Pottering round Palma

Thursday 3 October. Since we have to leave the hotel early tomorrow – no, really early, like before breakfast is served – we did as much packing as was practicable and went to settle our bill, with some trepidation, I might add, as we’d racked up quite a bar bill (this is a holiday, you understand, not like normal life).  Actually, the bill was about half what I’d dreaded, which was some relief.

So it was that at 1230 a taxi came to take us to the nearest bank, which was in Alaró, so that we could pay our parking penalty and then deposit us safely in Palma so that we didn’t have to deal with the parking.  It’s an expensive way round the problem, but very much more relaxing.

The transaction in Alaró was not quite straightforward, in two respects: firstly, the taxi couldn’t drop us off outside the bank because Something, if not yet actually happening right now, Was Going On later.

So we had to hurry a 100 yards or so to the bank.  We presented the penalty notice to the cashier, who understood exactly what was needed; but shook her head when we presented a debit card, telling us that if we wanted to pay with that, we’d have to go to an ATM to complete the transaction.  Since this would have involved understanding payment instructions in Spanish, this would be a poor idea, so we gave her cash. This is the first instance that I can remember that a banking terminal can achieve more than a human bank cashier.  Next stop – Skynet.

Next stop, then, Palma.  We had decided to start at the outside and work in, starting at Castell Bellver and walking to the Cathedral, which was one of the two places we wanted to make sure we visited before we left Mallorca, quite possibly never to return.  For the other one, keep reading.

Castell Bellver is a small but well-formed castle on a hill overlooking Palma.  It’s a reasonably impressive lump of masonry

and is worth a visit, either just to see the central courtyard

or to climb to the highest point allowed, where you get a great view over Palma

including the massive cathedral

and a chance to see some of the massive cruise liners bringing the tourists in

a mixed blessing, as with places like Dubrovnik and Venice. (On the left, above, is Independence of the Seas, a 15-deck ship that can accommodate 4,370 passengers served by 1,360 crew).

Anyhoo, there is much to see and photograph at Castell Bellver and I recommend you visit, should you go to Palma, so I won’t bore you with many more photos, beyond noting that people’s desire to write on walls seems to be a universal drive (see the middle text).

There is, among other things, an exhibition about the history of Palma, which gives lots of historical information. After our visit there (and a beer stop in the cafe), we walked down into Palma, via a pleasant walkway

which then, via a certain amount of dodging about, takes you to the Paseo Maritimo, a waterside walkway that extends several kilometres into and past Palma.

We walked along the approximately 4km to the cathedral, which was perfectly fine barring the odd occasional need to take a little care.

As you approach the cathedral, you start to get a sense of the city’s history through its architecture; here, for example, is a detail from the fort near the cathedral

and several old windmills can also be seen as well as some attractive older buildings.

The cathedral itself is well worth a visit. As you’ll have noted from photos above, it’s vast, and once inside you get the feeling of a huge space.

with some extensive stained glass

and a massive canopy for the altar, which, we understand, a certain Mr Gaudi had a hand in designing before he apparently left the project in a marked manner.

Outside it is a reasonably recent lake, which offers a fine view of the cathedral and the palace next to it.

as well as some of the other attractive buildings in the city’s old quarter.

We needed to kill time until 8pm (see later) so wandered round the old town, which has many attractive sights.

and also some striking modernist architecture

(on the left above, Can Forteza Rey is also a building which, it is thought, that Gaudi may have had a hand in designing)

as well as some aptly-named cafes

We took cocktails at a restaurant called Detapas in one of the many squares in the area, and then a very fine dinner at a place called the Seahorse – Caballito de Mar, as the locals have it, where they still show you your food before they cook it for you

(mind you, I had steak!).

And then it was 8pm and time for our date with one of our favourite cocktail bars.

This is a quite extraordinary place, with a rococo theme. Here are some of the many photos I took.

Normally, they don’t allow people to take photos, but no-one seemed to care any more, as the place was set at the time, tragically, to close that December*, so I was anxious to immortalise it in electrons.  I’ll publish a Flickr album soon, as my record of a wonderful place.  Not cheap, mind – a glass of Cava and a G&T cost €31!

After just the one round of drinks, we left Abaco and sought a taxi to take us back to the hotel.  There were taxis freely available, and one lady driver drew the short straw of having to get us back to the Hermitage.  She set her satnav up and then (having never, she explained to us later, driven to Orient before) ignored its directions in order to drive a route which was fewer kilometres – but thus had to navigate the twisty bit between Bunyola and our hotel.  This is bad enough in daylight, but in the dark it’s quite daunting, as she found out.  I always thought that “Madre de Dios!” was an exclamation only used by cartoon Spaniards, just like “Donner und Blitzen” is for cartoon Germans.  Turns out I was wrong, as she muttered this virtually ceaselessly for the 10km of intestinal twists and turns leading to our hotel.  But she got us back safely, and for a reasonable price, so we were grateful for that.

Thus ended a very splendid day, full of agreeable experiences and unexpected pleasures.  It’s nice to have days like this now and then.  And so it was time for bed, and with an early start for the morrow, when we transfer to Menorca via returning our hire car in Alcudia and then taking a taxi to the ferry.  In theory, there is a plan to make sure this happens smoothly and in a  timely fashion.

Fingers crossed!

* Update: Abaco has been saved!  Some kind of deal was struck and so it still appears to be open.  If you can, go.  It’s a sight worth seeing.

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