The skies opened up again as we left Sevilla…..and the rains became heavier and heavier as we headed toward the White Hill Town of Arcos de la Frontera. We had just entered the town and were following an arrow directing us to our hotel, when it started hailing with such a ferocity that we couldn’t see what was ahead of us. Craig wisely pulled over and we waited out the tempest, watching as rivers of water rushed by and oranges, ripped from trees that lined the road, bounced down the saturated street.
After the squall ended, we continued on…..searching for, but not finding, more signs to the hotel. We drove through town….then out of town….then back to town, turning at the first street that seemed (to our disoriented senses) the way back into town. It wasn’t. The street quickly narrowed as it wound it’s way up….straight up….deep into a purely residential area. Unable to turn around, we continued on….having to pull in our mirrors for fear of sacrificing them to one of the buildings we passed by. I thought that we must have turned on to a pedestrian lane…..until I saw cars behind us! We stopped a young woman walking by, showed her our map of Arcos and asked her to point to our location.
She pondered the map, turning it this way and that. Uh, oh…..this wasn’t good. She returned our map and, in broken English, told us that we weren’t on the map. She motioned that we had to go down, around and back. Which we did…..with two cars and a motorscooter hot on our heels.
We had safely landed back on the main street…..but still had no idea where we were or how to get to our hotel. We circled aimlessly until we spied another hotel sign….pointing to the opposite direction. We made a quick (and, no doubt, illegal) u-turn and, this time, successfully found the hotel…..straddling the old and new towns on the edge of the cliff that defines Arcos.
We checked in and were led to our room…..up a flight of stairs, down a few steps and up a few more stairs. The spacious room held no appeal…..it had stopped raining and we wanted to see the town…..so we dropped our suitcases, walked down a few stairs, up a few steps, down the flight of stairs and out the door.
The historic old town was up the street, around the corner and up another street (literally, “up” the street…..this is a hill town, after all). The town’s main square, Plaza del Cabildo, looks out over the valley below….rimming the plaza are the 17th century town hall, the Church of Santa Maria and the Parador (formerly a governor’s palace, now a luxury hotel).
When the rain stopped, we strolled through the narrow streets of the town, stopping for dinner at an Italian restaurant…..Craig having decided that it’s the safest thing to eat.
Craig ordered a Margherite pizza and I ordered garlic bread and ravioli. An oval pizza soon appeared and Craig dug in. There wasn’t much cheese on it, but he happily munched away while I waited for my dinner…..which was taking much longer to arrive. I finally succumbed to temptation and took a slice of the pizza….just as my pasta arrived….with a large pizza. As the server tried to find room for all these plates on our small table, she asked if we would mind if she put the garlic bread on the next table. Guess the joke was on us!
We woke to sunlight streaming through our window and decided to take another stroll through town…..this time with blue skies overhead. The narrow streets were no match for the local drivers, who sped through these tiny lanes like warm knives through butter….we had to jump into porticos and doorways at every turn. But the town was simply beautiful….
Before we left town, I copied Michelin’s directions to Marbella and we departed….. confident that we’d be at the hotel in less than two and a half hours…..but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Michelin’s directions were flawless…..until we happened on some roadwork that took us “right” when Michelin said “left.” We tried to return to the intersection, but every turn took us further afield. We finally decided to go back to Arcos and start over…..that’s when we ended up in Jerez. We decided to forego Michelin’s shortcut to Marbella and take the long route past Cadiz. Now following a new direction, we drove through Jerez. At every roundabout, we followed the signs to Cadiz. We were led through town, past town and then back into town before we were finally sent on the highway to Cadiz. Spain doesn’t make it easy.
After four hours of driving….much of it on winding, twisting, turning, curving roads….we arrived at Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort. The room wasn’t ready, so we bided our time in the bar…..downing some well-deserved Bloody Mary’s.
The room was soon ready and we were inside making dinner when Kris and Paul arrived. They had driven in from Sevilla and they, too, had gotten lost and they, too, had taken the long road around the coast. We toasted with glasses of sherry and settled in for the fun week ahead of us.
” I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” ~ Daniel Boone