Departing Córdoba en route to Ronda, we stopped at the little "white hill town"of Carmona. We were able to walk through the beautiful Parador (where we were originally scheduled to stay instead of Córdoba) at the highest point of this well fortified town (Julius Caesar called it the best protected site in Iberia) and enjoyed the views and quaintness of this quiet place.

It was Sunday, and besides dressing for church, there was a local festival starting so it was just beginning to bustle. Jim and others climbed up to the tower while Wendy and friends enjoyed a local treat, churros and hot chocolate. Ah...!

Our next stop was at a local family-owned olive oil factory deep in the heart of Andalusia. Although we have oil tours and tastings before, this guide showed us how they mechanically shake the trees, then carefully rake them to get the olives into a large umbrella without bruising them. The extraction process and bottling is pretty much the same everywhere, but the tasting here was phenomenal. Isaac, our guide explained how to smell, sip, then kind of pull the oil through your mouth. The intense pepper flavor at the end of this process set off coughing, but that was followed quickly by orange infused olive oil on top of delicious chocolate ice cream and solved that problem!

Onto our destination for tonight and tomorrow, the town of Ronda, another white-washed town, but this one much higher up atop the isolated perimeter of a high Sierra. Our Parador, which once served as Ronda’s medieval city hall, is perched at the edge of El Tajo Gorge, which is 500 feet deep and 300 feet wide.

Across this gorge between the old city and the new is the bridge made famous by Hemingway in "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Time to rewatch the movie! Orson Wells also greatly enjoyed the town and there is a park named after him.

Tomorrow is our main tour of Ronda but Emma led a bunch of brave souls way down to a spectacular lookout over part of the gorge. Incredible and stunning views were seen. It’s impossible to get away from the beauty of this town.

We stopped at a local store to buy wine, and managed to also finagle a couple of candles and some glasses, then back to our nice Parador where Wendy, collecting supplies for the past day put together a very lovely welcoming New Year’s ceremony. We have more than several Jews in our group, but everyone showed up to participate. A somewhat raucous dinner followed (a fellow traveler was celebrating a big birthday), and we fell into bed exhausted from both eating and laughing too much.