May 27 – the end of the road, the start of another
We’ve dusted ourselves off after two restful nights at a B&B tucked away in a peaceful garden below the clifftop town of Ronda, Spain. Those two nights were like medicine to our worn out souls. Once again we proved that we are the worst tourists in the world when it comes to our relaxation time. We didn’t even go see the famous bull ring, the oldest in Spain. We ate at the same tapas bar twice. We spent an entire afternoon reading in the garden of our inn near the babbling fountain, with the highlight of our entertainment being watching the horses below graze. We didn’t move from our chairs when the fireworks went off, announcing the end of a pilgrimage. We didn’t turn on the TV. In short, it was nearly 48 hours of pure bliss.
Back on the road, we leave Ronda heading for the small town of Carmona, just east of Seville. Our mission – to check out what we have been told is one of Spain’s most beautiful Paradors. The road winds its way out of stunning scenery into a flatter, more industrial appearance south of Seville. Still, the road is lined with gorgeous flowering bushes and Spanish broom. The road is empty. The economic bells are ringing in Spain, and the tune is not a happy one. Sixty percent of people under the age of 25 are unemployed. This is not just a crisis of the moment, it is a disaster for the future.
At Carmona, the Parador lives up to its reputation. The views take our breath away. A friendly manager shows us a room, and it lives up the high standard set by the public spaces of this former castle. Paradors are run by the government, and some are great, and some are just middling. This one appears to have set the standard for Fantastic.
We drive around Seville in light traffic and then turn west, heading for the border with Portugal. By 5 p.m. we are at our hotel in the small town of Loule, Algarve. It’s a place we know from attending one of the area’s best markets there. The hotel is a new experience for us. Booking through booking.com I had selected their “Romantic Offer” and we chuckled when we ticked off all which was included: a bottle of bubbly – check. A box of chocolates – check. A red rose on the bed – check. Buffet breakfast for two included – check. And best of all, this package for a prince and a princess was amazingly cheap at 49 Euros all-inclusive. That’s about $65, an unheard of price for a double with breakfast in Europe. Our dinner was just as luxurious, tins of sardines, crackers, wine and cheese eaten at our spacious windowsills overlooking the heart of the town on a very quiet Saturday early evening. In Portugal, we can never get enough of the fantastic sardines.
The next day we turn our wheels north and head for the Lisbon area. Along the way, we decide to check out the hilltop town of Sintra, just west of Lisbon. The town is crawling with bus tourists. Not fun. We turn around after checking out a swank little hotel for a future visit and head down below to a village, Colares, closed to the seashore. There we found a lively spot, packed with late Sunday afternoon diners. After what seemed like an eternity, we were served our sardines, potatoes and spinach. It was heaven. We were at the end of the road and the start of another.