I left Granada before dawn and travelled by train across Andalusia to Ronda, a hilltop town founded by the Celts. I went there because Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway loved that town and it seemed obvious to me that, if they adored Ronda, then I would certainly find something incredibly special there. Perhaps it was a volcano of creative energy, or an inspirational view, or a chance to meet a spirit with magical powers. Who knew? Whatever it was, I wanted to touch it, embrace it, and experience it to the full.
The morning rain stopped, the sun came out and I walked into the Plaza de Toros at Ronda.
There was not a single person around.
I sat in a booth with a perfect view of the harmonious architecture of the arena and I imagined what went on when a bull of terrifying power, driven mad by the sharp lances of agile and quick picadors, faced his ultimate challenger, the matador de toros.
After a while I went to the very centre of the arena and scooped up a small handful of sand, which moments later I let scatter through my open fingers.
From there it was not far to La Ciudad, the old part of the town, just across a deep canyon, at the bottom of which the River Guadaletin flows. There I found a cafe on the edge of a hundred-metre precipice with a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. I was served a tiny cup of coffee with a curious African flavour and I tasted this black, hot, dense liquid, but couldn’t find a name for it. The sun was moving towards the west when I went to the Palace of Mondragon, built for the Moorish ruler, Abomelic Abd al-Malik, and washed my hands in pure, cold water that streamed from a fountain.