In Sevilla we wandered the mazelike alleyways of the Santa Cruz barrio, passing massive wooden doors studded with metal rivets, colorful shops and tapas restaurants all tucked into niches in ancient stone walls. Bricked archways opened into tree-lined courtyards where fountains splashed bright drops in the sunlight and prancing horses pulled shiny tourist laden carriages across the cobblestones. In this magical city we climbed to the top of Giraldi Tower where in medieval times knights galloped their steeds up the same narrow winding ramp we followed to survey the surrounding countryside for invaders.
On the balmy Mediterranean in Nerja we watched fishermen run wooden dories into the sea and return with nets threaded with silver fish. Later in the evening the fish was served in open air restaurants snugged up to the sand. In the mornings elderly gentlemen sat shoulder to shoulder on benches in shady city squares, working over life memories and old arguments.
But my favorites were the palace gardens hidden behind stone walls where centuries ago sultans and kings found comfort in nature and in the play of water over stone. Out of sight of the commoners, hedges of aromatic myrtle offered structure while flowering vines rioted on brick walls and tropical flowers bloomed. With no electricity to power fountains, mountain streams were routed through aqueducts that trickled precious water along channels in the stone floors where it cooled the palace rooms and eventually ran into long still pools in rectangular garden courtyards. Underground cisterns collected water for use by palace residents. Garden gates and pavilions reflect the architectural influences of the occupying Moors and Christians who alternated supremacy over the centuries and elevated walkways provide views of the surrounding city and the fertile plains beyond. We saw two of these fantastic gardens, at the palaces Alcazar and Alhambra.
I’m only a tiny bit embarrassed to say I could clearly imagine sweeping along the Grotto Gallery of the Alacazar in a long diaphanous gown with a pointy topped veil streaming behind me, hurrying to attend to some intrigue of the court…..