on a street facing other apartments and across the street on the corner was a fenced in empty lot. Not the most appealing street but we did enjoy the roomy apartment.

Hope this info helps you. As I said, you can see them on Booking.com.