Look at that beauty. I had never been so excited to see orange and yellow leaves in my life, or crunch on the piles of dry brown ones that have gathered on the peaceful paths through the gardens of La Granja. At home I had always trekked through hills of leaves during the autumns, familiar with their smell that turns slightly musty after the rain, the fan-shaped gingko or oak tree leaves that leave rust-colored imprints on the sidewalks. I would zip up my jacket and walk along the streets of Philadelphia or of New York, burying myself in the looming heights of the city and reveling in the changing weather.
In Madrid there are no such autumns. The high today was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the trees usually stay green until winter, when they just fall off. When I ask Javi about farms where I could go apple or pumpkin picking, he asks me if I’m considering changing to a manual labor job. I explain to him our traditions. He responds: “Wait, so you want to go all the way to a farm just to pick one pumpkin? Why don’t we just go buy one at the supermarket?”
Alas, it’s just not the same… This is the fourth year I haven’t been able to experience the joys of apple cider or pumpkin pie, haunted hay rides or a proper Halloween celebration, costume and all. My favorite holiday. But I must make do with Spain and create my own autumn experience. This means going up north to the outskirts of Madrid to get a glimpse of the changing season in the rural towns.
La Granja is an 18th century palace in the town of San Ildefonso and was the summer residence of the royal family under Phillip V. Constructed during the reign of the Bourbons, the palace and gardens are modeled in the French style after Versailles. The woodlands which surround it are extensive and include even a labyrinth which can be quite difficult to find your way out of if you lose your bearings. (Parents were shouting for their lost children across the tall spiraling bushes.) The numerous fountains which adorn the gardens are beautifully sculpted, but are only brought alive by water two days out of the year.
Pink roses seem to be a theme this season.
How better to celebrate autumn than by flinging about armfuls of leaves with a buddy? That was definitely the highlight of the week.
Another must is tree-hugging. I showed my appreciation to the giant forces of Mother Nature.
And now, this only leaves buying a giant pumpkin, making pumpkin pie, visiting a haunted house, getting a costume, watching a scary movie then regretting it later, and hosting a pumpkin carving contest costume party (which will probably not occur).
Javi: I’m 37 and you want me to host a pumpkin carving contest???
Me: It’s fun for everyone!!
Unbreakable cultural boundaries.