I have been to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain however I thought the General Life Gardens, was some area sponsored by an insurance company so we didn’t go. I know I’m a plonker! However my friend and travel journalist Claire Foot did go to both and kindly offered to write this guest blog for me. Hopefully it will help to ignite your holiday day dreams…..
If I could add to the list of Wonders of the World I would include the Alhambra, General Life Gardens, after all we will never see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even surrounded by self-absorbed, selfie stick wielding, sun-burnt tourists these gardens maintain a spiritual air unshaken by the numbers of visitors the coaches spill forth daily. Crowds are to be expected, the Alhambra Palace and adjacent garden is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
HIll of the SUN
The garden is on the Cerro del Sol, Hill of the Sun with views over the valley outside of the Palace and was originally built in the thirteenth century. It has lived through neglect and restoration over hundreds of years through Muslim and Christian periods. The present-day incarnation was started in 1931. There are different ideas about the meaning of General Life, from the Architect’s or Governor’s Garden to the Gypsy Vegetable Garden but regardless of its name it is easy to understand how the garden’s tranquility attracted the Moorish kings of Spain when they wanted some peace and quiet.
Spain’s Moorish Gardens are often exquisite but the General Life is an exceptional example of a paradise garden with courtyards, long ponds and planting for senses and shade from the scorching sun. There are more than 150 types of plants and many of the mosaic stone paths are lined with Cypress trees. There are evergreen Magnolia’s and a wealth of rose bushes.
Courtyard of the Sultana
The Court of the Sultana’s Cypress Tree is a patio with old cypress trees and well kempt boxes. Myrtle hedges surrounds the ponds and fountains. The sultan’s wife is said to have met her lover under a Cypress tree here and once discovered their romantic tryst led to the violet death of the lover’s tribe. Nearby the oldest staircase in the garden, the Water Stairway, has channels of running water at hand rail level and Laurels on each side that have grown to meet in the middle forming a shady, sun dappled tunnel.
The formal layout gives way in places to planting reminiscent of and English cottage garden where a jumble of flowers, plants and herbs remind me of home minus the orange trees. Think thyme and rosemary, roses, wisteria, peonies and irises in spring.
PATIO DEL LOS PERFUMES
If the delights of the Alhambra and the General Life Garden inspire you then afterwards take a visit to the old quarter of Granada city, Albaicin at the foot of the Palace and search out the Patios del los Perfumes. It is a museum, workshop and shop selling perfumes and plants. The botanical patio is a beautiful space in this seventeenth century former Renaissance Palace selling aromatic plants and herbs.
Top Tips: if you plan to visit the General Life Gardens do not expect to turn up on the day and buy tickets. They need to purchased months in advance to secure your visit. Take water and comfy shoes and don’t rush, this is not a tick box exercise. Take a magical stroll stopping off to take in the scents, sounds and sights.