With Rich and I leaving Mallorca the following morning for Barcelona, and Stacey and Shawn staying for another day in Mallorca, we decided to spend the morning in Palma, and then catch a few close-by tourist spots in the afternoon.
The capital of Mallorca, Palma is a bustling city of over 401,000 people, settled by the Romans during the Bronze Age. Having been conquered several times, it retains some of the identities of its victors, including Islamic control between 902 and 1229.
Our first stop was La Seu, a huge cathedral with a mix of architectures, built on the site of a former mosque, Construction was begun in 1229 and completed in 1601, and then updated by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, starting in 1901. The outside of the cathedral is grand with bleached khaki-colored stones, flying buttresses and dozens of columns that turn into ornate towers as they reach the top of the building.
The cathedral is over 144 feet high with beautiful palm and deciduous trees at the front, which barely reach half way up the building. On one side of the cathedral is a plaza that stretches to the town wall, with the Mediterranean Ocean below the wall. Here’s a video I shot of the water.
The plaza extends around the cathedral, creating a continuous, cobblestoned historical area of municipal and ecclesiastic buildings, private homes, galleries, and shops that are primarily navigable by foot. Although, like in Soller, I heard the clopping of a horse, and had seconds to snap a couple of pictures of a horse-drawn carriage, which appear from around a corner then sped down the street.
We paid to view the inside of the cathedral, along with an associated museum. Unlike Notre Dame in Paris, the cathedral was bathed with light and very welcoming. Plus, it had exceptional stained glass windows, marble, and wood carvings. Here’s a great 360-virtual tour of the inside.
A short walk away was the Banys Arabs or Arab baths, which is one of the few remains of the area’s Moorish past. Under the structure is a hypocaust, which was used to warm the baths and heat the floor. Conceivably, the baths were once part of the home of a Muslim nobleman. The gardens outside the baths, with lush plantings and bird feeders, however, were much more memorable than the worn-down two-roomed bathhouse.
With noon approaching, we wandered down the many narrow streets settling on La Botana for lunch. The restaurant has a mish-mash of natural and painted wooden furniture in blues, pinks, and whites. The many pictures and knick-knacks on the walls, along with the cute flower bouquets on the tables added to the charm. Plus, it cemented my determination to chalk paint some of our furniture when we got home from Europe!
We ordered a range of tapas including the obligatory bread, assorted olives and aioli, along with fried whole shrimp (the shells were super crispy), mini tacos, bacon-wrapped dates, meatballs with peppers and blue cheese, mini hamburgers with caramelized onions, and bread with Mallorca sausage on top.
After lunch, we headed west to Bellver Castle. Built in the 14th century by King James II of Majorca, it is one of the few circular castles in Europe. Originally it was the residence of the Kings of Majorca when they weren’t staying in Europe, and later became a military prison holding royalty and common folks. Today, it’s a tourist attraction, and home to the Palma History Museum.
We didn’t go inside since we wanted to venture to other sites, and it had become cold outside, making it uncomfortable to be anywhere but in a heated car. Here’s a 360-view of the outside.
We continued west to the town of Santanya on the south eastern tip of the island, and walked along the beach. During the summer, this area must be packed with people because it’s a spectacular beach with light aqua water and sandy beaches. When we were there, nothing was open, and only a few stray cats seemed to take notice of our presence.
We then continued down to Cala Figeroa, which was super interesting. The bay is very cragged and rocky. Houses are built into the cliff with some of the houses partially inside rock overhangs. In addition, most of the houses had garages for boats with short concrete driveways that extended into the water.
We walked along the bay, which has a very narrow sidewalk. Essentially, you walk a few feet, and find yourself in front of a house with a few steps up to the front door. Walk another few feet, and you’re in front of a garage, often with the water a few inches away (if it’s high tide). Walk across the driveway, and you’re once again in front of a house.
Most of the houses have a common wall with the house next door or are separated by a boat garage. Because space is limited, some of the houses are three or more stories high. And when the tide is up, you can probably fish from your front window.
Because many of the residents fish for a living, their boats are tied up in front of their houses. As you walk, you need to negotiate many obstacles from water splashing up onto the pathways to steps leading up to houses, and boats partially on land. Here’s a nice panoramic view of the house-lined bay.
After wandering for an hour, we found a pathway to the top of the cragged bay, we followed it to the end of the point where there was a small lighthouse. It was a lovely walk with the sun setting, and the warmth from the rocks underfoot.
With it being our last night, we decided to go out to dinner. We circled around Llucmajor, a town of a little over 9,000 people, and squeezed into a parking spot. The eve of King’s Day, the air was sizzling with excitement. The streets and plaza were full of families, and children of all ages, waiting for the arrival of the kings.
King’s Day or festival of the kings is a celebration in memory of the three wise men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. The evening before, the kings visit various towns throughout Mallora, and hand out gifts to the children. In addition, children leave their shoes out or under a Christmas tree, along with something for the travel-weary kings to eat. In the morning, they wake to find gifts near their shoes.
Knowing the parade was going to start soon, we dashed into a snazzy restaurant off the plaza, and initially ordering bread, olives and aioli, while we decided what to have for dinner. Stacey had lamp chops, Rich and Shawn went with a fancy cut of beef, served with potato and vegetables, and I choose a timbale of couscous with diced slighted-cooked vegetables. Yum.
As we neared the end of our meal, we noticed the parade was beginning. I dashed outside with my camera and started shooting. Riding on majestic white, brown and black horses were the kings in ornate outfits and full beards. Behind each collection of kings was a float (most pulled by a tractor) with young boys, dressed as pages in elegant costumes of brocades and shimmering fabrics.
The kings had bags of hard, fruit-flavored candies they were tossing out to the children. There was also several open municipal trucks, piled high with wrapped gifts. I don’t know if they hand a gift to each child or if the presents are labeled.
At any rate, the parade, costumes, gorgeous horses, and festivities were an unexpected surprise. After settling our bill, we walked back to the car, gathering up any candy, which hadn’t been squished under-foot, by human, horse, float, tractor or truck.
Here’s a video from part of the parade.