Manhattan to Spain via the Bronx

I wanted to revisit Barcelona earlier this year. Had reserved a room at a hotel that’s located steps from the Ramblas. I was excited. For years since I left Barcelona, I had not felt the urge to return. My experience has so shaped me and my view about travel, I wanted to preserve the memories.

But quite unexpectedly, I started feeling that I needed to go. What would Barcelona look like since I was a student there 20 plus years ago? Would the images I’ve clutched to my heart look like anything I’d see? Would I recognize the street I used to live on?

All these questions flooded my brain as if the door behind which they had been stored had finally been opened. I was excited to find out.

Then life intervened and I returned to New York nursing my disappointment. It had been a perfect plan.

Things looked up late in May when I noticed an article in the New York Times about an exhibition that was set to open at the New York Botanical Gardens. Titled Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra, it seemed an answer to my longing for Barcelona and Spain.

The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a palace that was built in the 14th century by the Moorish leaders who ruled Southern Spain. Its gardens are beautiful and legendary. Although I had studied the history and architecture of the Alhambra, I had not seen it during my time in Spain. An exhibition was not Barcelona, but I knew it would satisfy my longing. So last weekend, my friend and I, cameras in tow, made a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens.

Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Gardens spreads approximately 250 acres. An oasis of tranquility and beauty, it houses plant laboratories, gardens, plant collections, old growth forest containing oak, beeches, cherry, birch, tulip and white ash trees, some more than 200 years old, a cascade waterfall and wetland area. It’s the perfect location for an exhibition of this nature.

The focus of the Spanish Paradise is the replica of a Spanish garden that takes over 15,000 square feet of the Haupt Conservatory. With the aroma of lavender, jasmine, sour orange and lime trees, olive, fig and saffron, you are transported immediately to Southern Spain.

It’s an exhibition that appeals to the senses. Poems about nature by the Spanish poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, line the Poetry Walk while Flamenco dancers provide entertainment on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Sangria and tapas are available in the cafe.

In the library, rare prints, 19-century photographs of some of the courtyards of the Alhambra, paintings and other artifacts can be viewed. The exhibition also pays tribute to American poet, Washington Irving, who lived at the Alhambra while he was writing his collection of essays and sketches, Tales of the Alhambra, which sparked renewed interest in the palace. The Alhambra is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

Spanish Paradise sated my appetite temporarily. Now, I want to see the real thing.

Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra will run until August 21, 2011 at the New York Botanical Gardens. 2900 Southern Blvd., New York. 718-817-8777.

Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays

Tickets: All Garden, $20. Grounds only, $5. The grounds are also free all day on Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Botanical Gardens are accessible by car or public transportation. If you’re in the New York area or planning to visit, add it to your list.



21 comments on “Manhattan to Spain via the Bronx

  1. I saw the Alhambra a couple of years ago and was enchanted with the gardens. They were even more beautiful than the buildings.

  2. Another World Heritage Site? Score!
    Say… what’s this cool new photo viewer you have? I’m majorly jealous now! Nice picture with those two light pink flowers, that is a good one!

  3. I wish I lived closer to this wonderful exhibition. I will definitely make sure my daughter knows about it, who is currently in Hudson. Glad you had a chance to get a small sampling of Spain, but do not give up on your dream to visit Barcelona again. I think it’s calling you for a new adventure!

  4. When you do go, you’ll have to post live video footage to put us right there with you. You’re seeing some amazing parts of the world and that’s a dream life.

  5. Wow, they’ve grown up! It would be lovely if she can see it. Best to do Saturdays or Sundays and catch the flamenco dancers. They perform at 1, 2 and 3 pm.
    And tell her to go early as, if she’s like me, and loves to linger, closing time comes really quickly. Six o’clock looks like it should be 5!
    Yes, Barcelona is definitely on my agenda.
    Thanks, Annie!

  6. Wow, that’s fabulous, Thelma. I never made it to Southern Spain but have always heard how beautiful it is.
    Tried to leave a comment on your ice cream post but got an error message. Not sure why but will try again later.
    Thanks for the visit,

  7. I will, Totsymae. There’s so much world to see!
    I realize sometimes how lucky I’ve been but most times, I think about all the other places I haven’t seen!! Some of us are just never satisfied – lol!!!

  8. It came with the theme I bought. I really love it. I had to resize and upload all the thumbnails but I love it. And they’re more features I haven’t even looked at yet.
    Talk later,

  9. I’ve been thinking. ‘Cause I knew sooner or later you’d start taking travel requests 🙂 but I’d like you to take me to one of them fancy museums up there in New York. You know, take some picture of the building and tell Totsy ’bout the folk up that way. I suspect you couldn’t take pictures once you got inside but you could give me a tour some kinda way. I don’t know when I’ll be making my way up there but I figure, since you’re already there :-)…Hey, can’t hurt to ask 🙂

  10. Not a bad idea, Totsy. Any preferences?
    Here’s a list of the major ones: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney, Brooklyn Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, International Center of Photography and the Museum of Art and Design. Take your pick, I’ll bring it to you.

  11. Well, since you’re being so hospitable about it, I can’t be picky since it’s your time and all. I’ve heard a lot about the MET and MoMA…I tell you what, since you’ve taken folk to Harlem already, just take me on ’round the corner to that museum there. I’d be happy with that 🙂

  12. Thank you for this lovely tour, and little history lesson. I must get myself to Spain one of these days, it’s not really that far from Scotland where I live.

  13. You’re welcome, Eryl. Glad you like it. Yes, you should try to go to Barcelona. You’ll love it.
    I nearly made it to Scotland earlier this year with my sister but we ran out of time.
    Thanks for the visit,

  14. I’m with Totsy. I’d love to see more of New York through your eyes. I think I won’t get there myself, so it would be great to hear more about it, especially the contrasts and diversity.

  15. Hi Narelle,
    I’m working on a Harlem post, hope to have it ready by next week. I’ve also been taking my camera with me whenever I go out and taking photos of the city – mostly of buildings. The designs are quite interesting. Last night, I noticed a plaque with a head on the side of a building and got closer to investigate. It was to Bela Bartok. On the walls of the diner where we had a bite, I noticed posters and photographs – Gershwin (signed by Pierre Matisse), Kathryn Hepburn, etc.
    When my niece came into two a few months ago, she was so excited about walking around the city and being amazed at movie trucks on the street – I doubt they see those in Boston — I’ve really been trying to pay attention. She showed me I was just sleepwalking through the city.
    So yes, I’m definitely working on it.

  16. Marcia, what a superb post! I have been both to Barcelona, three years ago, and to the Granada, where the Alhambra is located. I can honestly tell you that while I love Barcelona, nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to Granada. I feel it is one of Spain’s most beautiful cities with its Moorish influences present in the architecture, art, music, and so forth. I hope to one day return, given I visit Spain frequently, because the gardens in the Alhambra are nothing short of breathtaking. I really enjoyed reading this post and hope that you will soon have the opportunity to travel to Spain again. 🙂

  17. I hope so too, Bella. You know, you’ve echoed a few of the comments on Granada’s beauty. I will definitely have to visit, especially must see the Alhambra.
    Thanks for the visit,

  18. If I only have a chance, I would love to visit the Spanish Paradise: Gardens of Alhambra. Your post made me wax nostalgic about my travel to Madrid, Toledo, Albacete and Valencia in Spain last 2009. Thanks for sharing this excellent post Marcia.

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