Monday, 15 August 2011

The Real (Jardín Botánico) Madrid


I can’t claim to have seen the real Madrid in two days but we did visit the Real/Royal Jardin Botánico, what used to be the Royal parkland and listened to some flamenco music outside the Royal Palace.

The botanic garden in mid August is probably not at its peak, but there are still some pretty views to take in. 


Elsewhere the capsicums where drooping, the bosques threadbare and there was lots of gravel and dirt to be seen.  Still, there are some interesting plants outside and in the glasshouses, such as this mix of aquatics under glass.


In and outside there are many familiar plants from Gran Canaria (part of the Canary Islands, and Spain), such as this Canary Island Palm (Phoenix canariensis).


The gardens were created, like much else in Madrid, by King Carlos/Charles III, in 1781 (at least so says the sign at the entrance; Alistair Hay says he thinks it was founded by Ferdinand VI in 1755, and transformed into a more scientific garden by Gomez Ortega under the auspices of Carlos III - I'd believe Alistair). It’s a very neat garden, intensely ordered into four grand terraces: the Terrace of Plots, Terrace of Botanical Studies, the Flower Plan and the Laurel Terrace.


We are reminded when we step through the gate that “The Garden is open to visitors but is not a Public Park – it is a museum-collection of live plants which are delicate”. We trod carefully.

Not so delicate are the plants in the nearby, and much larger, ex-royal parkland – the Jardines del Buen Retro. These Dr Suess-like Cupressus sempivirens have been much photographed I know, but I couldn’t resist them (shading Lynda!).


But this park is more than funny trees. It has some grand monuments, such as the Monumento Alfonso XII,


and the crystal-clear Palacio de Cristal.


This empty (of plants) glasshouse reminds us how attractive these structures are devoid of plant-life. The Palm House at Kew Gardens apparently looked spectacular after it had been repaired and before the vegetation was reintroduced. The Temperate House will look equally fine in a few years time when the £28 million repairs are finished, and the plans huddled around the gardens waiting to return. Not that I recommend gardens keep their glasshouses empty but every now and then we need to be reminded of their inherent beauty.


And this one even had a slide. In this case it was part of an installation all about protest movements over the ages. The significance of the slide has something to do with the decision I had to make at the top – to slide down or retreat, awkwardly, down the stairs. An easy decision...


Of course Lynda and I did a whole lot of non-botanical things (assuming my sliding down the slide is vaguely botanical because it was in a glasshouse). We saw the Guernica at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arté Reina Sofia; Goyas, Rubens and others at the Museo Nacional del Prado; and  flamenco music (Cañizares) at the Jardines de Sabatini (ah, in a garden!).

And any trip to Spain for me is about sixteenth century writer, Miguel Cervantes. We found the place where he lived and died (but no trace of the house which was destroyed in the nineteenth century I think),


and a statue, beautifully lit at night, of the heroes from his famous novel, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.They are part of a monument to Cervantes in Plaza de España.


I must finish with a brief mention of the impending World Youth Day in Madrid. The city was filling with religious youth and signs. Although it doesn't all start until Tuesday blue-shirted young and gowned old (nuns and priests I imagine) roamed the streets. There were lots of temporary structures and fences all over the city, but this one was the oddest. I'm presuming it is a mass outdoor confessional, which doesn't auger well for amount of sin to be generated over the next week. 


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