Our next morning in Mallorca, Spain, we once again headed south, this time to the medieval walled town of Alcudia. Built in-land to protect against pirates and other miscreants, the town is encircled by a tall stone wall, with many of the buildings barely updated since they were built hundreds of years earlier (although, I suspect the insides have been updated with plumbing, electricity, and modern kitchens and bathrooms).
The narrow cobblestone streets are line with houses and shops ̶ many built in the 13th century ̶ most with floor pots in front, and brightly painted shutters to keep out the sun during the summer, and retain the warmth in the winter. Occasionally, we walked past a small garage door. For the most part, villagers probably walk everywhere they need to go or borrow one another’s cars when traveling more than a few miles
The day Stacey chose to go to Alcudia was market day, which occurs on Tuesdays and Sundays. We arrived as the market was being set up so we started at the far end. Tables and clotheslines strung above the tables were hung with a variety of bras and panties, ranging from taupe, padded full-cups to racy red push-ups.
I don’t want to sound like prudish, but I was a bit embarrassed by the blatant display of women’s undergarments. Or maybe, I would have been embarrassed to ask a vendor to unpin from a clothesline an “A” cup, no-frills white bra with matching waist-high panties. Conversely, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone observing me picking out a black-lace demi-cup, trimmed in red roses with matching thong!
Let’s not discuss the purchase of a girdle or support hose.
Thankfully there were other tables to visit, selling clothing, belts, purses, hats, and traditional Spanish costumes like frilly girl’s dresses in loud reds, pinks, and purples. At the far end of the market was the pièce de résistance, tables of magnificent fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, candies, cheeses, gourmet meats and sausages, fresh flowers, and potted plants. The colors and perfection of these goods would have put the finest grocers in America to shame. I wanted to purchases bags of producing and immediately set to work cooking.
We left with a few bags of clementine, shelled pistachios, and trail mix. Stacey and Shawn purchased cheese and sliced meats, which we ate at a picnic later in the week.
With the morning early, we walked around the city, stood in the bullring, sauntered across the top of the wall, and crossed the draw bridges (now stationary). We then found an outdoor café for café au leche’s and a few nibbles from the foods we’d purchased earlier.
Alcudia has been inhabited since the Bronze Age when the Romans arrived in 123 BC. Its seaside location made it ideal for guarding the towns of Palma and Pollentia from invaders. In spite of their vigilance, the Roman eventually lost the city to pirates.
Across from one portion of the walled city, you can see some of the Roman ruins. When we visited, the ruins were closed, but we peeked through the chain link fence, and saw stacks of rubble and what was left of building foundations. Not overly exciting, but gives pause when you realize the ruins are over 2,100 years old.
Walking through the alleyways and streets of Alcudia, I was able to see into the front rooms of some of the houses. I was expecting them to be rustic, but was surprised to see ornate woven rugs, antique furniture, elegant lamps, paintings, and other artwork. Just for hoots, I checked out some of the real estate online. Here’s a 4-bedroom, 4 bathroom townhouse next to the wall, which surrounds the town. It lists for 1.2 million euros. This townhouse looks ho-hum from the street, but stepping inside tells another story.
If you’re willing to put in the work, you can get an 8-bedroom villa for 695,000 euros. This 9-bedroom townhouse is listed as a fixer-upper in need of modernizing. I suspect most of the townhouses we passed were more in-line with the size and quality of this 3-bedroom house for 325,000 euros. A house that hadn’t been update would probably be like this 4-bedoom fixer-upper for 210,000 euros.
Maybe buying a cute little townhouse in Mallorca isn’t feasible!
Another Twisty Road
Our next scheduled destination was Cap de Formentor, and the Far de Formentor lighthouse. Italian engineer Antonio Parietti built the road that goes to Cap de Formenter, along with the road to Sa Calobra, which we visited the day before. The road to Formentor, however, is less curvy and more interesting. As you drive, you see pathways and stairs cut in the jagged mountains and rolling hills along with extensive rock walls and terraces. No doubt, shepherds and farmers had worked the land for centuries, creating flat terraced areas for farming, pastures for goats and sheep, and pathways between villages and homesteads.
As we drove, we occasionally had a peek-a-boo view of the sea. Fisherman must have also used the paths to bring their catch to market.
