And we are back at 35C today- I am not going out, just looking at the suffering garden through the windows, and waiting for what should be big storms tonight.
So, meanwhile, back in Granada in early June, I spent a lovely two hours, post-Generalife, around the corner at Carmen de los Mártires. This was a beautiful and calming experience after the hustle and bustle of people and cameras at the Generalife. To get to Carmen de los Mártires, I left the Alhambra site looking for a late breakfast, and then walked back up the hill towards the Fundación archivo de Manuel de Falla- and Carmen de los Martires is almost opposite at the brow of the slight hill. It isn’t well signposted, but the Fundación is.
This site has a grisly history, named for the 7000 or so Christian hostages taken by Boabdil in his desperate bid to defeat the armies of Queen Isabel. She built a hermitage , and, later a convent on the site in typical imperial Catholic fashion, and even later, in the nineteenth century, a small palace was constructed on the site of the convent, and extensive gardens were developed. Falling into rack and ruin by end of World War Two, and one appallingly hot summer which beat the remains of the gardens into submission, the last owner then donated the palace and the grounds to the city of Granada. Damage was done as the site was earmarked for a luxury hotel development in the 1970s, which, luckily, ultimately, didn’t go ahead, but the ‘romantic garden and labyrinth’, as well as part of the palace, had already been destroyed.
There were maybe ten people in the whole garden, and a small part of primary school children, who were leaving to go back to school with their teachers. Bliss.
I loved the pebble patterns of the Patio Garden pathway, and the small grotto enclosing the fountain feeding the canal. Simple canna, acanthus and fern plantings gave it an air of coolness in the heat of the day. Emerging onto a small terrace, and down stone steps, a brilliant use of a semi-circular lower terrace, coupled with the peace and intimacy of the space made me well up, wishing I wasn’t enjoying the garden alone. Although nineteenth century in feel, there were so many interesting small fountains, troughs, tiles, which had been lovingly incorporated into the garden, giving it a sense of touching history, past, present and future.
In the surprisingly cool, shady and damp areas around the many fountains, Iris foetidissima had been planted, forming itself into extravagant and generous clumps over time. It may not be to everyone’s taste as a plant, but it has a real elegance and finesse about the way it holds itself up for inspection.
It was getting hot in the sun, so I didn’t walk all the way round. Large ponds, the remnants of a rose garden, some wonderful views over the city, were all to be seen. I loved the restoration of the frog breeding habitat near the restored waterway, and the sparkling effects of light and shade in the immense, curving vine-covered tunnel, supported by trained pencil cypresses.
It was the perfect antidote to the rush of the Generalife, and set me up for finding another way back and down through the narrow streets of the Albaicín.