It was a hot morning as we drove along the promenade, past the golden sand beaches and hotels of Lloret de Mar, before turning into the town and heading to the Gardens of Santa Clotilde.
Our guide walked us towards the imposing sandstone archway that marks the entrance to the gardens, filling our heads with tales of their romantic origins.
“In 1919 when the Marquis de Roviralta first laid eyes on the beauty of Costa Brava with its sweeping views over the Mediterranean and its lush vineyards, he wanted to build here a very special place for his wife.”
Marcus went on to explain that sadly, the Marquis’ wife died before the gardens were complete, and with sentimentality and romance still hanging in the air, we passed beneath the arch and entered the wonderful world of Santa Clotilde.
Constructed on a natural amphitheatre with wide screen views over the jaw-dropping beauty of the Costa Brava coastline, the gardens were designed by the 28 year old Nicolau M. Rubio i Tadurí who mixed classic Italian Renaissance design with French horticultural know-how and added his own elements of modernity to create a very special space.
The gardens combine shape, form and colour to perfection. Pencil-slender cypress trees rise above dramatically sweeping lawns bordered by colourful oleanders and the huge, lotus shaped blooms of magnolia trees. Cooled to perfection by the shade, the air hangs heavy with the scent of orange blossom as I climb stone steps carpeted in vines and emerge at what Tadurí created as ‘a window to the Mediterranean’. Beyond the rich green of the slopes, the pale paths, white marble statues and terracotta circular seats; the azure waters of the Mediterranean meet the deep blue sky against which the elegant cypress trees stand proud – it’s a perfect, three dimensional artist’s canvas.
Dragging myself away from the mesmerizing vista, I follow the path that gently undulates along the headland, catching tantalising glimpses of the rocky cliffs and sandy shorelines below until I emerge at a clearing and through the wispy branches of the olive trees, the distant white sand cove of Cala Boadella appears with its rocky, green backdrop. It’s another breathtaking moment.
Climbing back up brick-tiled steps which are in danger of losing ground to the profusion of blue-faced pansies that coat them, I stroll through a small clearing in which classic Italian marble busts peep out through the hedges atop their ivy covered plinths. A group of schoolchildren are sitting cross-legged on the gravel, listening enthralled as their teacher points out the sights and sounds that surround them. I continue past a bronze mermaid riding a giant turtle, my eyes torn between the beauty of the purple agapanthus lilies that line the path and the geometric patterns of the hedges and trees.
Arriving at a sloping lawn dotted with deckchairs, I sit down and decide to let it all just wash over me. “Santa Clotilde is a place to do nothing.” I hear Marcus say, his voice disappearing into the distance. I couldn’t agree more.
Santa Clotilde Gardens; open Monday-Sunday 10.00-20.00 (summer), 10.00-16.00 (winter); entrance €4; guided tours Sundays 10.30am
Photo copyright: Andrea Montgomery
Posted : Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 at 11:00
Andy Montgomery is a travel writer and blogger currently living amongst banana plantations in the north of Tenerife. If she’s not sipping mojitos in a Cuban bar or clinging to some vertigo-inducing outcrop by her fingernails, she’s working on her Buzztrips travel website.