Mallorca: A Further Afield guide to two towns we love
THREE THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW:
1) From the 1960’s onwards every April to October Mallorca would, and still does, quadruple in population at times and Palma airport continues to be the third largest in passenger numbers in Spain. Airlines have now realised the importance of Mallorca as a year round destination so getting here is easy and relatively cheap any time you fancy.
2) To those who know Barcelona and Cataluña, you’ll recognise that the road signs and the day- to-day chat of the Mallorquín people are both in Castillian Spanish and Mallorquín, a very similar form of Catalan. They’re a fiercely nationalistic people and are proud to ensure their traditions and customs are protected, which makes this place even more special.
3) Palma has long been the summer residence of the Spanish Royal Family and has been a well-kept secret by the Spanish élite for many years. In response to Spain’s recent corruption scandals, the House of Borbón, now decidedly scaled down, has decided to open its gardens to the public for free and at the Marivent Palace, visitors can wander around almost 10,000 square metres of Mediterranean Flora.
PALMA DE MALLORCA
As you drive into the city from the airport the place is dominated by La Seu Cathedral, which is an incredible piece of architecture and can be seen from nearly every part of the city. The city sits on the water looking out to the South – and the cathedral is a great view point for this – and the seafront is almost reminiscent of Havana’s Malecón. Behind the Cathedral and weaving it’s way East and West is the beautiful old town and its maze of cobbled laneways and plazas.
The poplar-lined roads of the city centre shopping area and Gothic area are full of restaurants, cafés, and shops. There are also some seriously amazing interiors stores – Rialto living is a must for the building as much as anything else, one of those picked out on THE CULTURE TRIP’S RECENT BLOG.
Down on the port you can ogle the boats and savour the seafood. Beautiful restaurants, including the Royal Yacht Club (below), surround the port and although you’d think it would be difficult to get a table here and if you did you’d be paying through the nose, think again: It’s reasonably priced and the service superb. The city has a huge range of places to eat in terms of budget, style and cuisine, a reflection of the city’s outward facing attitude.
Grabbing a homemade pastry and a cortado coffee whilst people-watching in the shade of a tree is a perfect afternoon treat or try the typical rice dish of Fideuà, served in a paella rice pan with seafood and squid ink to turn the spaghetti noodles black.
As a contrast to the city an absolute favourite is taking the wonderful, hour-long journey through the Mallorcan countryside on a vintage train from Plaza de España Station in Palma to the pretty, rural town of Sóller on the west of the island.
The train, all mahogany panels and brass fittings, leaves Palma noisily hooting and whistling before rattling down the city streets and into the suburbs. Soon you’re in the countryside, passing small country stations and soaking up the Mallorcan countryside.
From Sóller you can make the short tram ride to Port de Sóller if you fancy the beach, or wander around the local shops and sit outside bars and cafes, watching the world go by. You’ll find the most amazing ice cream at Fet a Sóller by the market square where you can choose from 40 flavours of ice cream and sorbet, all made from natural ingredients. Sóller hosts many fairs and festivals throughout the year – ones of note include the Apropa’t A L’Art (art weekend) and the Moros y Cristianos Fira & Firo in May. The enormously fun Nit de Foc takes place in August and is one of the craziest fireworks spectacles you can imagine, featuring drummers dressed as devils and various devil-like figures that appear amongst the crowds – many of them on wires over the heads of the audience – before exploding into mobile firework displays.
STAYING IN SÓLLER
A great place to stay to take advantage of both towns is the recently opened 1902 TOWNHOUSE, an elegant townhouse that’s been lovingly restored to its former glory. It’s just a few minutes’ walk to the town square so you’re really central, yet you can enjoy the pool and sun-filled garden in absolute peace. Owners Martin and Pete fell in love with the house and the area when they first visited in 2008. We asked them a bit more about their lives and loves:
What drew you to Soller?
We first saw Soller from the train from Palma, which sometimes stops when it emerges from the tunnel. You get a spectacular view over the town and mountains right down to the sea. It’s breathtaking. Once in the town we fell in love with its fabulous architecture especially the wonderful old townhouses. We’d look through any open front doors in the hope of seeing a shaded courtyard beyond. With the port only 10 mins away we think it’s a very special place with something for everyone.
Can you tell us a bit about your project?
We were looking for a project to convert to a small exclusive hotel. We looked at quite a few properties before choosing what would become 1902 Townhouse, but this one had the essential space inside and out that we needed.
Although the building had been unoccupied for many years it was structurally sound but needed everything doing: new roof, all services replacing, new floors to the top floor, bathrooms, kitchen, and all the original hydraulic tiles had to be lifted as there was no damp proofing. One of the bedrooms has an original painted decorative ceiling, which needed renovation and we found a local artist who did a great job.
Much of the furniture for the rooms has been built on the island by local craftsmen and most of what we couldn’t find here came from the Spanish mainland. It was our intention to create contemporary interiors within the traditional house whilst maintaining a feeling of staying in a private house.
Is there a hidden gem in Mallorca that you’re willing to share?
A recent discovery has been a beautiful walk to Deia, taking you past a remarkable house with a great view. During the Summer, If you arrive at lunchtime you’ll find a small cafe run by a family of French women serving the most delicious quiche and lemon meringue pie all made on the premises. It’s a real treat.