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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [902] | Comments [2] | Scholarship Entry

Ruins of a Spanish Enchantment
By Sandie-Leigh Edwards

Take a step back a hundred years and imagine you’re a young Spanish immigrant cutting sugar cane in the tropical rainforests of North Queensland. It’s hot and humid but when you come across acres of tranquil rainforest you’re captivated and inspired to buy the land. Through a labour of love you hand build a concrete Spanish palace with acres of sprawling gardens for your intended bride who waits back home in Spain. This I discovered was the beginning of Jose and Margarita Paronella’s amazing life and their ‘Impossible Dream’ to succeed in a foreign land before the invent of modern building or transport technologies.

The last place I expected to find a Spanish palace was in the Australian bushland. Yet upon entering Paronella I experienced an unobtrusive blend of architecture with lush tropical surroundings; melding ingenuity and human spirit at every turn. Even Queensland’s first hydro-electric plant was built by Jose in 1933 to power Paronella Park; and I fell in love with the ethereal magic of the floodlit Mena Creek Falls which came to life at twilight.

Every building, waterfall and fountain throughout Paronella is unique, imaginative and spectacular, awaiting to crash your senses with delight when you partake in the nightly ‘Darkness Falls’ tour. I loved walking through the ruins of the old ballroom - the height of 1930’s-1940’s local social entertainment. It was easy to imagine arriving in a horse drawn carriage, ready to dance the night away beneath Jose’s suspended giant mirror ball glittering with romantic snowflake lighting.

The tour guide stories of Paronella’s pinnacle and survival from natural disasters beheld an escapade which had my heart quivering beneath a conquistador’s cloak of bravery anticipating the charging bull. There is so much to delight in with Paronella Park, including the sporadic tropical rains, campfires beneath a diamond blanketed sky and the constant symphony of nature all reminding you to relax and enjoy life. The exotic walking tracks, hand-made fountains, ‘The tunnel of Love’ all echo Paronella’s eternal worldwide allure captured in movies like ‘Sniper’, ‘Major Saal’ and several Australian television shows including RACQ’s 150 must-do travel locations where Paronella was rated number one!

Overall Paronella Park is the essence of a love story, of triumph over a history of tragedy all fuelled by a spirit for adventure. Jose’s dream lives on today in every path, every labourer’s immortalized concrete fingerprint and each of the several thousand planted trees. Ultimately, as it has for decades Paronella Park enchants everyone who enters daring them to dream, experience Australian hospitality and relish in the sheer tenacity of the Spanish Dreamer’s delightful rainforest palace.

Never have I been swept back in time to a place so peaceful and tantalising, yet suitable for all types of travellers. Paronella Park deserves its place as Australia’s number one must do travel destination and I will treasure the experience for a very long time, and I can’t wait to return.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011



To read Sandies description of this creation of amazement was like having been there through her eyes. The passion & use of her words invited me to images that I would expect to see on a movie of an exquisite romance story.

  Glenn & Tania Mar 28, 2011 10:11 PM


Sandie makes Paranella Park sound absolutely magical. It is now definitely on my list of places to go.

  Alix Apr 10, 2011 5:33 PM

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