We had a choice between the most direct route from Jerez to Granada and the scenic route. Shockingly we chose the scenic route.
Onward my loyal surely won't break down automobile!
Our travel bible, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, suggested we take the Ruta de Los Pueblos Blancos (Route of the White Towns) which connects Arcos de la Frontera on the western end to Ronda on the east. Many of the towns in the area still bear the "de la Frontera" or "on the border" suffix which dates back to the time when the Spanish were still trying to wrest control of the area back from the Moors of Northern Africa.
Arcos de la Frontera
I think we exited the vehicle more often than on any our previous drives, often for no reason other than we wanted to spend more time with the view.
The travel book didn't let us down. I felt like I'd say, "wow that's the best view of the trip" and then it would soon be bested by yet another mountainous vista with a tiny little white town nestled in a valley.
We stopped for lunch in Grazalema because there was a really great sounding place in one of our books. Of course that place was closed, so then we just wandered and let our noses be our guide.
Yet another city hall Christmas tree decorated with recycled bottles and so forth.
A nearby sign theorized that this fountain was of Visigoth origin.
We popped into a little restaurant off the main square called Barbadillo. The staff was a little surly when we first walked in but they warmed up a little. We always seemed to be on the wrong side of time in Spain. It's interesting because I had this preconception that they would be super easy going Mediterraneans but we always seemed to be too early or too late for everything in this country.
Several locals were hanging out drinking wine at the bar which was nice, until a couple locals that had beef met up. The guy on the right had a large problem with the guy on the left. My Spanish is crap but I did hear some of the curse words I know repeated over and over and something about the guy's family. It culminated with the instigator balling up his fist, stretching his arm out to the side like a clothesline, and whipping his arm around to punch the other guy in the side of the head. It was such a weird telegraphed attack that if the other guy didn't dodge that he really deserved to get punched. It was sort of like if the guy said "sir I'm going to punch you now". The whole thing was very entertaining in their very lispy non-threatening Spanish.
When Spanish Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau finally went home for their siestas we could finally get some eating done. I ordered the rabo de toro en salsa (bull tail) which was very flavorful and the fries soaked up all the delicious juices.
We also had this boiling hot shrimp scampy type thing with hot peppers and garlic.
There were a lot of what I believe were olive orchards visible from the road. I read that an olive tree can live over 500 years and still bear fruit.
Spain seems to be down with the alternative energy. I saw wind turbines and solar panels all over the place.
At the end of our roadtrip was the splendor of the Alhambra in Granada. The place has gone from fort to palace to fort-palace and back again as it changed hands between empire to empire. After 1492 it became the site of the royal court of Isabella I. Wikipedia says that Isabella I was notable for " completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects in the Spanish Inquisition, and for supporting and financing Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage that led to the opening of the New World and to the establishment of Spain as the first global power which dominated Europe and much of the world for more than a century."
The two little pillars here are the Pillars of Hercules and according the legend they stood at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea bearing the warning "Non Plus Ultra" which means something like "nothing further beyond" meaning that this is where the world ends. Well when the Spanish discovered the new world they got pretty cocky about it, and Charles V's motto was "Plus Ultra" which means something like he was going "further beyond" and generally being awesome. As a result the words Plus Ultra are all over the place in some of the rooms at Alhambra.
Here on the Spanish Coat of Arms you can see they have adopted both the Pillars of Hercules and the Motto.
More "Plus Ultra"s all over the ceiling here.
A random bit of history is that "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" author Washington Irving lived in Alhambra for a bit. He eventually served as the U.S. Ambassador to Spain. A fun Washington Irving fact is that he is the guy that first gave New York the nickname "Gotham", which is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town".
I like oranges.
Later on we bought a few snacks for the car. I noticed this little deal where if you bought two packages of Lay's chips you got a fancy golden wine stopper. Yes please.
Well it was Christmas Eve in Granada and we scouted around a bit to find a restaurant for dinner that was still open.
Luckily the local Muslim population doesn't care about Christmas so we popped into a Moroccan joint.