Near us, near the corner of Calle Luis Maceda and the park where jacaranda blooms purple against the blush pink walls of Dr. Pascual’s hospital stands Villa Julita. In the late afternoon sun, its carved wall panels of plaster cornucopia spilling plaster vine fruits radiate a honey glow. In front is a delicate iron fence and a garden wall inset with faded blue and yellow tiles. Succulent plants trail out of old pots on the windowsill, froths of dusty gold-green.
For nearly three years we have looked into its net-veiled eyes, peered through the gate that leads to its secret garden and hoped to be invited in. Today is the day. The carved front door swings open and Julia welcomes us. She is the youngest of five, the fifty-something daughter of the house, the one who stayed home.
In from the bright May sunshine, the entrance hall is cool as a tomb, paneled with black and rose pink brocatelle or Siena marble and hand-carved oak. The exterior of the house makes it look older than it really is: the handsome staircase and decor reflect its true date of birth, between 1925 and 1930. The family moved here in 1964, repaired and refined what was already here and didn’t redecorate again.
On the ground floor, a small parlour, a larger everyday sitting room, and a once-grand dining room are cluttered with boxes of leftovers from the past. Thanks to Julia, Tai Chi and Feng Shui artifacts and her pretty, naïve miniature paintings have found their way onto the sombre walls, delightfully out of place amid the marble and oak. The rudimentary kitchen nods to the 1950s and would have been basic then. Warped doors and window frames permit bleary views of the garden but no access.
Upstairs, light spills from a tall window at the turn of the stairs, piercing the gloom of the long hallway. The single bathroom is tiled in the same black and rose-veined marble as the hall edged with deep black jasper. The original 1920’s shower still grows from the wall but a pink and orange plastic fitting underneath is the only one that works. There are two bedrooms and two rooms whose original purpose is buried under more boxes and cast-off furniture.
Julia’s father was a military man, a member of the prestigious Legión Española. There are several photos of him in full dress uniform with members of his unit, vaguely disturbing. His office is cluttered, his desk strewn with crumbling papers but Julia keeps the shutters carefully closed against the sun and we don’t linger here.
Outside, the faded but still beautiful gardens lie quietly in the hot sun. Flowers, shrubs, and trees form green walls, helping to shut out the ugly concrete block next door. Julia shows me old pale pink roses that go from bud to bloom in a day thanks to this year’s early heat. Heliotrope, trumpet lilies, massive cactuses and palms, old and rare jasmines; these are no longer sold anywhere, she says.
Before we leave, Julia gathers a tiny bouquet of the pale pink roses and hands it to me. She spills sweet-scented white stars of Russian jasmine into my other hand. Don’t give up on us, they whisper, there’s still sweetness here. It’s true. Casa Julita is for sale at around €900,000. Eccentric millionaires who want to create a hotel both unique and boutique – you are welcome to apply.
A Short Tale by Andalucinda