Cadiz’ Historic Parque Genoves: A Whimsical Garden on the Water

The old city of Cadiz is a peninsula bordered on three sides by the ocean and on the land side by walls, with the modern Cadiz having expanded passed those fortifications. This charming walled city is a compact maze of narrow streets, mostly pedestrian, but dotted with squares, and plazas, and of course the beach and promenade give it a pleasant open feel as well. The main gree area is Parque Genoves.

This historic park situated at the very end of the peninsula on the waterfront dates back to the end of the 18th century. It was enlarged in the 19th century and manymore trees were planted, at which time in became known as “Paseo de las Delicias”, garden of the delights. Then in the late 19th century, it bacame a botanical garden under the direction of Eduardo Genovés y Puig, a garden designer from Valencia.

There are really two main areas to the garden. One side feels more like w whimsical park, with a man made lake, a waterfall, a mountain with cave, dinosaurs in the water, duck houses and a beautiful kiosk. The other half has a formal promenade with topiaries and the botanical garden area with an extensive collection of trees and succulents. In this post I am showcasing the first area of the park.

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The Alhambra’s Gardens in Granada: The Lower Terraces

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada and the best known gardens are those of the Generalife, the vacation palace on the other side of the Alhambra complex.

The gardens of the Alhambra proper however,  while often overlooked, deserve a visit. They are laid out as a series of terraces starting at the lower terrace with a pavilion and large reflecting pond, and then arbored stairs leading to a series of terraces landscaped in a very Mediterranean style and reminiscent of some of the gardens found in Provence or Italy. I am featuring in this post the lower terraces.

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The Alhambra’s Parador in Granada: The Courtyards

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada and the best known gardens are those of the Generalife, the vacation palace on the other side of the Alhambra complex.

In the vast complex of palaces that is the Alhambra, this former monastery has been converted into one of the Paradors, Spain government-owned luxury hotels in historic landmarks.

A central courtyard is enclosed with arched columns and a covered gallery. It is a lovely example of the typical Andalusian patio (albeit a rather grand version of course) with the ever present water features in the form of a canal and a central fountain as a focal point. Note also the intricate pebble design of the patio flooring, found throughout southern Spain.

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To the side of the Parador are a series of terraced patios overlooking the Alhambra gardens. Note the pergola, patio flooring designs typical of Andalusia and the ornate fountain.

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Jardin Americano: Sevilla’s Botanical Gardens

Sevilla is a truly beautiful city, and one of my favorites in Spain. It is full of historic neigborhoods, stunning architecture and monuments, but its many plazas, squares, parks, green spaces, narrow streets, and pedestrian areas make it also  very charming and people friendly.  I was visiting Sevilla off season, but the warmer Mediterranean climate still had roses and bougainvilleas blooming in December. I first visited the Maria Luisa Park, designed by one of my favorite landscape architects Jean Claude Nicholas Forrestier, then the famous Alcazar Palace and its famous gardens.

Maybe I should have visited the Jardines de Guadalquivir and the Jardin Americano (the Botanical Garden next to it) first, because I must say they were a huge let down after seeing such world class gardens.

On the river that goes through Sevilla is an island, named Isla de La Catuja after the cloistered monastery (Cartuja) that is now the Contemporary Arts Center. The island was isolated and undeveloped until the 1992 World Expo, at which time  the monastwery was converted, bridges were added, A huge research and development complex was built, as well as university schools, a stadium, an auditorium, an amusement park, theaters and concert venues, and of course, the gardens.

Jardin Americano, much like it’s neighbor Jardines de Guadalquivir, seemed a bit abandoned and run down, with ponds not looking their best and concrete showing wear (I decide to forego taking photos of those areas). I also noticed gaps in plantings, as if nothing had been replaced in some time.

Even in its hay day, this garden would have had a bit too much concrete for my taste; it does have some nice spots though, such as the large, slatted tropical hothouse right on the Guadalquivir river, that makes one feel a bit like an island cataway, or the nice collection of succulents. In keeping with the theme of the 92 Expo of the 500 year anniversary of Columbus’ voyage,  many of the plants were gifted by countries from the Americas. Others are plants you will see through southern Spain, such as bougainvilleas, oleanders, or jacarandas.

Jarin Americano is right by the bridge leading to the monastery, now the Contemporary Arts Center, and there is no entrance fee.

