View from our hotel room window in Ronda, a white hill town in Andalusia (southern Spain)

We went on a car trip to Andalusia between October 7 and 22.  We did not book hotels in advance, thinking that the peak season was over.  Actually it wasn’t over.  Still, this did not present a difficult obstacle except that the Alhambra was booked so we did not go to Granada.

We broke up the long car trip to Andalusia (Seville, Cordoba, Ronda and other white hill towns) by stopping in Valencia and Lorca on the way, and Alicante on the way back.  We were in Valencia for “Valencia Day”  which commemorates King Jaime I’s triumphal entry into Valencia in 1238, when he liberated the city from Moorish rule.  There were grand fireworks that night.  We stayed in a hotel adjacent the new “City of the Arts and Sciences” and were blown away by the architecture and ambiance.

Science Museum, Valencia
Opera House, Valencia
Children play in plastic balls floating on a reflecting pool at the City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
Laura has a farton at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia.  Fartons are dipped in horchata (see below) before eating.
Fartons are a sweet kind of pastry that is eaten together with horchata. Horchata is a very popular drink sold only in the province of Valencia. It is a drink that looks like milk and is made of chufas (tiger nuts). These nuts are originally from Egypt, but they are grown in the nearby village of Alboraya, and people from that village sell the drink and the fartons in the park.

After two nights in Valencia we drove to Lorca and stayed in the only hotel in the old city.  We toured the citadel and the site of the old Jewish community and synagogue.

View from our hotel in Lorca

After two nights in Lorca, we drove to the Andalusian white hill town of Ronda.  Driving on the very narrow and steep streets of Ronda is not for the feint of heart.  I had to back the car up an extremely narrow and steep street after a wrong turn. This was harder for me to do than maneuvering the boat in a tight marina in a blow.  Once we dumped the car, we found Ronda a wonderful town to explore on foot.

We found a room in a small hotel that had just been converted from an old mansion.  It was right on the cliff.

Our hotel in Ronda is in the middle of the set of white buildings in this photo. Our balcony overlooks the valley below.
View towards the valley from our hotel window in Ronda.
Tourists throng the viewing platform on the cliff, Ronda.

We had to leave Ronda after two days because the hotels were sold out.  We found a rural hotel near the smaller white hill town of Zahara de la Sierra.  From there we explored Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema, and the nearby countryside.

Reservoir below Zahara de la Sierra, Andalusia.
View of Grazalema, Andalusia.  You can see why it is a “white hill town.”
Street in Grazalema.
The valley below Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra was bone dry all the way to Seville.

After two nights in Zahara de la Sierra we drove to Seville and stayed three nights.

Mark goes to the Barber in Seville. He did not sing but the haircut was very nice.
Cathedral (Seville)
Square in Seville.
Alcazar, Seville
Crypt of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Seville. The pall bearers are the Kings of Spain.

From Seville we had a short drive to Cordoba where we stayed in a small hotel in the old Jewish Quarter.

Statue of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides, and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, who was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher from Cordoba who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. One rubs the foot of the statue to gain wisdom.
Alcazar, Cordoba.
The Mihrab in Alzazar, Cordoba. The Mihrab is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.
The Alcazar, Cordoba
The Roman Bridge, Cordoba
Street in Cordoba.

From Cordoba, we headed back towards Sabbatical III berthed in Sant Carles de le Rapita, stopping to see the Volvo Ocean Round-the-World Race boats and festivities in Alicante the day before the start of the race (formerly called the “Whitbread”).  It was a beautiful day and people thronged the docks.

Race boats lined up for the Volvo Ocean Around-the-World Race, Alicante
This year the Volvo crews also race identical small catamarans in-shore, in addition to racing identical 65 foot offshore sail boats. Here are the catamarans practicing off the beach at Alicante.

The next day we were back in Valencia to spend the afternoon with Jane and Chimo, who became our good friends when we shared a dock in Turkey for more than one year.  They and their sail boat have since returned to their native Valencia.

Our sailing friends Chimo and Jane admire the “arroz negro” (rice with sepia (cuttlefish) ink and seafood) at a beachfront restaurant in Valencia.
With Jane and Chimo on the waterfront at Valencia.

We are now back in Sant Carles preparing Sabbatical III for months on the hardstand.


Fran and John visit Sabbatical III

Fran and John at Pantà d’Ulldecona (Ulldecona Dam).  We hiked for miles along the reservoir.

My twin sister Fran and her husband John visited us on Sabbatical III for six days beginning September 26.  We did not go sailing but we visited the beautiful spots around Sant Carles de la Ràpita in our little SEAT Ibiza rental car.  Plus, we had some amazing Catalan meals.  We always returned to the boat for the night and had leisurely breakfasts aboard each morning.

Brother and sister on the beach at Trabucar
Farm structure in the rice fields of the delta of the Ebro River
Flock of giant flamingoes in the Ebro River delta
A fishing boat named for us in the harbor of L’Ampolla
Fran and Mark pose with the statue of a locally famous guy in L’Ampolla
Fran, John and Laura at L’Ampolla
The historic town of Ballestar.  We had lunch in a mountain lodge and then drove along a road with hairpin curves to this small stone town.
John and Laura
We visited the fishing harbor in Sant Carles. This is the view of the town from the harbor.