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Published: November 13th 2019
It seemed to take all day to get to Mallorca even though it’s a 1 ½ hr flight!! I don’t think it helped that the 13.05 flight didn’t take off until 14.40pm after a lot of gate changing! Managed quite easily to find the No 1 bus that takes you to Plaza Espanol in Palma, where we changed bus and caught the No 7 bus to Yolanda’s air bnb. Dinner at local restaurant before bed!!
A full-on day sight-seeing in Palma – first of all we caught the No 7 bus back to the outskirts of the Old Town and whiled away a few hours just wandering the narrow old back streets, adorned with glass balconies, numerous squares and churches, Plaza Major, arab baths etc until we came out on the old sea wall surrounding the town, with magical views of the huge Cathedral! We were not able to go in as there was a service on, so think we will come back next Saturday to have a wander inside and also inside of the Palace de la Almdaina opposite. Decided to catch the Big Red Bus for 9 euros each (its good to be
a pensioner!!) and went up to Castillo de Bellver for fine views over the city.
After a quick lunch we explored the three tiers of the castle missing out the museum!! The weather was far too nice to be indoors!! Caught the bus back down and around to the Pueblo Espanol. Amazing Place!! Its like an outdoor museum, with houses, palaces and churches, as well as streets and squares, built in the same style from where they originated! Loads of houses from Toledo, a copy tower – St Catalina – from Valencia, as well as a the wooden balconies from Chinchon and the Alhambra Palace from Granada! All very well done! Caught the bus back to the Cathedral and admired it again in the sunset light, as well as the giant bubbles (see pics), and then strolled back through the Old Town looking for somewhere to eat – always difficult on a Sunday!! Got back to the air bnb about 20.30pm!
Today we had decided to go to Soller on the train and then Soller Port on the tram (quite pricy I thought at 32euros each but hey ho!!) Got there an hour
early for the train ( we were unsure about the No 7 bus!!) and put the time to good use buying postcards for the grand-children! They sold stamps as well so always a bonus – but it turned out they were SwissPost stamps and after looking it up on internet, it turned out it was a bit of a scam as you had to post them in a ‘swisspost’ box – they are only collected 2x a season and then sent to Malta to be sorted, so the postcards could/or could not turn up 3 months later!! Situation was remedied later when we bought some official “Correos” stamps from the Tabac in Soller Port and the postcards were duly posted in the yellow Correos postbox!!
The train is quite amazing (and quite a money earner if you think there are about 400 people on the train x 32.00euro x at least 5 trains a day!!) The wooden train has been running through then Sierra de Tramuntana since 1912 and it stopped at several stations such as Banyoles and a 5 minute stop at Mirador Pujol d’en Banya, going through several tunnels before reaching the town of Soller. Hopped off
and onto Mallorcas’ first and still only, electric tram to Sollers Port! Lovely picturesque place and we walked from one end to the other before having a Menu del Dia and catching the tram back up to Soller. A stroll around the old streets, a quick peer in the church and we were done, so it was ice-cream time whilst waiting for the 5.30pm train to take us back to Palma!
We thought we would rent a car for 4 days (Goldcar 6 cents – yes that’s right!! 0.06 euros for 4 days!!! 1100 euro deposit though+ tank of fuel etc!!) so it was just a case of catching the No 7 bus to the stop before Plaza Espana, where the No 1 Bus to the Airport, also stops! Got to the airport about 9.45 am, and found the car rental place, with a little bit of help from Informacion, and we were on the road to Llucmajor by 10.40am! No bad!! It looked like it was going to rain and I suppose we had a shower for about 1 minute in the end!! Turned off at Campos for ‘Es Trenc’and ended up at
Ran de Mar, a pretty well closed up seaside town, where we had views across the bay and deep turquoise water of Sa Rapita. Carried on to Ses Salines, a town that looked almost French past the huge cathedral at Santanyi, to Cala Figuera.
It was a good job that Chris had read an excellent blog on Mallorca (as I had forgotten to bring our Mallorca guide – ooops!!) and it turned out that Cala Figuera was a little gem of a place. It was almost like cornwall for prettiness, with two bays, joined together with working fishing boats, quaint houses, stone steps, and rustic ochre stone houses so typical of Mallorca, with their green shutters. Had a lovely walk round before driving to Cala Santanyi, where we were looking for ‘Es Pontas’. Found a lovely cove and then drove onwards, over the cliffs, and walked ½ way down, past the autumn crocus, to ‘Es Pontas’ – a massive stone arch in the sea! Quite impressive.