The Formentor Lighthouse, at the end of the road, is the highest lighthouse in the Balearic Islands at 210 meters (689 feet) above sea level. To build the lighthouse, materials were brought by sea or mule train over the rocky paths.
It’s an impressive view from the lighthouse with the ability to see 360-degrees as you walk around. I was more interested in a spunky goat pestering tourists for food. One yahoo tried to feed it orange peels, and seemed confused when the goat turned its horns up at it.
While the sky was clear, it was cold at the lighthouse so we didn’t stay long. Instead, we headed back down the road to Pollensa, which was founded by the Catalans in the 13th century, and named after the Roman settlement of “Pollentia” near Alcudia.
The town was built in the 17th and 18th century, and from the outside hasn’t changed much with house built from beige stone, tile roofs, painted wood shutters, arched doorways often with carved wooden doors, and narrow, cobblestone streets that radiate from a central square.
As we drove through the town, we spotted a bakery, and feeling a bit parched, stopped. Once inside, we ordered café con leches and pastries: A chocolate marvel with puff pastry and chocolate, and a strawberry tart with custard and fresh strawberries.
During our trip, we also tried ensaimadas, a coiled pastry made with milk, eggs, sugar, flour, lard, and yeast. They’re about 50% large than a typical donut, and liberally dusted with powdered sugar. I was expecting it to be sweet, but it was flavorless with a spongy texture. I looked up a recipe online. Ensaimades proofs for three hours, which is why they’re very fluffy, but not dense. If you pull off a piece, it immediately flattens. Plus, unlike many American pastries, they don’t have flavorings like vanilla, almond or lemon, and because they’re not fried, they don’t inherit an oily or browned flavor.
Our stomachs satisfied, we headed back to the resort, but on the way, we passed a sign for Cove de Campanet. Curious, we turned off, and followed the narrow road to a very beautiful villa-like building. We parked at the bottom of a tall stone wall with terraces and arbors on top. Cascading down from the arbors were flowering bushes, including bright red and pink bougainvillea, and beneath the arbors were groves of citrus trees.
We climbed the stone stairs up from the parking lot, arriving at a picturesque, cobblestone deck that lead to a restaurant, tasteful gift shop, stone benches, and restrooms. Looking back, it was one of the most beautiful terrestrial spots we visited on Mallorca.
After purchasing tickets to see the caves, Rich and I took pictures of cats – the gift shop sells a poster of the 16 cats associated with the caves – while Stacey and Shawn had a glass of beer and enjoyed the amazing view from the patio. I shared some of my cat pictures in an earlier post “Cats of Mallorca.”
The caves were discovered in 1945 when a farmer searching for a source of water enlarged a small hole in the ground, and could feel a draught of cool air. He explored further and realized he’d found an extensive subterranean cavern, which was formed around 12 million years ago at the foot of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.
The formation of the caves began 15 million years ago when the continents we know today as Africa and Europe colliding forming a sea bed on one side, and pushing up the Serra de Tramuntana on the other. Rainwater filtering through the limestone carved away the rocks, creating the cavern, which spreads across 3,200 square meters (34,445 square feet), and reaches a depth of 50 meters (164 feet). Walking through the cave, which is a pleasant temperature, you see water dripping from the ceiling, wetting the stalactites and stalagmites, and creating beautiful pools of crystal-clear water.
Adding to the enchantment is the concrete pathway with mood lighting that meanders through the various chambers with delightful names like “Enchanted Castle,” “Romantic Chamber,” Musical Waterfall,” and “Chapel of the Virgin Mary.”
It was definitely the prettiest cavern I’ve ever visited, and significantly chiller than the steamy Inner Space Cavern in Texas. Much of Cove de Campanet looks like marshmallow cream or Softserve ice cream – ranging in color from ivory to reddish tan — which has been piped into fluffy mounds, and some of which has toppled over, forming tiers of roundish blobs.
Because only the four of us took the tour, we got to ask lots of questions, and the fabulous tour guide even turned out the lights at one point so we could experience total darkness and silence.
After our confection-esque tour of the caves, we head back to the resort where Shawn cooked skewers of tender meat and vegetables. We also had more olives, bread, and aioli before calling it a night.