Hunting for the Imperial Palm
Spain has some amazing tourist attractions, but finding them isn’t always that easy. We decided to visit the lovely city of Elche, specifically to walk through the palm gardens and seek out the oldest palm tree, the Imperial Palm. Stupidly we assumed the famous gardens in which it stands, Huerto del Cura, would be sign-posted.
Elche is a modern metropolis but with a very different feel. Thousands of palm trees fill the gaps between the buildings and in the centre if the city is a huge date palm grove of over 70,000 trees, although there are thought to be over 200,000 in the city as a whole. Most of it is open to the public free of charge, but one area has been cultivated into a tropical paradise and contains the Imperial Palm. The Palm Grove in the city is a World Heritage Site and all palms are protected by Spanish law, you need permission to remove a palm tree even if it is in your garden.
Our first attempt to see the Hueto del Cura was unsuccessful. Seeing no signs we parked up near the city hospital and started to follow the circular walk marked on the pavement and pathways around the palm grove. It was a lovely walk and eventually, when almost back to where we started, we found in a small side street a gate with a plague announcing we had reached our intended destination. But the rain clouds had been gathering during the afternoon and at that moment the heavens opened. We ran for cover into the small gift shop and there we stayed. Of all the items we could have purchased we only bought one item, a small Christmas bell which opened to show individually crafted silver nativity figures, so absolutely nothing to do with palm trees! Next to the gift shop is a beautiful but tiny chapel.
Eventually the rain eased and we headed the few minutes back to the car, just making it there before the next heavy downpour. We figured that at least we now knew the location so would come another day.