October 11, 2016
My husband had to be in Mallorca for a few days for work, so we took the opportunity to extend the visit with a few days, and see the tourist side of the island. Mallorca is one of those places that would never spontaneously come to mind when looking for a holiday destination. Reason more to visit it now when low season was starting. Still most hotels seemed quite fully booked. The weather forecast looked promising with highs from 23 to 28 degrees Celsius. Most regular airlines did not fly direct to Palma, but Ryanair did from Brussels airport. The ticket price was not really an obstacle.
I usually do not fly Ryanair, so the differences with other airlines are quite remarkable. There is no seating area at the gate. They start boarding quite early, and people already stand in line, sometimes even before the plane arrives. Soon I understand why many people hurry to stand in line before boarding. Only the first 90 passengers can take their trolley on board, all the others have to carry them to the plane where they are checked in. They can retrieve it on the luggage belt on arrival. There is no gateway or bus, you have to walk to the plane. In the plane the corridor is narrow, seats are small, the plane has not been cleaned, and you have no poach in the seat in front of you to hold small items. If you need a sickness bag, you will have to ask in time. The announcement by the pilot is short and not very informative. The weather is ‘good’ in Palma. The pre-taped safety announcement suddenly stops, takes a minute to start up again but the stewardesses seem to be used to it. The temperature control is very variable, so you better have a sweater on hand to put on or take off when needed. It strikes me when listening to the safety announcements, they sound a lot more soothing on other flights. Here I get the feeling the flight is less safe when hearing the business like explanation that seems to emphasis danger. The plane makes more noise of parts that seem to be loose, though I am sure the loose parts are not essential for flight safety. And although this is a flight in the afternoon in the middle of the week, outside holidays, the flight is completely full. There is no button to put your seat in a backward position to sleep. The whole flight the corridor is blocked by carts bringing drinks, food, tax free items and lottery tickets. Difficult to get to a toilet. I have an aisle seat, which for the first time bothers me. Because of the very narrow corridor, people keep bumping into me and they have to use extra narrow carts on the plane. I feel the knees of the passenger behind me in my back through the seat, strange and unwelcome. The lottery supports a caritative organisation, though it is unclear which organisation.
Once of the plane I immediately feel a lot better. The sun shines, I have no checked in luggage, so I happily jump into a taxi, without having to queue. The taxi driver takes me for 20 euro’s in just 15 minutes to my hotel, “Valparaiso Palace and Spa”.
My husband is already staying there for work, and I join him. I freshen up in the room, and we quench my thirst with a drink and some tapas on the terrace of the hotel, overlooking the swimming pools and the sea. We take an evening walk in the direction of Palma centre, where the cathedral dominates the view. We stop at the restaurant the “Boat House”, where we take a table at the romantically decorated terrace just next to the harbour, where huge sailboats and yachts are parked. We drink an aperol spritz and order two starters, a plate of local cheeses and a plate of local meat cuts. We had initially ordered a plate of mussels but had to send it back, because the mussels were not fresh. The portions are huge, and we can’t finish the plates.
Since Valparaiso is a bit further away we return to our hotel by taxi. We sleep soundly in our wonderfully big room, luxuriously decorated. The hotel boasts a wonderful spa area, which we want to enjoy the next morning before breakfast. They serve breakfast until 11 AM, so enough time to enjoy the indoor pool with hydro-massage areas, sauna, steambath, herbal bath, salt inhalation room, Kneipp walk, hydro foot-massage and experience shower. Unfortunately, only the sauna is hot enough, all other baths disappoint a bit. The indoor pool on the other hand is wonderful and you can easily combine it with the three outdoor pools.Breakfast tastes great after the wellness hour, and the buffet offers anything you can think of. Only the coffee is a disappointment in Mallorca, so we decide to order cappuccino’s, which are acceptable. Before lunchtime some heavy rain showers have cooled down the weather. The rest of the day stays cloudy with scattered rain showers.
We have to change hotels for the second night, so we take a taxi to our second hotel: the “Gran Melia Victoria”. On checking in they offer us a room with sea view for only 20 euro extra. The room is located on the lower levels under the lobby. Yes it boasts sea view, but in front of it is a street full of traffic, the corridors smelling of moist, and the room smells of cigarette smoke, mixed with some perfume to neutralize it. And the room is quite small. We go back up and ask the receptionist to change rooms, because of the smell of smoke in the room. We get an upgrade to a better room, on the fifth floor, with sea view, ample space and fresh air. We immediately feel a lot better! The hotel is a lot poshier than the Valparaiso hotel, but not more luxurious. They cannot beat the pools and wellness of the Valparaiso hotel, but they are located a lot closer to the centre of Palma.
