Category Archives: Holiday

Jardines de Alfabia

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So the Golf Captaincy has come to an end and all that’s left now is hosting the thank you dinner for 14 next Friday.  Not quite sure why we’re doing the thanking, but hey, what do I know?

Anyway, to celebrate the handover we’d discussed all sorts of potential long haul adventures but unfortunately, by the time we got to proper planning, it turned out I could only take a week off work so we ended up with five days in Mallorca!  Ah well, the sun shone occasionally, and it was definitely warmer.

The Jardines de Alfabia are situated between Palma (where we were staying) and Soller on the slope of the Sierra de Tramuntana.  img_1127

There is a beautiful old train which has been running between the two towns since 1912.  Apparently it will make a request stop at the gardens, but we wanted to go to Soller anyway so we took the train there and got a bus back.

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Clearly it was late in the season to experience a great deal in the way of flowers, but the garden, originally owned by the 12th Arab Viceroy, has a Moorish character and the associated design features were easy to admire without blooms.

The entrance to the garden was up this striking flight of steps

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At the top, a small fountain provided the source of the (limited!) water in the rills to either side of the steps.
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Looking right you see the ‘covered pond’ (shown in the first photo) and peering closer gives a glimpse into the rest of the garden – and a beautiful reflection.img_1093

From here there is an extraordinary pergola img_1103

which, in the further half, has twenty four inbuilt hydrants which erupt, after a 20 second delay, when a button is pressed.  There was a comedy moment when I was about to press the button, not understanding where the hydrants actually spouted, and a Spanish couple coming in the opposite direction made it very clear using sign language that I really shouldn’t!img_1107

Looking back from the far end showed a further pergola, this one at right angles to the first and absolutely smothered in Wisteria, Bourganvillea and Morning Glory.img_1129

Here there were two amazing trees, easily 25 metres tall – Silk floss tree or Chorisia speciosa.  Sorry not great photos, but the blooms were so high up and I only had my phone.

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And this was the extraordinary bark

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In the lowest area of the garden were some really ancient plants, including this oliveimg_1153

and this Wisteria.img_1154

Exiting via the house (which apparently has Arabic, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Roman, Rococco and even English in its decoration!) we spotted this fabulous palm, acting as eyelashes to the Ox Eye (ojos de buey) window.  There were (understandably) a pair of these windows and each had its own little staircase, I assume for mounting your house (or carriage).

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And to finish, ooh look – flowers!

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De Kas, Amsterdam

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Almost a month ago I went to Amsterdam with my daughter for a long weekend.  And whilst she was keen to sample the cocktails at the Hilton’s roof top Sky Lounge, I had always wanted to visit the De Kas restaurant, after reading about it years ago in an article by Sarah Raven.1

The restaurant was opened in 2001 by chef Gert Jan Hageman and is situated in an old greenhouse in Frankendael Park, a tram ride from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station.   The 8m tall greenhouse, dating from 1926, had belonged to Amster­dam’s Municipal Nursery and was due to be demolished when Hageman decided to ‘repurpose’ it.  He bought the building for one guilder, and set about converting it into a restaurant, surrounded by gardens in which to grow the food.

Hagerman is quoted on the website:

“A kitchen surrounded by fertile soil where vegetables and herbs thrive … Where daylight shines in from all sides and where the chefs are free to express their creativity daily using the best the season has to offer.
It seems an obvious concept, but I spent twenty years surrounded by white tiles under fluorescent lighting before I came up with it.”

Many restaurants are now much more conscious of the provenance of their food, not just the food miles, but De Kas must have been one of the first, and it’s heartening to see its continued success.

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As well as the surrounding garden area,3

there was a large area of the greenhouse still used for growing, with a huge number of different tomatoes, salads and micro greens, edible flowers and the magnificent melons at the top.

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Whilst we were wandering round the greenhouse admiring the immaculate crops, we were joined by a chef in her whites garnering salads and herbs for the restaurant.7

Once inside the restaurant itself, the welcome was incredibly warm and my daughter’s gluten free status was acknowledged without drama (as was the woman on the next table who was gluten free, dairy free and soya free – apparently not an issue at De Kas!)

All the food was relatively simple but so fresh and tasty.  My favourite, below, the starter of cold tomato soup.15

So, thank you De Kas, just how I think a restaurant should be – passionate about cooking AND ingredients.

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Andalucian jewels

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We’re just back from a  week at the beautiful Finca el Cerrillo on a guided walking holiday with Headwater, and whilst I hoped there might be some wild flowers to admire, I had no idea of the beauty of the Finca’s own gardens or the sheer scale of the wild flowers waiting for me.

Firstly, at the Finca, there was a charming ‘cultivated’ area around the rooms and the pool:IMG_6480

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but also, further from the Finca, but still in the grounds, was a wilder area complete with treehouse (and honesty bar!)IMG_6499

and beautiful blooms and vistas.IMG_6508

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And then walking in the areas around the Finca we saw huge areas of Vipers BuglossIMG_6745

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Cistus (both pink and white) and Lavandula stoechasIMG_6633IMG_6843IMG_6690

Asphodel (both flowers and extraordinary seed heads)

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Sweet peas

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PhlomisIMG_6708

Wild lupinsIMG_6648

Orchids – Mirror Orchid

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Butterfly OrchidsIMG_6635

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Some stunning trees, figs, almonds and tamariskIMG_6602IMG_6608IMG_6616

Clover

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and this beautiful little toadflax.IMG_6867

I assure you there are many more photos, but I’ll leave it there.  I would just urge you to go to this stunning area of Andulucia, north east of Malaga, and see them for yourself.

With enormous thanks to Sue and Gordon for being such great hosts at Finca el Cerrillo, and thanks also to our very knowledgeable and eagle eyed guide Jenny.

And thanks also to Gail, at Clay and Limestone, who hosts a monthly Wildflower Wednesday meme, which I’ve linked this post to.  Thanks Gail!