Written by my friend Anna …
I was invited to join Helly on a weekend break to Palma de Mallorca. This was one of my easier decisions, travelling south to sunnier climes to escape the dank, grey clouds of London. My only reservation, Helly admitted that I was her third choice behind her partner and a blogging colleague. However, I have a thick skin and the average temperature was reported to be a very pleasant 24°C.
Palma is the capital of the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands. It boasts a turbulent history spanning thousands of years and is currently the twelfth largest urban area of Spain. Its airport serves over 22 million passengers each year and has become a holiday playground for the Spanish royal family.
After flying in late that afternoon exhausted by the previous week, Helly and I opted for a gentle introduction to the city. We selected a restaurant close to our hotel that promised traditionally inspired, locally sourced food. Restaurante Es Robost satisfied my hunger on a number of fronts. We tucked into traditional crackers served with tomatoes, virgin olive oil and salt accompanied by Ibérico ham and cheeses from the island. I received a wink from a man sitting at the next table. I wasn’t sure whether this was a come on or a customary welcome but heck, I didn’t care…
We rose early the next day to make the most of our fleeting visit with guide books in hand. The city has a lot to offer, culturally and historically. It was founded as a Roman camp upon the remains of a Talaiotic settlement, people from the Bronze Age to you and me. The demise of the Romans led to the arrival of the Moors who continued the architectural development of the city. However the real expansion began in 1229 when James I of Aragon captured Mallorca from the Moors and included it in his kingdom stretching across Spain and France. He laid the foundation stone for the city’s landmark building, the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria.
Situated at the heart of the attractive historic quarter, the Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, commonly referred to as La Seu, is breathtaking. Rising proud on the Palma cityscape, we craned our necks to take it in. Built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque, it is 121 metres long, 55 metres wide and its nave is 44 metres tall. This erection justly dominates the city from almost every angle. In hushed voices Helly and I commented on the beautiful wall murals and stone carvings that covered its interior spanning many centuries and cultural influences. This was a superb beginning to our historical enlightenment of Palma.
Our next tourist destination was the Arab Baths, one of the few remaining remnants of Palma’s Moorish past. This was a relaxing retreat off a side street just a short stroll from the cathedral. Once inside this haven of peace, we meandered though a lush, well tended garden full of wild flowers and ferns and listen quietly to the birdsong. We then descended some stone steps to peer into the darkness to find the interior of a small two-roomed brick building that housed the original baths, dating back to the 11th century.
We spent the rest of our day exploring the city’s charming alleys and side streets, peaking through iron gates to view secret courtyards and hideaway villas. After a while our thirst called us to stop off at a bustling square, Placa de Santa Eulalie, edged with tapas bars and restaurants. We ordered our first taste of local wine. A huge glass of delicious rose was placed before me as local street entertainers showed off their acrobatic skilled accompanied by local folk music.
My London tensions slowly drained away and I relaxed into the slower pace of a Southern European existence. I was enjoying the passing of time, rather than checking my various digital appendages and stressing about where I should be next. Just a few hours flight from London and Palma had already delivered so much.
That night we joined a wine tour organised by our hosts Money Supermarket. Our very knowledgeable and charming guide talked us through the process of island wine production and showed us some of the best supping spots and tapas in the city. I never realised how infinitely complicated it is to make a good sparkling wine or how a good vine takes decades to cultivate. The wine tour introduced us to fellow travellers including two charming couples from Denmark and Germany. We drank into the merry hours discussing European politics, the UK’s forthcoming EU referendum and North Korea, while sipping some of the finest wine the island had to offer. Our final stop that evening was the ‘Wineing’ which offered the best wines of the world on tap. We were given a card to record dispensed wine from a series of ontap options and then billed at the end of the night. This system is definitely open for abuse and we sensible decided to say good night.
The next day our heads were a little groggy from the night before and so we took a gentle walk along the promenade to Palma’s city beach. People were swimming, children were fishing for octopus, there was a pleasant breeze and the skies were blue.
This city has it all. It is beautiful, compact, historical and versatile. There is enough to absorb in two days without feeling that you have taken part in a ‘tourist’ marathon. When you leave and return to the real world you feel invigorated, recharged and already searching the Internet for your next weekend city break.
We stayed at the comfortable Hotel Continental, a brisk 20 minute walk from the Cathedral. Large, clean comfortable rooms, and so quiet we slept to 10.30am on our second morning, nearly missing the abundant offerings of the excellent breakfast buffet.
We were the guests of Travel Supermarket, who offer lots of enticing city breaks. All opinions our own.
See how Jac and Sarah got on in Barcelona, also with Travel Supermarket.