We decide to use our afternoon to discover the city of Palma. We set out on foot in the direction of the cathedral. We want to visit the cathedral before it closes at 17:15, will then visit the Palau de la Almudaina for which entrance is free on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and stays open till 18:00. After that we will visit the Arab baths that stay open the latest till 19:00. We only want to visit the cathedral but have to buy a combination ticket for the cathedral and the museum for 7 euro. It is not possible to purchase a ticket for the cathedral alone.
They started building the Gothic cathedral in 1230, and only finished it in 1601. The cathedral is 121 metres long, 55 metres wide and its nave is 44 metres tall. The rose window measuring 11,5 meters in diameter is the largest in the world. Gaudi added the thorn crown above the altar, the mosaics and the chandeliers. A few minutes before five, we enter the Palau de la Almudaina. At the ticket counter they ask our identification. Only my husband has his ID with him, I left mine in the hotel. The lady tells me I will have to pay for my ticket. I argue I am together with my husband and that we both come from Belgium. She does not budge. Frustrated I walk out when suddenly I remember I have a copy of my passport on my phone. I down load it, and happily walk back in. I get stopped by a security person saying it is 5 PM already, and they do not let any people in after that hour. I check and see it is exactly 5 PM, not a minute later. I tell him we have already entered before 17:00, and the lady only wanted to see my ID. The lady at the ticket counter purposely ignores us and the man refuses to let us through. My god it made me angry!
My husband calms me down saying I should not let negative energy spoil my holiday. He is right of course, so we walk to the Arab baths, where we pay 2,5 euro per person for an entrance ticket. The Arab Baths date back to a period between the 10th and 12th century, and are built based on antique elements and by recycling capitals from previous periods (Muslim, Byzantine and Roman capitals). They were probably part of a nobleman’s house and are similar to those found in other Islamic cities.
We stroll through the centre of Palma, where we see many beautiful Jugendstil style houses, a lot like what you see in Barcelona.
We walk over the Plaza Mayor, onto the Ramble, where we enter the café-shop Ca Na Chinchilla. We we order two glasses of white house wine with tapas, one with cheese, one with ham. The house wine, a wine from the Rioja is really very good.
We then decide to slowly walk in the direction of our dinner, via the Avinguda de Jaume III, where you pass the Passeig des Born, a wide tree lined avenue leading to the seaside, which forms the heart of the city. We walk into Carrer de la Fabrica, a street with many bars and restaurants.
We want to have dinner at “Patron Lunares”, a rather new restaurant, where you can eat fine fish and rice dishes. The decoration of the restaurant is based on a famous fisherman who used to live here at the beginning of the 20th century. The restaurant is still empty when we arrive at 7 PM but we decide to book a table anyway. The waiter first says the restaurant is already fully booked, but manages to still squeeze in two people. Best to book in advance if you want to eat here! We took a vermut as aperitif at the wine bar “Vinostrum” at the other side of the street.
Hungry we walk into the restaurant an hour later. The place quickly fills up, and a happy bustly atmosphere is the result. The menu looks really attractive, and we share a starter of fried anchovy, and two main courses: octopus and gamba, with some bread.
As dessert we share a kind of panna cotta. We round of with coffee and tea. The food is original, fresh and well prepared. They have some signature dishes like Rocket Calamar, Avocado dip, Cheese croquettes. Looking around I am sure all dishes are wonderful, there are no bad choices.
After a good nights sleep, we enjoy the breakfast buffet of the Melia hotel, and then set out to rent a car, just a few steps away from the hotel, at Iberauto car rental. They rent out a car for 45 euro a day, but since the smallest car was already gone we rented a Citroen for 48 euro + 2 euro per day for full insurance. The car has a standard GPS.
We drove to the East of Palma to Randa to visit the Cura monastery. On Randa mountain, you pass two smaller monasteries before reaching the Cura monastery on the top.
First you pass the Santuari de nostra senyora de Gracia. Here a chapel was built in the 15th century. Now there is still a small church standing, in front of a backdrop of high vertical cliffs. The next monastery de Sant Honorat, is a place where monks live in silence. You can only visit he small church.
The Cura monastery dates back to the 11th century. You have great views of the island all around. There is a small café where you can take a drink and eat something. The monastery is a bit of a let down, and since we have time left before our flight we decide to drive towards the Serra de Tramuntana, a beautiful mountain range, popular with cyclists.
We visit Valldemossa, famous for its monastery where Chopin lived for nine months. Around the local church, you can walk through picturesque streets, where houses are decorated with plants and flowers on both sides of the street. One little shop, Quitapenas, sells local wines and meats, and you can drink something on the stairs.
There was no place left here, so we chose Sa Cova in carrer Rosa. The little tapa bar has a great view over the mountains through the rear window. We drink a vermut, with some tapas as a perfect little lunch. The little town is a good place for some local shopping. After a little walk under the sun, we drive back to Palma to return the car, pick up our luggage and take a taxi to the airport. Our 48 hours in Palma de Mallorca, left us energized and rested. We flew back on a very noisy Ryanair flight, the screaming children left me with a ring in my ears.