Flower Power! The Festival of Patios in Córdoba, Spain
Since this Easter this year took place particularly late, the Feria de Abril (April Fair) in Sevilla which is always scheduled exactly two weeks after Easter actually fell into May. Which made it coincide with the Festival of Patios in Córdoba, which takes place the first week of May. So it happily made for a 2-for-1 trip to Sevilla: visit the Feria and take a day trip to visit Córdoba to visit its iconic patios decked out in spring flowers.
When we arrived in Córdoba by train and started walking around looking for patios, the city was suspiciously quiet for being in the midst of such a popular festival. I thought, “wow, we can get in and out of patios in a snap, and can see a ton of patios!” I was optimistic, because the Festival of Patios had a rather onerous schedule: open only from 10am-2pm, and then from 6pm-10pm, leaving a big gap in the middle of the day and squeezing the time available to see the patios for day trippers like us.
Turns out, we were following an out-of-date map published by the organizers online. We walked into a government office, where the employees directed us to the neighborhood San Basilio, which they said was the nearest neighborhood with the most traditional patios.
We followed their instructions, and indeed, found a charming, traditional neighborhood, with lots of people waiting in line to enter the patios!
We got into the first line we saw, which was for both Calle Martín de Roa, 7 and 9. The staff directed us first to #9, and it was certainly impressive, but perhaps a bit tacky with the walls festooned with planters.
Next door was #7, which was decorated in a similar style. I’ve just read that this patio won first place this year, in the “traditional architecture” category! (I wonder what caused this patio to win, while its neighbor didn’t even place in the top 8?) While we were in Córdoba, the prizes hadn’t been announced yet.
Out and back into another line (this one had a wait of about 15-20 minutes), we entered Calle San Basilio, 14, which turned out to win third place this year.
I think more than the overall composition of the flowers, which was still a bit gaudy for me, I liked looking at the individual flowers, some of which had really intricate designs.
We had a reservation at Taberna Salinas at 1:30pm, so had to end our morning tour of the patios. It was a bit disappointing to see only three in the span of an hour, due to the long lines! Since there was a gaping hole in the schedule before the patios opened up again at 6pm, we had time first for some after-lunch coffee (Taberna Salinas didn’t serve coffee, which is unusual for a Spanish restaurant!), and then to visit the Bell Tower built over the old Minaret of the Mezquita, which wasn’t open when I visited 7 years ago. It afforded great views of the city and the Mezquita, and you can see clearly how the Cathedral was simply plopped right on top of the Mezquita (Spanish for mosque), as if to dominate it completely.
We also had time to visit the Patios of the Palace of Viana, which are open as a year-round attraction with an entry fee of 5€ (8€ if you also want to visit the interiors). Luckily, since this was the Festival of Patios, they were open on Monday when they are usually closed. Also thankfully, they were open 10am-7pm, so we could visit them while the Patios were on their extended siesta break.
The Patios of the Palace of Viana are a series of twelve patios originally belonging to different buildings, but since connected among them so that you can see patios of different styles and periods in one circuit. I kind of appreciated that they weren’t specifically decorated for the Festival of Patios, because they had more of a natural feeling!
We finished our visit of Viana, had a quick snack at a café with a terrace next to the entrance, and right at 6pm proceeded with our afternoon Patio visits. First we visited Calle Parras, 5. Again, this patio was quite impressive with planters so overflowing with flowers you couldn’t even see the planters anymore. But it was such a mix of flowers, I got the sensation more of an abundant flower shop.
This patio did win third place in the “Modern Architecture” category! But the architecture of the patio didn’t seem very modern to me…
Other patios were maybe a bit more moderate in their decorations…
…but it was still looking closely at individual flowers that made me appreciate them more…
…in the case of many of the patios, the individual was maybe stronger than the group. This flower was was particularly intriguing to me, with its gradient from red to pale green petals!
This patio at Calle Ocaña, 19, with its orange tree stuck in the middle, was perhaps one in which I could really dream about living. It had lush greenery, but was compact with lots of windows.
It had an adjoining bookstore, which was giving out free books to visitors!
These flowers were especially delicate, with paper-like petals.
This flower had a funny sign: “The mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law,” I guess referring to how the flowers face away from each other!
This was one of my favorite patios, which was actually more of a side-garden belonging to a church, Iglesia del Juramento de San Rafael. Its loving care by the parishioners was evident.
Perhaps my favorite “patio”of all was the one we visited last, at Calle Marroquíes, 6. It appeared to have won many awards in the past, and I’ve since learned that it won second price in the traditional architecture category this year!
I wrote “patio” in quotes, because unlike the other patios which were a central courtyard in the middle of a house, this one was more of a labyrinth connecting various single-story houses in a private complex.
All of the doors, window frames, and shutters were painted in this striking blue color, like the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.
This just seemed like a magical place to live.
Private, yet still connected wth neighbors in a community. And importantly, lots and lots of bougainvillea!
Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise, that my favorite patio was the one that was least “patio-like.” Not that I dislike having the open courtyard in the middle of a house - I would love a house like that! - but rather, when the flowers aren’t so concentrated in a central space with two-story walls festooned with planters or overflowing like a flower shop, the look is more natural, more pleasant.
I’d probably say that the Festival of Patios is one that I don’t imagine rushing to return to. Many patios looked so similar from one another, that I don’t imagine they change much for one year to the next, either! But still, I was really happy to make it to this iconic festival of Spain at least once!