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Compendium // Cádiz > Bounteous Botany: Alice’s new Wonderland

What was I expecting of Cádiz, Andalucia’s strange, almost island city, set within ancient fortress walls on the Westernmost end of Spain’s Southern coast? Not this. I imagined a tough, worn-out yellow city, battered by the waves of the sea and of history; hardened edges, hardened people. I never even considered the softness that may lie within.

Yet  after a 3 hour bus journey, which took us through a landscape peppered with new power-generating windmills exhibiting something strangely melancholy, yet unique in the surrounding landscape, we arrived into a city which was very different from the Cádiz of my imaginings.  Yes, the city is substantially fortified, a facet of strength exhibited by its mighty domed Cathedral and tight narrow streets, large merchant palacios each built topped with solid stone towers. But what I wasn’t expecting was the greenery: the softening of those fortress edges with a bounteous outpouring of tropical botany and verdant greenery.

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Almost all along the old fortress walls that encase the city you can stroll within the shelter and under the sun-dappled canopy of a multitude of trees set within gardens paved in a checkerboard effect of black and white. In the Jardines de Alameda Apodaca, there is a real sense of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland as you stride between the squares of black and white, pondering whether you are in fact part of an enigmatic chess game, the various sculptures and busts peppering the space providing the pieces… or are they the players? For the victor, what worthier prize than gardens abundant with flamingo pink bougainvillea, or those tree-framed views over the volatile ocean – a heady mix of blue punctuating the jungle of greens.

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Make it safely through the garden’s game of chess, and the next space steps up the surreality of the experience one notch further. For in the Parque Genovés, you will truly start to wonder whether you have entered another Cádiz park, or into the warped imaginings of a garden genius. Possibly both. For here, a botanical garden is spruced up as though for a masquerade ball, with long pathways bordered by topiary plucked, trimmed and trained to form impressive twists, twirls and curving figures which take the ephemeral magic of this garden space to new levels. Alice had surely reached her Wonderland with this one.

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A morning or an afternoon spent strolling through Cádiz’s gardens is an utterly fulfilling experience. Cádiz does not feel like a particularly fast-paced city, but in its gardens, things grind to a somniferous halt as the surreal shapes and near-claustrophobic intensity of the planting opens up another world of the imaginings. For something a little more bustling, head for the Plaza de Mina – a delightful shady park/square lined with little cafes and containing little antique kiosks which have been transformed variously into sweet shops and bookstores. Then there’s the Plaza Candelaria – another leafy plaza, where some of the city’s best restaurants can be found. But more about that another time.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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