Balcón del Coño, Ronda, Spain
Hotels aren't normally my thing, and I tend to stay in hotels that are functional, clean, well-situated in the town, and somewhat reasonably priced. That is to say, I don't put much thought into them, and I don't usually remember much about them. And I certainly don't stay at B&Bs, mostly because I have no interest in eating breakfast with strangers (and they don't want to eat breakfast with me...don't catch me before 11 am because I'm more of a bear than usual).
Enfrente Arte Hotel may have changed that forever.
Checking into this small, funky, 14 room hotel, you'll find yourself standing at the front of a car hood. The car, you see, is in the lobby. Or at least the front of the car is in the lobby. If your room isn't ready, take a step into the bar, where you can help yourself to an espresso, beer on tap, or a glass (or bottle) of wine. It's all included in the very reasonable price, and it's all there 24-7 for your entertainment.
Explore the hotel grounds a bit a more, and you'll come across plenty of interesting artifacts, many of which are related to music, some of which conjure memories of A Clockwork Orange. There's also one of those pools of water with the fish that "massage" your feet. The fish eat the stuff off of your bare feet. It's stimulating, creepy, and relaxing all at the same time.
Make your way outside to the courtyards and you'll find two seating areas with grand views of the mountains. A perfect place for a nightcap. Or morning cap.
The rooms are all different, tastefully and unconventionally decorated. We stayed in two rooms during our stay, one of which was the "tower" room, which is a three story room in a tower that was built in the 1500s. A very interesting room for sure (although these old bones had a hard time getting down the two flights of stairs in the middle of the night to get to the head).
And then there's the breakfast. Imagine my surprise when I had one of the most interesting and delicious salads that I can recall. What was in that bowl? I had no idea, and loved every texture, every crunch, every chew, every bit of freshness that was exploding off the fork. The owner grows a bunch of stuff on his farm, and brings the goods to the hotel daily. Along with that salad, was a sizeable selection of fruits and meats and cheeses and smoked salmon, and a gracious and friendly (which can be said for all of the staff) chef in the kitchen can whip you up some eggs and cured meats. Fantastic stuff.
Returning from dinner on our first night we were welcomed with a candle-lit hotel. "How charming," we thought. Then the owner advised us that it was a power-outage. And power might not be on for a while. He had a fire going in the study, invited us back and got us a bottle of wine, opened up his laptop and played some tunes (he worked in the music industry and is a pretty interesting guy). We sat and chatted for an hour until the power came back on. A great "surprise" as it turns out.
Enfrente Arte Hotel is located on the edge of town, far enough from the touristy center that you'll think you are on the edge of the universe. There's a shortcut to the very well-preserved Arab Baths, which are well worth a visit, and the Cuenca Gardens, which meander along the cliffs of the Tajo river, are steps away. And if you're up for some exercise, Casa del Rey Moro is right across one of the old bridges (not the new bridge, which was built several hundred years ago), and after 365 steps you will reach the base of the Tajo for epic views.
Going down the stairs was almost as challenging as coming back up
Don't forget the bullring, Plaza de Toros. It's a beauty. Unlike the bullring in Sevilla, you're allowed to walk into the middle in Ronda (at least when there aren't any bulls!) Pretty awesome (although I wouldn't go to an actual event). Right near the bullring is the Balcón del Coño, which offers incredible views of the surrounding area, and is not to be missed.
Enfrente Arte Hotel is a magical, fun little place in a unique and beautiful mountain town. We were in Ronda for only 3 days, and could have easily spent a week. Or a life. We can't stop thinking about this leg of the trip.