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Michelle Obama visits Ronda, a favorite Spanish city of Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway

RONDA, Spain (AP) — U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha on Saturday visited the picturesque southern city of Ronda, once a favorite haunt of actor-director Orson Welles and author Ernest Hemingway.

Security was tight as Mrs. Obama and 9-year-old Sasha toured Santa Maria, a classic Andalusian-style church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The group — which included an unknown number of the first lady's friends — had driven into the hilltop city in a motorcade and later stopped for lunch at Del Escudero restaurant, set in a baronial style 19th century villa with typical whitewashed walls and red roof tiles located next to the bullring.

Welles and Hemingway both wrote about Ronda's beauty and colorful bullfighting traditions after living there part-time.

Ronda's population of around 37,000 swells each summer as tourists flock to see its sights, including the oldest-known bullring in Spain.

Hemingway's novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls" depicts the brutality of Spain's 1936-39 civil war and one of its scenes is reputedly based on killings that took place at Ronda's southwestern El Tajo cliffs.

Welles was so taken by Ronda that when he died in 1985 his ashes were scattered in a bullring at the local estate of Antonio Ordonez, one of Spain's most famous bullfighters and also a close friend of Hemingway.

Mrs. Obama visited Casa del Rey Moro and the house of St. John Bosco, both palaces with balconies and terraces overlooking the steep gorge.

Ronda is inland from the coastal resort of Marbella, near where Mrs. Obama is staying as part of a five-day, private visit.

The Obama party is due to attend a charity event hosted by actors Antonio Banderas and Eva Longoria on Saturday night, Marbella newspaper La Tribuna said.

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Associated Press writer Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.