L’Albarda Garden, Pedreguer, Spain
Pure paradise with some very special twists.
In contrast to the English National Trust’s overstocked, over co-ordinated and over primped gardens for the over wealthy, L’Albarda is a garden on a human scale. Intimate, balmy, exotic; inspirational. In fact only a year ago, it seemed to be all a garden should and could be, but, as it turned out, there were secrets hidden within it’s walls. Following this first visit, we determined that we would be back.
One year after our first look around this slice of heaven, an opportunity came for our second visit, which would be guided by a local professor of botany. Immediately, we said yes. And that is how we found ourselves heading out, in the warm winter sunshine, with a group of cyclists. We had all skimmed through the Spanish countryside on our bicycles, many of which were electric. Us two fools were on ancient, borrowed, bikes that were somebody’s cast offs. One had an ridiculously inadequate, back pedal brake and both were woefully shy of gears. From the East of Denia we cycled towards a place called Pedreguer.
It was to be a day of surprises.
What was surprising?
You are right to ask.
The first thing is that we made it there at all. Having avoided cycling for about 10 years, we were truly chuffed to find we were able to force our arcane steeds to their limits. In turn they certainly pushed us to our limits. At our age exercise is important, but the only very steep climb of the day, to the garden gate, felt like a killer; though, here I am, alive and well to tell the tale.
Another surprise? This garden is more than gorgeous, it turns out that it hosts a nationally important collection of native plants. It is a wildflower haven maintained using organic methods. We had noticed that the place had weedy areas here and there; and in a way it does.
Top off the first two surprises with a sleek, low, ground hugging auditorium, that is being constructed especially for operatic performances and this becomes the garden that keeps giving. Imagine on a warm summers evening being immersed in green lushness, with glimpses of sweeping, crystal clear, mountains soaring beyond the garden walls, the setting sun showering the firmament with the glowing embers of the day. All this before being called to step inside with your glass of Champagne in hand and with your charming escort accompanying you to your seat where you will be consumed by a whirlwind, goose bump raising, performance.
Our Professor walked us through the grounds, chatting along the way about the things we were seeing: Wormwood, used to make the drink Absinthe and another plant very similar to Thyme that is added to alcohol to enrich the flavour. We could all see where this was going.
Usually we know what we have seen. Our eyes take in everything and our brains grapple to make an accurate interpretation, which we accept as fact. Surprisingly little input is needed for our view of the world to change. In a couple of hours, this chap had caused a paradigm shift in the way we perceived the garden. Yes, it is an absolutely gorgeous spot, any fool can see that, reason enough for dawdling through it’s leafy calm. And yet, it is so much more than the sum of it’s parts, because of the owner’s higher aims to preserve and understand native plant life and to encourage others to embrace the importance of caring for our biosphere.
The guided tour ended. We thanked our guide and said our goodbyes. All that was left for our merry band of cyclists to do, was to head home. We pushed our bikes to the garden gates, mounted up and hurtled straight downhill. With one of us having to pedal backwards in a vain attempt to moderate the speed of the bike, and the other with no back brake, we gave up trying to slow our bikes. Instead we hung on like devils on horseback all the way to the bottom, where we were greeted by the safety of a level cycle way.
Oh how sweet the ride home, with memories of L’Arbada Garden lingering in our minds.