One of my favorite things about traveling is finding interesting places to stay. For example, a few days ago Laura and I arrived in the relatively small town of Ronda, which dramatically straddles a deep ravine. On one side is the “old town” that was built during the time of Moorish rule in Spain, and on the other side is the “new town,” which is actually hundreds of years old. The two sides are connected by a massive stone bridge that was erected in the 1700s. During our visit, I heard another tourist gasp “oh! It’s like a fairy tale,” when she first glimpsed the bridge.
As usual, Laura and I arrived in the city without any specific plan for our lodging. We set out on foot from the train station and about 25 minutes later arrived at the bridge and town center. Along the way, we stopped and asked a few small hotels about availability and price.
Eventually, we made it to the oldest part of town, which was a mostly residential area of crumbling old white washed homes. They were the kinds of structures where the red tile roofs had long ago turned grey and black from moss, and then only where weeds hadn’t grown up in between.
Our guide book listed a few places to stay, so we were going to check out a few of those when I noticed a simple, tiled sign high up on a wall in a narrow cobblestone alley that plunged down toward the ravine. “B&B” the sign said, with an arrow making a hook shape.
I wasn’t immediately sure what that meant, but after a few minutes of looking around we found a home with a similar tiled sign, though unlike a typical hotel the door was shut.
Laura and I looked at each other, shrugged, and I gave the heavy iron knocker a couple of loud hits. And several seconds later we were greeted by an older woman who informed us (in English) that we had arrived at her B&B.
Unfortunately, I have forgotten the woman’s name, but she welcomed us into her home, showed us a fabulous room — it was a suite with a separate sitting room and small library — and finally sat down with us to show us a map of the city. She also helped figure out the train schedules, and told us we were free to use the rooftop terrace. And perhaps most surprising of all, it was one of the least expensive places we stayed on our whole trip. It you want to see pictures of it, it’s called Baraka Bed and Breakfast.
Anyway, all of this is to say that finding Baraka Bed and Breakfast got us off to a great start in what ended up as one of our favorite cities.
It’s also the sort of place that has changed my attitude about lodging while on the road. At one time, I used to think of lodging as a place to sleep and nothing more. I usually went for the cheapest bed, and I didn’t worry too much about character or making incredible connections with people living in the city I was visiting.
But my experiences in Ronda, as well as many other cities, suggest that while anywhere with a bed will usually suffice, a truly special place can deeply enrich a journey.