Returning to Spain and Portugal

Map of our journey

Last year, which now seems like ages ago, we joined an Alpine Garden Tour of Spain and Portugal that was focussed on the various Narcissi that grow naturally there.  For us it was intended to be little bit earlier taste of Spring than we would normally get here in Maryland.  We began with several wonderful days in Porto getting a sense of the culture and the cuisine.  Then we met up with our guide and headed out to our first destination in the hills near the Serra da Estrela National Park

Hotel Rural Quinta da Geia near the Serra da Estrela National Park

As you can see from the citrus, the climate is indeed a notch warmer than our Maryland zone 7a.  But, as it turned out, the first couple of days were definitely on the cool side and we were bundled up with our warmest clothes.  This short movie clip will give you a sense of what it was like to go plant exploring those first two days.

At the end of the day we came back to the warm farmhouse for a lovely meal and after dinner drinks.

Fig Leaf Liqueur

After two days in the mountains we drove down the coast past Lisbon. Along the way we encountered lovely rock rose on the hillsides.

Rock Rose (Cistus albidus)

These are widespread in Portugal but are apparently zone 8-10 in the U.S.

We ended up at Cape Espichel.  The weather was warmer but still not what one would call spring-like.  

Botanizing at Cape Espichel, Portugal

The flowers were incredible though.

Giant Fennel ‘Ferula communis’

It was here where we began to realize that as nice as the Narcissi were the really special aspect of the trip was the display of terrestrial orchids.  These are plants we just don’t get in the U.S.

Sawfly Orchid ‘Ophrys tenthredinifera’

Bee Orchid ‘Ophrys lutea’

Naked Man Orchid ‘Orchis italica’

For the balance of the trip we were located near Ronda, Spain in lovely farmhouse that dates back to Roman times.  The couple managing the hotel were a wonderful source of information about the area.  For four days we traveled out into the surrounding hills looking for flowers.

Hotel Cortijo las Piletas near Ronda, Spain

The picture below gives a good sense as the environment with a sense of discovery around every corner.

Erodium all over the hillsides

Iris planifolia

One morning found us out in a pasture that was full of beautiful little white Narcissi

Botanizing near Ronda Spain

Narcissus panizzianus

But also the characteristic Fritillaria of the area.

Iberian Fritillary ‘Fritillaria lusitanica’

Another day took us to top of a local peak where we could look out across the Asphodelus to the surrounding countryside.

Asphodelus fistulosus on hillside above Ardales, Spain

It turns out that the animals really don’t like Asphodelus (Onionweed) so it is everywhere.

Some of the towns we went through are very picturesque white villages hanging on the mountainside.

Grazelima, Spain

And with more orchids nearby.

Orchis olbiensis

Orchis olbiensis

This was, ironically, near the time when the covid-19 was beginning to spread rapidly around the world.  It was striking to see this image in one of the villages.

Júzcar, Spain

As it turns out we left Spain on one of the last flights before all travel shut down.  Nonetheless we will keep in our thoughts this lovely part of the world with beautiful flowers and remarkable scenery.  I leave this post with this image of Ronda as a place to be returned to someday.

Ronda, Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 comments on “Returning to Spain and Portugal

  1. Alicia

    What a beautiful place, and the flowers and your photos are exquisite.

  2. Alicia

    Sorry, meant to say beautiful place(s), plural!

  3. chavli

    Traveling vicariously through your post is better than not at all. I’m glad you managed it just before the sky shut down. The bee orchid is amazing. I’m also impressed with the last photo of Ronda: that gap in the earth is jaw dropping.