Lookalikes: Balboa Park's Casa del Rey Moro Garden found 6,000 miles east in the town of Ronda, Spain.
The past few years, I’ve encountered a sweet picture of my wife’s parents’ wedding on the wall in their living room – a distinctly ‘70s vintage scene set in none other than the San Diego cultural gem of Balboa Park. I’ve listened to stories aplenty from my wife and her parents of the haps and mishaps of the day.
When my wife and I planned our wedding last year, we briefly entertained the idea of setting the curtain call on our life together in the same place: a secluded, fountain-and-garden area behind the Prado restaurant.
Fast-forward to the present, and we're now married and living in Edinburgh, Scotland, while I work on my Master’s degree.
Recently we took a vacation to southern Spain, in the Andalucia region. On one of our many day trips, we stumbled upon a small town nearby known as Ronda.
Never having heard of this little town, we had no idea what to expect. Once we arrived, we were awestruck by the 100-meter-deep ravine that runs through the town, cutting off the “old town” and main palace from the “new town” (relative terms, of course, as both parts of Ronda are surely older than ninety percent of San Diego).
As we wandered around, we came to a sign touting El Jardin y El Casa del Rey Moro (“The Garden and House of the Moorish King.” Come on, you live in San Diego, do I really need to translate? I expected better of you, hypothetical reader).
After paying the four-euro admission charge, we saw something unmistakably Spanish, and yet what we'd also consider unmistakably San Diegan, not least of all because of its striking resemblance to Balboa Park. While the feeling is hardly unique throughout this area of Spain, it was our first encounter with this bizarre sensation.
Entering the garden, we found ourselves in a cool, shady yard with a picturesque mossy pond and fountain, all with an incomparable view of the ravine and surrounding farmland.
In the interest of descending into a 14th-century mine on the property, we donned the explorer nicknames we’d acquired on our honeymoon for just such an occasion (Jacques and Amelia, after Cousteau and Earhart, respectively). We made it down all 300 dark and slippery steps, through the nearly ancient granary store and battery built by the Moors, to find ourselves at the river that runs through the ravine some 300 feet below.
After finding our way back out, we continued to wander around the rest of Ronda, again noticing similarities between the town and San Diego.
The most interesting thing, though, happened after we shared our idyllic pictures with my in-laws. My wife’s mother, apart from having her wedding in that garden in Balboa Park, also worked with the San Diego Parks Department in Balboa Park for 14 years. When she saw pictures of the aforementioned garden, she was certain this was the same garden from her wedding picture.
By now you’ve seen the picture of these nearly identical gardens somewhere at the top of this page. Serendipity of serendipities, it’s a small world after all, hoorah hoorah – need I even be so explicit at this point as to state that the name of the garden in Balboa Park is Casa del Rey Moro Garden?
Short of shipping the pond and ancient stone well to Balboa Park itself, these two gardens are exactly the same.
Realizing this, we were warmed by the fact that after traveling to a city we knew nothing about, we stumble upon the basis of the very same garden my wife’s parents were married in thousands of miles away. Considering we consistently treat our time in Edinburgh – and our traveling adventures associated therewith – as an extended honeymoon, this all just seemed too perfect.