We woke to cloudy skies but a rain-free forecast so our spirits were high.
After a chilly, but scenic, ride downhill from Prado del Ray, it felt like the rest of the day was mostly climbing. We didn’t mind, though, because we felt like we were training for the Tour de France or one of the many Grande Fondos of Europe. We were passed by many cyclists on high-end road bikes and wearing matching team uniforms.
The area around Ronda in Andalusia is famous for road cycling training. It would be easy to pick a “home base” in almost any of the white villages and then take daily road rides in almost any direction to train on steep hills. A week’s worth of hard training would not get boring.
Our first stop was Zahara, a beautiful town nestled beneath a castle at the top of a hill. There is evidence that Zahara has a history at least since the Bronze Age. It’s 360 degree view and location atop steep rock outcroppings made it easy to defend and to keep an eye on the villager below.
We parked our bikes and walked up the very steep hill into town. We found a lovely place with outdoor seating and a view of the castle to eat tapas and take pictures.
Hopping back on our bikes we enjoyed a ride along the reservoir below Zahara and into a village called Algondales. We stopped for a coffee but the town square was really noisy with workers in large trucks were putting up stalls for a festival.
It was 2:00 pm and we enjoyed watching parents walking their children home from school.
The coffee barely fueled us through a long, hilly valley followed by a very long, very steep uphill toward El Gastor.
El Gastor has the nickname “Window of the Pueblos Blancas” but I thought it was more interesting as home to very famous bandits. One of the bandits was called El Tempranillo and I know we drank some red wines with the same name.
We stopped at the very cute town, sipped a beer and and watched cars enter the one-way street and then back out again to let a car pass coming from he other direction.
We also learned the El Gastor is home to the famous Andalusian Bagpipe.
Fueled from our cold beer and a fun, curvy nice downhill, and a short (thank goodness) uphill we were delighted to arrive at the Hotel Salinas & Spa. The courtyard was already filled with road cyclists basking in the sun after their hard workout.
Our room had a large balcony with table, two chairs and two chaises for watching the sunset and looking at the lake. Our gourmet dinner at the hotel restaurant included fresh asparagus soup and lamb – Eric had the chops and I had the baby leg of lamb. Ordering meals in Spain was still new to us and our mistake on this night could have fed a family of 12. I got tripped up with the words “baby leg of lamb”. Isn’t that redundant? A “lamb” IS a baby sheep and a leg of lamb has often fed our for Easter.
Needless-to-say we ate too much and had trouble falling asleep.