An hour ago I had no plans for the weekend. After doing quite a bit of international travel the last few weeks, I thought a lazy stay-cation in Madrid might be just what the doctor ordered. Wrong.
In less than an hour I had booked 1 high-speed train ticket, 2 bus tickets, and 2 hostel reservations. Oh, also it was Thursday and I was leaving Saturday morning – no time for buyer’s regret, right?
La Vida Española
To some, this spur of the moment travel sounds invigorating and exciting. Well, you need to know that I’m a planner, at least I used to be. I’m one of those people whose desk is covered in Post-Its, To Do lists, and other notes while my eyes are glued to my Google calendar at any given moment of the day. If it’s not scribed on one of my lists or scheduled in my calendar, there’s a good chance it won’t happen. Some days, I’m shocked that a left-aligned bullet point isn’t followed by ‘remember to breath.’ I hope this goes to show how la vida española (Spanish life) has had a profound influence on my acquired “I’ll do it mañana” attitude.
This weekend’s impulse purchase was prompted by two things. First, I was leaving Spain in a few weeks and I still hadn’t made it over to either Córdoba or Sevilla, two of Spain’s most iconic cities. Second, the Fiesta de Los Patios (a massive patio garden contest) was taking place in Córdoba. Not needing much persuasion from a few friends, I planned to spend an afternoon in Córdoba before going to spend less than 24 hours in Sevilla. At least being able to visit for a short time is better than not visiting at all. That’s what I told myself to help rationalize my decision. With a daunting itinerary in hand, I was set to experience what later became two of my favorite cities in Spain.
What is Fiesta de los Patios?
“Fiesta de los Patios” literally translates to party of the patios, but it is better described as a festival to celebrate and show case the inner courtyards of private homes that are overflowing with flowers – not exactly what I call the slab of concrete in my parents’ suburban Chicago backyard. For one week these inner sanctuaries look especially colorful with hundreds of potted flowers of all types placed everywhere: roofs, railings, and twenty-foot walls are all fair game. Once every square-inch is covered in blooming flora, several dozen patios compete for cash prizes, all in anticipation to be named the most beautiful patio in the city.
Best of all, it is completely gratis (FREE) for spectators to view these botanical masterpieces. Nonetheless, most patios will accept donations to maintain and ensure the beauty for many years to come. If going to visit on the weekend, you must register for the neighborhood you wish to visit ahead of time. This helps to manage the crowds and make for an overall more enjoyable experience. Doorman at the entrance of each patio will scan your pass, so be sure to do this on their website before heading off.
For me the best part was the mystery of not knowing what each vastly unique patio would look like. After standing in a queue sweltering under the Andalusian sun, visitors entered the dark narrow entryways of these centuries old homes. Being ushered to a jaw-dropping presentation of summer colors was always worth the wait.
Although, I didn’t get to vote, this last patio was definitely my favorite. I loved the overall cozy atmosphere created by the warm stained wooden beams and railings, curving brick archways, and the retractable “roof” to shelter from the heat. Also, each visitor to this patio was welcomed with a small sample of fino, a very dry, strong variety of sherry wine that is traditional in Córdoba. I could have easily pictured myself relaxing in this courtyard reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine. What a perfect way to pass the siesta time on a hot Spanish day?