Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Spanish Dreamer

The amazing castle

There are some places that have a special place in your heart and this is one of them. I'm not sure if it's the amazing castles and buildings in a suspended state of ruin or the inspiring story behind their creator or the heart warming passion of the current owners to preserve and restore this place for future generations that makes this so incredible. All I know is that I came here 12 years ago for a fleeting visit and it's been on my mind every since.

This is Paronella Park. An awe inspiring testament to the dream of a Spanish immigrant who came to Australia in 1913 and built this, BY HAND, as an entertainment park.

The old ballroom which has been devastated by flood, cyclones and neglect.

An absolute beauty in its heyday, it has suffered its share of boom to bust as so many of these places do, but enjoying a second wind thanks to the new owners who rescued it after 15 years of abandonment.

It has already suffered the effects of floods and cyclones and in the time since the new owners had taken over in 1991 it has since been subject to more cyclones and floods, further damaging the already delicate structures.

The grand staircase of 47 steps built by hand in the 1940s
But the delicate structures now covered in moss create an eerie and incredible backdrop and   I think no matter how long I spend here and how many times I visit I will always be in awe of the amazing dedication and foresight of the dream of the original creator, Jose Paronella.

Jose Paronella's handprints are on surfaces across the park
Evidence of this incredible man is ingrained throughout the park but mostly upon all the surfaces of the buildings he created by hand. Slapping the concrete mixture across the structures have left his handprints forever. It's poignant and touching.

The remains of the theatre room

The original theatre room

This is the room that I find most incredible. It's the old theatre room where they would show movies and stage plays. Sadly it was damaged in a series of floods and a fire over the years and finally Cyclone Yasi pretty much finished it off last year.

This is what it looked like in its heyday, simply amazing, and while the current owners have said they are more preserving and maintaining the park, there is talk they are trying to restore the theatre back to its former glory. I think that would be incredible!

Kauri Avenue

We stayed overnight in the eco cabins on site and did the night tour, where we saw fireflies, turtles feeding and the castle lit up in front of the lush rainforest background. It was magical.

This won't be the last time I'll be coming to this place. I'm completely in love and mesmerised  and can't wait to see the next chapter in its history.

Note: Just a note on the entry fee too. Adults are $38 and that includes EVERYTHING! The day tours, night tours an overnight camping site AND entry for the next year. Yes, a FULL YEAR. I love this soo much. There's no separate areas that you have to pay extra for, you're not dipping into your pocket for extras and the food is reasonably priced. That's a lot of goodwill to me. Just saying.