Even though I live in Spain, where it was Mother’s Day last Sunday, I still celebrate the day at the end of March, at the time of Mother’s Day in England, because that’s where I’m from and my family live there.
Last week I visited Cordoba, one of my favourite cities in Spain, for the annual Patio Festival (La Fiesta de Los Patios de Cordoba).
The old part of the city consists of narrow cobble-stone streets with the houses white-washed to keep them cool during the very hot summers. Many of these old houses or apartments are situated around a private, interior courtyard accessible only to residents.
The origin of these courtyards can be traced to Roman times, when the courtyard (known as an atrium) was a place where rainwater was collected.
Later, the Moors who dominated this area of Spain for so long, made the courtyard a much more social space. They planted vines so that their branches could offer shade during the very hot summer months, and pretty water features and pots of flowers were added making the patios a place where neighbours could get together and enjoy the cooler temperatures.
Of course, these courtyards or patios form part of private houses, so are normally closed to the general public. But, for two weeks in May each year, as families compete for the most beautiful patio in Cordoba, they are thrown open so that members of the public can visit each of these patios.
A few have plaques on the wall outside, announcing their previous successes in the Patio Festival, but all of the competing patios are identified by two little conifer trees in red pots outside the gate.
All, but one or two of the Patios are FREE to visit, though a small donation is appreciated (but not obligatory) as you leave.
Bear in mind that Los Patios de Cordoba is a very popular (and famous) Festival in Spain, with hoards of tourists – both international and local – descending on the city every day. Weekends are especially busy, and a free ticketing system has now been established, to enable some semblance of order and safety when visiting the often tiny patios. (See link below to get your free tickets).
You can collect a map from the Tourist Office, on which six colour-coded routes to visit are identified, each with between 8-12 patios to visit. (See link below to download a map).
The competing patios are open from 11am – 2pm and 6pm – 10pm each day from 5th – 18th May 2014.
How would you fancy watering all these pots?