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Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: Plaza de Espana

Maria Luisa, Infanta of Spain (1832-1897) was the younger sister of Isabella II, queen of Spain. She married Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, youngest son of the French King Louis Philippe, and became Duchess of Montpensier.

Most of the grounds that form Maria Luisa Park today where originally part of the Palace of San Telmo and donated by Maria Luisa to the city in 1893 to be used as public gardens. The palace , a magnificent example of Spanish baroque architecture was rehabilitated and converted in the 1990s into the seat of the autonomous government of Andalusia. It stands today just outside Maria Luisa Park.

French urban planner and landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, who also created the Bagatelle Rose Garden and the Laribal Gardens in Barcelona, started work on the park in 1911. Also in preparation of the 1929 World’s Fair, architect Anibal Gonzales began work on the Plaza de Espana building and some of the pavilions.

Under Forestier, who had been heavily influenced by the gardens of Andalusia and Morocco, the Park became a Moorish inspired extravaganza of tiled fountains, ponds, arbors, pavillions and other structures, planted in a lush Mediterranean style with vines, bougainvilleas, roses, palms orange trees and flower beds.

I discovered Forestier’s work when in Barcelona, visiting the stunning terraced Laribal Gardens on the hill of Montjuic.  These gardens lead from fountains to gazebos to arbors to rose gardens to the top of the hill where you discover the sweeping views down the hill with water stairs inspired by the Alhambra leading back down. This element of surprise and wonder is one I have found in all of Forestier’s gardens, whether in Paris at Bagatelle, Morocco at the Jardins d’Essais or here.

This park being such an expansive and complex creation, I am featuring it through several posts.This one one showcases the Plaza de Espana. Although not strictly a garden of course, the Plaza de Espana is not only emblematic of the city of Seville, but also the focal point of the park around which much of the gardens are laid out.

It was designed for the World Fair of 1929 and is now used for central government offices. It is a masterpiece of Renaissance Revival architecture, designed by Aníbal González. It features a series of tiled alcoves representing the provinces of Spain.

 

Plaza de Espana is laid out in a half moon, with the building curving around a monumental plaza with canals and tiled bridges. The square is tiled in the peble style so often found around Andalusian patios and squares.

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Sevilla’s Alcazar: The Courtyard of the Maidens

The Alcazar of Sevilla is an outstanding example of Mudejar architecture and one of the most beautiful palaces of Andalusia. Originally built by the Almohades dynasty, it was expanded upon by later rulers through the Middle Ages until the Reconquista by the Catholica rulers, who subsequently added to the palace as well until the 19th century. The Alcazar remains to this day the official residence of the King of Spain in Sevilla.

The gardens were developed in the Moorish style as an integral part of the palace design, with extensive patios, fruit orchards, produce gardens and landscaped grounds, to produce food for the palace as well as aesthetic pleasure. As with all moorish gardens, water features are everywhere.

This post concentrates on the  Patio de las Doncellas. According to wikipedia :

“The name, meaning “The Courtyard of the Maidens”, refers to the legend that the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year as tribute from Christian kingdoms in Iberia.

The lower level of the Patio was built for King Peter I and includes inscriptions describing Peter as a “sultan”. Various lavish reception rooms are located on the sides of the Patio. In the center is a large, rectangular reflecting pool with sunken gardens on either side. For many years, the courtyard was entirely paved in marble with a fountain in the center. However, historical evidence showed the gardens and the reflecting pool were the original design and this arrangement was restored. However, soon after this restoration, the courtyard was temporarily paved with marble once again at the request of movie director Ridley Scott. Scott used the paved courtyard as the set for the court of the King of Jerusalem in his movie Kingdom of Heaven. The courtyard arrangement was converted once more after the movie’s production.

The upper story of the Patio was an addition made by Charles V. The addition was designed by Luis de Vega in the style of the Italian Renaissance although he did include both Renaissance and mudéjar plaster work in the decorations. Construction of the addition began in 1540 and ended in 1572.”

More so probably than any other part of the Alcazar, the Courtyard of the Doncellas and surrounding rooms in the distinctly ornate Moorish style are reminiscent of the grandeur of the Alhambra in Granada and its patios.

Alcazar Palace and Gardens, Courtyard of the Maidens, Sevilla

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