Mallorca: Playtime in the Mediterranean

Allison came to visit!

I promised I’d take her to a Spanish island, so we decided on Mallorca, Menorca’s bigger sister out in the Mediterranean.

Fine white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters: paradisiacal cliches but truly marvelous when they are right in front of you, complete with the caw of seagulls and murmur of water sliding in and out almost imperceptably — not like the crashing, salty rush that Canary beaches experience, but rather a more tranquil pool-like body of water.  We were brave and managed to dip more than just our feet into the water, still almost ice-cold from the winter months. The weather, however, was fortunately just perfect.

Home of Rafa Nadal and a hot destination for German biker tourists (there were definitely more of those that we saw than normal locals around), Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic islands. It’s also home to some magnificent caves that are part of the island history. We managed to visit one of them, the Cave of Artá.

Its imposing entrance akin to la boca del lobo, the mouth of the wolf, the cave is accessed by a narrow, dank passageway until it suddenly opens up into a vast, dark, and elaborate interior, formed by the passing of millenia. Artificial lights illuminate the cave so that visitors can get a glimpse of the giant stalagtites and stalagmites that jut out from the floor and ceiling, and which create a sense of awe and eerieness.

I tried to imagine the natives thousands of years ago fumbling around in this cave, in the dark with only their torch lights, warily anticipating any creature, human or devil, that could be lurking around the next jagged formation. After entering the “gateway to hell,” we were even given a small light show at the cave’s deepest part, complete with the haunting choir music from Mozart’s Requiem, I think it was.

There was even an upside-down sheep. See it?

I felt like a vampire surfacing from the dark cold of the cave into the glaring, scorching sunlight of day as we finished our tour.

The first two nights, we stayed in a small town called Alcudia, up on the northeastern side of the island. A typical tiny Spanish town, it has a square, churches, castle walls, and interesting shops. We explored it one calm evening as the sun was setting and as the winds picked up their usual night-time chill.

Having a rental car on an island makes beach-hopping a must. We were able to visit three different beaches in the same day, at different ends of the island, traversing from the north all the way to the south. From tiny coves where hardly any tourists ventured, to long, sprawling beaches, the water is always a crystalline turquoise, so still and shallow that you can see small fish darting about your feet.

The “miradores”, or viewpoints, offer incredible panoramic views of the island.

A vacation is never complete without some beer-guzzling while watching a Real Madrid game. Without beer, in particular.

On our last day, we visited Palma, the main city in Mallorca. The city is tranquil and filled with old colonial-style houses enclosing lovely courtyards and orange trees. The people are unhurried, tourists sip on coffee outdoors, locals have their beers and tapas during lunch hour. Mallorca has a beautiful maritime walkway as well as one of the most gorgeous Gothic cathedrals in Europe, built on a pre-existing Arab mosque.

Construction of the cathedral began in 1229 but was only finished in 1601, and in 1901, Gaudi took over its restoration until he abandoned the project in 1914. Its interior is even more impressive than its exterior, its soaring naves boasting a style which makes it much more dynamic than most Gothic cathedrals. It’s not as austere or rigid-looking; the textures, the abundance of light and, above all, the candelabra lamp designed by Gaudi hanging ornately above the altar space add to its singularity. The stained glass windows are also heavenly.

After strolling through its winding streets and ducking into an old 4-story English bookshop, we sit down for a lazy lunch in a high-ceilinged bar right next to the large open windows. Beef ratatouille with potatoes and a slight afternoon breeze drifting in make for a perfect slow afternoon. We end our trip shopping for Majorica pearls, which are unique to the island.