A Palm Tree of One’s Own

This is the view from my office window. Barcelona is my third hometown to accessorize itself with palm trees.

When I saw my first palm tree in Cali, Colombia I was already in my mid-twenties and had never been south of Washington D.C to which I travelled on a high school trip. I accepted the teaching job in Cali because they offered it to me and I was up for the adventure. My plane landed in Cali around nine o’clock at night. It was August and still well over 30 degrees as we stepped out into the inly black night. I will never forget that first drive from the airport into the city on a road lit up by small cans of burning oil placed along the road by local farmers. Joseph, the husband of one of the Principals, maneuvered the family SUV expertly along the poorly paved road. We kept driving out of the small circles of light cast by the tin can candles and we would, for a few moments, find ourselves hurtling through darkness. Cars zoomed past us on the left. How could they be going faster than Joseph, I thought. Then I began to see the palm trees, some close to the road and some farther away but still visible. They must be giants, these Colombian palm trees. Much later I learned that the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree, is the tallest palm in the world, reaching heights of 70 metres. For me, they were the eighth wonder of the world. No matter how bumpy the road became, metaphorically or literally, I always felt lucky to live among such majestic palms.

Palm trees grow in Monterrey, Mexico but I couldn’t shake the feeling they were being planted there against their will. Stunted and sickly looking, the Monterrey palms lean over avenues where the kids of the rich and famous drive their cars too fast. It’s true that Monterrey has a humid sub-tropical climate and there are actually 130 types of palm trees that grow outside the tropics but the Monterrey palms just don’t seem to belong there. We could, however, write a shoe box full of odes to the crazy Dr. Seuss trees on Highway 57 between Monterrey and San Miguel de Allende. We called them “those crazy Dr. Seuss trees” until we learned that they were actually Joshua trees which happened more recently than we’d like to admit. (Photo Credit: Sandy Redding at Flickr)

Oh, there are palm trees in Barcelona… in front of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and along the beach and every where in between. It’s the Mediterranean; people would expect no less than a ridiculous abundance of palm trees. But I never expected a palm tree of my own, a palm tree just outside my window. How will I ever make do without a palm tree again?

What do palm trees make you think of? Do they make you want to travel? Where?


  1. I love palm trees! The first time I saw them was in Spain, when I went there for the first time 3 years ago. Since I am from the Northeast United States, I never saw any remnants of a tropical climate for a long time. But when I saw them in Spain (including Barcelona and Malaga) and Mexico, it makes me want to move to that country and just work in one of those little souvenir shops, living a very simple life right by the beach. It reminds me of paradise and makes me want to travel and see the paradise in many other countries around the world.

  2. Jeff,What a lovely response. Spain and Mexico are two of my favourite places to visit and live. I know exactly what you mean about working at a little souvenir shop… I felt that way when I visited Playa del Carmen in Mexico.Happy travels!

  3. I'm a lover of palm trees too. Three places come to mind when I think of them: Cuba, Mexico, and the Arabian Peninsula. I was first in Mexico (in Playa del Carmen too) 15 or so years ago and Cuba after that, and so palm trees were always associated with lazy days on the beach. But then after moving to Abu Dhabi, I I fell in love with the date palms of the Arabian Peninsula, especially in the UAE and Oman. So now I tend to think of those and exploring desert forts in Oman which always seem to have such great views of oases, or actually walking through the shady oases themselves – lovely and cooling on a hot day. Both images of palm trees are equally pleasurable for me, just different.

  4. Hi Lara!I really enjoyed your vivid description of the date palm trees in the Arabian Peninsula and the image of the shelter they provide from the sun and heat. Lovely!

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