When someone tells you a destination is “wonderful” or “beautiful” and how they “loved” a particular city, you never quite know what it will be like for you, so it was for me as I headed to Barcelona, Spain. I had heard great things about this unique city and in just a few days of my arrival, I loved it beyond words. It is a city by the sea with a climate that draws the people, both locals and tourists out of doors to enjoy life walking tree-lined streets such as the Ramblas, enjoying the cafes, admiring the ironwork railings of balconies, and decorative doorways.
Gardens are my happy place, a refuge from the news, traffic, noise, and security checks. I embrace the blooms, the design, the human touch on a patch of the planet. It is a piece of heaven right under my feet.
The Alhambra & Generalife Gardens Granada, Andalusia, Spain
The Alhambra, in Granada, Spain looms large in the history of gardens. Monty Don, host of the British program, Gardener’s World, says “the Islamic mind changed the way the whole of Europe gardens” and the evidence bears this out the more I learn about the Islamic paradise garden.
Some of the best views in the world are from a garden.
If you find yourself in Monte Carlo and you don’t expect to win enough at the famed Beaux Arts Casino to shop for a Rolls Royce while you are there, I have the perfect adventure for you. Take the #2 city bus up the mountain to the end of the line to the La Jardin Exotic Botanical Garden. Hanging off a promontory point, nearly 500’ above the bustling tourist sites down by the harbor, this garden will give you spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea, and the bay filled with yachts and sailboats. Gazing afar you can see Italy. Looking below, you see the lavishly landscaped rooftop gardens of the surrounding high-rise buildings.
Living in the wide open southwest I’m used to lots of space, wide streets and a spacious patch of earth to grow flowers, vegetables, and trees. Traveling this summer in Mediterranean cities I found an entirely different spatial atmosphere.
Monet wrote of his pond at Giverny,
“It took me a long time to understand my water lilies. I had planted them for the pure pleasure of it and I grew them without thinking of painting them…And then, all of a sudden, I had the revelation of the enchantment of my pond. I took up my palette. Since then I’ve had no other model.”Monet’s Water Lilies, Vivian Russell
Sitting on a Paris bench in May I was enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower. The beds of the park had been freshly dug exposing the rich dark soil and I knew colorful summer plants would be arriving soon. An elderly woman came walking through the grass pulling her shopping cart. She stopped at the flower bed. In the bright light of day she removed her red trowel and a plastic shopping bag. Bending over she began carefully filling the bag with fresh soil.
I became impatient listening to the tour guide explain 700 years of Spanish history. Already I calmly sat through a long bus ride from the port of Cadiz to Seville to get to the Royal Palace Gardens of Alcazar. I wanted only to see the garden. So. . . . I slipped away from our tour group.
Perhaps the very instant spring begins is that brief sunny moment when bare branches burst from bud to flower. Dormant limbs feeling the stir of seasonal change bud and swell with the news that winter is waning. Seemingly overnight the bleak branch canopy suddenly commands our attention as we notice the burst of flowers filling a tree. Flowers before leaves, before fruit and seed pods simply fascinate a gardener, who willingly rakes and sweeps the debris that follows the spectacular show of flowering trees.
Eyeful, Plateful, Basketful!
Oh the ritual of new year’s resolutions challenging us to be our better self has come around again. The predictable but valid ones reappear; save money, spread kindness, and eat better are high on the list. As gardeners, at least one of our resolutions is likely to include something related to fruits and vegetables. We not only resolve to eat more fruits and vegetables but to grow our own bountiful harvest! There are many wonderful reasons deeply rooted in our souls which drive us to succeed, yet how disappointing when our seeds of optimism dry up. However, I have a fruit and vegetable resolution that is truly attainable. Resolve to get an eyeful of the beauty fruits and vegetables provide all year long.