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Mediterranean hospitality on Majorca
Member Name: logberg
Advantages: Wonderful scenery, relaxed and warm
Well, when you first get there you think that it doesn’t really matter but for the record , Majorca is a name visitors have given this absolutely beautiful Mediterranean island. Locals call it Mallorca, they live the Mallorcan lifestyle.
It's the largest of the Balearic islands, 200 km south of Barcelona, off the east coast of Spain.
So now you know where it is, you will want to know why you should go there. For us, we were eagerly awaiting our first-ever cruise and the offer of a week-stay on Majorca, before that experience, was too good to pass up.
Tony Kelly’s The AA Pocket Guide MALLORCA, was my bible. For months I’d read it and absorbed so much information, planned to visit what looked like exciting and interesting places, diverse activities and historic sites. So, this is my story but have to say I was well versed by the expert before I ever set foot on the island.
I had some perception of the neat week ahead but it is fair to say I had no idea I was going to be so excited by the warmth of the weather in October, the sheer gobsmacking scenery as we explored the island via the Soller Train, underground in the Coves del Drac (Caves of Drach), the huge, fascinating Inca Market, an Oktoberfest in Peguera, Mini-golf at the truly beautiful Golf Fantasia in Palma Nova and strolling along a clean, sandy beach at sunset. Oh, must not forget the delightful, tasty drinks, great food and hospitality!
Majorca is devine. It is obviously highly motivated by tourism, and in some parts of the island this brings criticism for being a bit tatty, but for me, October did not show this as much as it may for height of summer holiday-makers. In fact, we stayed in Magalluf which, along with Palma Nova, is probably the main area of ‘tatty’ criticism but we did not find it to be so, the shops were themed around the beach, souvenirs and jewellery, with lots of café, bars and restaurants as you walk around but whether you shop or not is up to you. We did a couple of strolls around the shops both day and night but most of our time was spent traveling all over the island, taking in sites, sounds and new experiences.
And there were plenty of them.
It’s hard for me to pick out one highlight. So I’ve put all my subjects into a hat and picked them out randomly. They all get equal billing in my view. I’ve not looked to see if any of them are a separate subject to review so will keep them all shorter and at some time in the future there’s a chance some may be fully reviewed by me! Including them here just helps to give you a bit of an idea why Majorca should feature as your next holiday destination.
PIRATES show and dinner.
This is the most exciting, thrilling, expertly presented dinner/show I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s been a national and international success, winning awards for many years. It’s a bit of a dual between goody and baddy pirates with the audience involved along the way. Gymnastics, acrobatics and high streamer/wire work, what a grand performance. Can you imagine one pirate standing with feet flat on the floor and another pirate upside-down on his shoulders: the two of them only joined by shoulders ....if this was not spine-chilling enough the one on the floor walked around the stage with his mate finely balanced on his shoulders. I was expecting them to join hands at least. No, only shoulders to connect them. At the finale they did similar and the bottom pirate walked UP a string/rope wall! Words cannot describe the utter disbelief I felt that such a feat was possible. My only disappointment here was that it was quite expensive to go to the show and the dinner part of it let the evening down, in my opinion and that of some others around us.
THE COVES DEL DRAC tour
It’s pitch black, deadly quiet and a little light comes on to the right of the underground lake before you. Violin sounds quietly come across the blackness ....lights increase as a little boat moves towards you, there is a violin quartet aboard, playing haunting, beautiful music on Lake Martel in the Caves of Drach..... the Dragon Caves.
Two more boats flow in as the lights increase, and the music flows and you are awestruck through four classical creations. It all comes to a fantastic, thrilling end with a Palma sunset light show. Then you are invited into the boats for a little row across the lake before walking up through the caves with eerie stalagtites and stalagmites sending your imagination into overdrive.
From the time you enter, to climbing the steep walk out you have oohed and aahhed through two kilometres of gobsmacking underground features. This is a must when visiting Majorca.
On the way back to Palma the tour included a visit to a pearl factory. This was interesting because they advertise the pearls as undistinguishable from the real ones. This may be so but we both thought there would be an element of ‘’growing’‘ something to, over a period of time, create a living ‘’something’‘. What a shock we got. Ushered upstairs to a demonstration we saw a lady behind a glass shield; she took a rod in one hand, a long cylinder of glass in the other and put them together in front of a ‘’bunsen-burner-type heating device’‘ and the glass melted into a ball on the rod and there was the ‘’PEARL”“..... a glass bead in effect. I guess it then got dunked in something and entered the chain of creating a ‘’pearl’‘ for jewellery. Having said that, the finished products shown in the showroom were, to be honest, fantastic jewellery settings; superb and very expensive. So I now know a Majorcan pearl is stunning, it lustres and shines; it is an authentic Majorcan Pearl but it is not a pearl in the sense of a pearl being a growing thing, a creation which takes time before being manufactured into ‘’real pearl jewellery’‘.
