The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Public gardens and parks in Spain

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511. The public walks and promenades. Almost every town in Spain has a public walk, where the better classes assemble in the afternoon. The promenade at Madrid is called El Prado, but the more general name in the provinces is the Alameda, from alamo, a word used to express an elm or a poplar; those trees being most commonly planted for shade. In all the promenades, large stone benches run in the direction of the alleys, for the people to sit upon, either for the purposes of repose or conversation; and there are generally numerous fountains of delicious water. No less than twenty or thirty men carrying each two large glasses which hold about a quart apiece, are constantly moving to and fro, clashing their glasses together, so dexterously, without breaking them, that they keep up a lively tinkling noise, like that of bells. (Doblado's El Prado is a fine spacious paeso, at least two miles long, and from 200 to 300 yards broad, adorned with rows of trees, and several fountains. The most frequented part, however, is not more than half a mile in length, and has scarcely any shade. It is crowded with company every evening, particularly on Sundays. 'Every Sunday, from four o'clock until six or seven, the Calle de Alcala, a noble street, nearly a mile in length, and at least twice as broad as Portland Place in London, is crowded from end to end, and from wall to wall; so that a carriage finds some difficulty in making its way.' The view of the Prado from the Calle de Alcala is very fine. 'Standing at the foot of this street, you have on the right and left the long wide Prado, with its quadruple row of trees stretching in fine perspective to the gates that terminate it; behind is the magnificent gate of Alcala, a model of architecture; and before lies the Calle de Alcala, reaching into the very heart of the city, and containing many superb hotels, convents, and public buildings.' (Inglis's Spain in 1830, vol. i. p. 81.) The Alameda at Ronda is one of the most remarkable in point of situation in all Spain. It lies high, and the avenues of which it is composed are planted with fine elms. At the extremity of the walk is a neat iron railing, and beyond, a view of the opposite mountains, which generally attract the attention of strangers so completely, as to prevent them from perceiving, till they are close to the railing, that it is on the very edge of a precipice. From this point the eye glances down a perpendicular cliff of several hundred feet, at the base of which the Guadiana dashes swiftly along; the height being so great that the roar of its cataracts dwindles into a faint lulling hum. (Brooke's Travels in Spain and Morocco, At Granada there are two alamedas; one, along the banks of the Xenil, is within the city, and is the most frequented; the other is a path above the Daro, which flows through a deep and finely wooded ravine. Nothing in Switzerland excels the romantic and striking scenery of the valley of the Daro; and magnificent glimpses of the Alhambra, and the gorgeous city, are frequently caught beyond it. (Inglis's Spain, vol. ii. p. 243.) At Gibraltar, the alameda is truly a little paradise. Along the whole of the north side of Gibraltar there is a level stripe between the base of the rock and the sea. This stripe varies in breadth from a quarter to, perhaps, two thirds of a mile; the east end is occupied by the town, the west by the alameda. This delightful promenade is about half a mile long; it is intersected by numerous walks, and affords, besides its own attractions, ever-changing and beautiful views of the bay, the rock, the mainland, and the town. The hedges are all pelargoniums of surprising size and beauty, and the trees are chiefly figs, with their broad leaves and fantastic trunks, silver elms, acacias with their yellow tufts full of fragrance, and orange trees speckled thickly with blossoms and bright fruit. The alameda of Gibraltar would be beautiful any where, but how much more so is it, bounded as it is on one side by a rock 1500 feet high, and on the other by a placid bay in the Mediterranean ! (Inglis's Spain, vol. ii. p. 165.) The Delicias at Seville is a most delightful promenade. It is situated about a mile down the river, and is in fact a grove of flowering trees and aromatic plants. There is a complete underwood of pelar-goniums bordering the walks, trailing upon the trees, and spreading over every unoccupied spot. Rows of acacias line the avenues, and form, with majestic weeping willows, a delicious shade. All the opposite bank of the Guadalquivir is a succession of orange groves. (Inglis's Spain in 1830, vol. ii. p. 71.) There are several other public promenades at Seville, particularly one in the town, which is furnished with circular stone seats, and lies on the banks of the river. At Elche, in Murcia, the view from the alameda is rendered particularly striking by the fine effect of the forest of palm trees which surrounds the town; and at Cadiz the alameda is on the ramparts, which are shaded with trees, and command some delightful views. Many other alamedas and paesos, in differ-ent parts of Spain, are also well deserving notice.