A pleasant liqueur experience took the ‘’bitter taste’‘ of our pearl disappointment out of our mouths. We went from the pearl factory to a super tourist shop and were invited to take a little glass and help ourselves to any of the 15-20 barrels of liqueurs. Heaven on a Sunday morning. I bought a little bottle of Blackberry Schnapps to share around the camp fire over my New Zealand summer break at Christmas and New Year. It will be a fun way to remember a tasty, fun experience on this bus tour.
SOLLER TRAIN AND PORT SOLLER
This was my birthday treat and we did it on our own. Thought a tour would be a bit restricting so we set off on the bus from Magalluf to Palma and I should mention here that the bus system is good. We used the public bus system and found it to be okay: except for day one when a bus came up to the stop and only took on a couple of people so we said to a young couple do you want to share a taxi into Palma: we did and it was quick, shared cost was not too bad and dropped us beside the cathedral. All other bus trips were fine and dandy.
Back to Soller Train. We rushed to the Piaca d Espanya in Palma to get a ticket as we wanted to be on the Tourist Train, 10.50am Turistico, because it stops to give to panoramic views over a mountain village. Any of the five trains a day would be okay for the one and a half hour journey, through a 3km tunnel in the vintage carriages of brass fittings and mahogany panels. It really is a fantastic experience and the scenery along the way is beautiful. (Heard it was a bone-crushing experience but it was not too rough at all!)
At Soller you can sit around and enjoy the square’s many cafes and restaurants but we took the ‘’Orange Express’‘ 5-km trip on the tram to Port Soller and along the way we peered into backyards, saw orange groves and animals grazing. It was truly neat. Port Soller is stunning and I took many photos, walking, shopping and for a birthday treat we sat on the waterfront and shared a huge plate of ‘’little fish’‘ fried in breadcrumbs, accompanied by a fine white wine. Heaven. Turning 59 will be especially memorable for me as the day I did the historic, electric Soller train and relaxed in all the beauty of Port Soller. On the way back the Soller Train broke down and we had a near hour-long wait for another train to bring something up the mountain to get us underway again. Just another travel ‘event’ which you have to expect when taking in the sights of the world.
We did this as a bus tour and were glad we did as the tour guide was exceptionally good in advising us about the area and what to watch out for in the island’s biggest market. Held on a Thursday it is huge, taking in many, many streets of stalls with a huge variety of products: leather is big, Majorcan pearls and other jewellery, clothes, food, souvineers and other local craft abound. We were told to be sure to haggle as the stall holders expect it. I saw an African woman on a stall with a tiny little baby: both dressed in traditional gear and they looked just fantastic. I asked the woman how old her baby was, she said four weeks so I asked if I could take a photo of her and her baby - faster than a speeding bullet she said “five euros’‘. I told her I was not paying and left miffed that I’d missed out on a wonderful photo opportunity.
I did haggle and believe it or not it was for a 3-piece set of Majorcan Pearls (NB...before my factory visit!) I bought at what later turned out to be a very good price when we looked around retail outlets on the island. Inca Market is really well worth going to and I only wished we’d had more time there, especially when our next place was Festival Park (Labels type complex) as I thought it not as cheap as they dubbed it to be.
Fun, laughs and two sore knees. Well not usually for the thousands of visitors a week but sadly for me my ‘form’ was effected by a silly fall half way round the 3-course mini golf game - just when I was winning too. It definitely changed my form and HE beat me in the end. Not even aching knees could mar my absolute delight in playing in this superb park of waterfalls, caves, little streams, ponds, fish and live turtles, chirping budgerigars and truly stunning tropical rainforest in Palma Nova.
It is a family attraction and when we were there it was full, people of all ages going for par. Most holes are 2 or 3 par and quite easy but a bit of a challenge when your ball keeps going off the course and spiralling many feet down to the pond below! Twice for me!
We were really lucky as we were there for the four-day authentic German Oktoberfest at Peugera. We took off on a bus tour and after a bit of a false start we found the little beach-side town and the huge blue and white marquee.
What a hoot. The real thing in music, food, beer and lots of German maidens. (I’m sure I should have used the German word for maidens but it just escapes me right now!) The scenery on the way out was stunning, hills, seaside vistas, little towns and a good look at Majorcan life, outside the bus window. The beach here was apparently the first man-made beach on Majorca, not obvious on my little stroll around the ‘huts’ and a female bare-top or two! (As you may have guessed we don’t have ‘’dress-optional’‘ beaches in New Zealand.)
PALMA CATHEDRAL AND L’ALMUDAINA PALACE
We didn’t have time to go into the newer part of Palma so this is a little look at the Cathedral and Old Palma around it and the Almudaina Palace.
La Seu (Palma Cathedral) is imposing on the landscape from sea or land. It is really beautiful on the outside and a bit different on the inside. We strolled around saying that it was truly beautiful and a bit different but couldn’t really say why. It has a stunning Rose stain-glass window, (apparently one of the world’s biggest - 1236 pieces of glass, it’s 12 m across) very large, gold statue and crosses, interesting side altars and a Gaudi Crown of Thorns hanging above the altar, but still I am not sure why it is so different. The cloisters are where you can see some of the original implements which were used to construct Palma Cathedral.
Beside the Cathedral and from the exterior it sort of melds in with the cathedral is Palau De L’Almudaina, an impressive royal palace featuring Moorish arches which are best seen from the waterfront. We did the tour and it was amazing how warm this old, stone building was. We peeked into the Arab baths, strolled in the palm courtyard and visited the little Capella de Santa Ana chapel. A museum now, it offers a glimpse into Palma’s interesting history: I loved the ancient tapestries and a truly fantastic old clock piece. (I did something I said I would never do here, I took a photo of the clock - disobeying the ‘no photos’ order. I’m not proud as I fully realise the conservation aims which enable such treasures to be best presented for generations to come so I will not do it again!)
We took a stroll into the Old Palma sector and it was just as I had imagined. Narrow streets, stunning windows and doors which are a favourite of mine when site-seeing. Lovely little shops and people sitting around taking in the scene, relaxing and having a chat. Loved the doors on the Basillica de Sant Francesc, liked the little courtyards and saw some neat jewellery shops - if only the credit card was a little more elastic!
Palma looks fantastic from the waterfront and I was keen to do Tony Kelly’s suggested waterfront walk but time ran out so next time I go I’ll do that and the Palma city walk. There is so much to do you should book for at least a couple of weeks and be well prepared before you go.
Majorca statistics: it’s 100km from east to west and 75km from north to south. It has 555km of coastline and in that area there are 80 beaches. The central plain is divided by the Serra de Tramuntana and Serra de Llevant mountain ranges. Average daily maximum temperatures are around 21.4oC and throughout the year expect an average of seven hours of sunshine.
There was no way you could see all of Majorca in a week, we did something everyday at the expense of sitting around the resort pool and missing most of its entertainment programme: we were in Majorca to see Mallorca (the way Mallorcan’s live) and we certainly did.
We didn’t do any activities centred around the beach or sea activities but for those who are interested in these there are so many operators who are geared up to service this side of your holiday. I guess you’d only need to go on a Majorca internet site to see the diverse activities on offer on the island. You would have all you need if you buy the ‘’bible’‘ I mentioned near the beginning of the review.
Getting there: we flew on a package but you can make use of many cheapies which come up all the time. Some people visit on a day-trip while cruising but for most it will be via Palma’s huge and highly efficient airport. It is massive but you can move through it very easily with good signage. It has a truly modern look about it with all the usual shops, relaxing areas, ablutions and plenty of help on hand. (At busy times of the year over 700 flights land here and numbers sometimes total around 100,000 a day... huge figures.) There are plenty of ferries from mainland Spain and other parts of the Mediterranean.
Accommodation: we used the Sol Magalluf Park resort and it was most acceptable (apart from the fact that the reception man was abysmal but after that all went well), there are many resorts of differing tarriffs, hotels and of course there will be self-catering apartments. There are over 200,000 hotel beds and 60,000 apartments so you should be able to book in somewhere.
Getting around: there are hosts of buses, quite modern too, reasonably priced fares and each bus stop has plenty of information about the route and times you could expect a bus, (give and take a little!) Taxis seemed a little expensive if you are going a longer distance but the guide says to ask what the fare is before you get in so there are no surprises when you reach your destination. That applies to anywhere in the world really. Day tours are a most efficient way to see lots of Majorca; it seems most hotel reception areas have dedicated tour desks so you can book with several tour operators who attend them at a given time each day.
We saw some tourist ferry-type boats which apparently take you out on the sea to experience the coast line which is really lovely from the air as you fly in or out. We saw hire/rental car offices so no doubt if you like to drive this is an option. We considered hiring a little scooter for a bit of a whirl but then decided against it - looked out the window one day and saw some much more senior citizens than us arriving back at the hotel on tiny little electric cycles - they were game.
So, if you want sun, sea, history, magnificent scenery, good food, diverse shopping, relaxation, new experiences, then consider a Mediterranean holiday on an island that has it all, and more. When you leave you may well feel like I did . I went to Majorca as a visitor .... I learned, experienced and appreciated this island so much, I moved on - now it’s definitely Mallorca.
Summary: Great holiday destination, memorable island