We also saw a huge cairn statue by Rolf Schaffner, a European sculpture. He has only done 5 sculptures and they form the shape of a cross, the other sculptures being in
Norway, Germany, Russia and Cork! www.rolf-schaffner.info
Time was running out now so it was a quick drive up to the Cuevas del Drach which fortunately were on the road just as we went into Porto Cristo. These caves we known about in the middle ages and visited throughout the 18th
century, the electricity put in between 1922 & 1935. The visit takes about an hour and you descend on a concrete path with steps with hundreds and thousands of stalactites hanging from the ceiling. A walk of 1.2 km takes you to an auditorium where everyone sits in front of a lake, whilst a live quartet appears on a boat, playing classical music!! Very surreal! You can then have a boat trip across the lake (5mins!) or you can walk across the bridge!! Easier option!! We settled for the boat trip but I’m not sure it added anything to the experience!! Very impressive caves though. An hours drive took us back through Manacor and around the ring road of Palma back to the Airbnb by 6.45pm.
Chris drove to our first stop Port de Pollenca where we
wandered through the local market and he had a coffee, while I had a quick wander along the sea front to see if it was any different from a normal tourist beach. It wasn’t, so although very pleasant, we then decided to drive to the lighthouse at the end of the Island – Cap de Formentor. It started off quite gently on a ring road, before climbing quite steeply above the Bay of Pollenca. Stopped at a Mirador, giving us fine views of the mountains and a small rock, before we drove up again to a watchtower – Talaia d’Albercuix, at the top of another mountain! Quite a hairy road that petered out at the end leaving us a 15minute walk along a road with no barriers to the top!! Fantastic view of the Platja de Formentor with its turquoise sea and we could look down on the mirador!! Drove another 11km I think out to the lighthouse at the end, where there was a bit of a traffic jam – goodness knows what its like in summer. However, walked around admiring the views and luckily one of the brown goats posed nicely for a photograph!!
Drove back, past
Cala Figuera and the turquoise cove, before going onto Pollenca, which we were told had a really nice old centre. It was very nice indeed and wandered up through Plaza Major and the church to the Calvary. Shall I do it or not – would my knees cope??!! There were 365 steps, one for each day of the year, and a small hermita at the top, so I thought I would start off and see how it went! 365 steps later I reached the top!! A ginger cat was flaked out, on the wall, having his siesta – he looked so comfortable!! Peered in at the Hermita, and looked at all the views, before going down the 365 steps!!
Chris wanted to visit the Roman Bridge which I wasn’t too keen on, as it was just outside the village. He said it was the law, so we duly drove to the bridge, walked over it and took the obligatory pics.
It was clouding over a bit in the mountains and time was ticking on, so after passing the Coll de Femenia at 515m and we reached Lluc Monastery, we thought we would look around and save the spectacular
drive for when the weather was better and we were not rushed. Not too much to see at the monastery – a film for 9 minutes, a Basilica and yet another Calvary!! This one went to a Cross and afforded more fine views of the mountains. The Basilica was a bit different in that you could walk around the back of the alter and there was another chapel!! The Monastery is also one of the starts of the Camino de Santiago (1360km away!)
Got back, via Inca, to the Airbnb in the dark after the spectacular sunset.
It was back up the motorway past Inca again, only today we were going to see Alcudia. First impressions – it looked very renovated!! Walked up onto the City walls, (another of Chris’ laws – If there are Castle Walls they must be climbed !!...and walked around as far as they go) - probably reconstructed in the 1970’s!!
The original construction of the wall began in 1298, with the townsfolk working on the construction, inbetween their other jobs and tasks, meaning it was very slow!! In 1338, they brought in prisoners from Genoa who mostly
worked on the moat through the day and slept in Alcudias cistern at night. Even after the death of James III it still wasn’t finished but an outbreak of the plague, speeded it up a bit!! Walked around on the inside and outside of the walls before visiting Pollentia – A Roman City.
Excavations of this site took place between 1957 & 1963 and revealed a Forum, consisting of two streets and various different houses. The most ancient buildings date back to 60/70 BC but after a fire around 275AD it was then refurbished. A market was still in use until the 4thC and by the end of the 5thC late, antique fortifications were built! The Forum was also used as a medieval necropolis and there is also evidence of occupation during the Moslem period. Following the Catalan conquest of 1229 the City began to be abandoned. However, according to documents from the Archives of the Kingdom of Mallorca, in 1249 there was still a small settlement called Santa Maria de la Torre made up of a church, cemetery, several house and livestock pens and a street. Walked down to the old Roman Amphitheatre before strolling back!
our picnic lunch at Can Picafort on the beach overlooking the Bay of Alcudia, before travelling on to Capdepera where we really wanted to stop, as we had seen a huge castle!! There was just nowhere to park at all, so we had to give it a miss and went towards Son Servera. Thought we would maybe stop at Cala Millor, (but a huge Benidorm like place,) or maybe the castle at Punta de n’Amer (not signposted ) and ended up at Porto Cristo.
A pleasant enough place, but a little bit run down. Had a walk around the old town and the marina, with the intention of walking to the lighthouse! Not possible in the end, as was too far to walk.
It was getting on for 4.00pm now with an hours drive back, past the Valley of the Windmills!! There are certainly a lot of dead windmills here!!
Today was ‘Day of the Dead’ – a Spanish holiday always celebrated on 1st
November straight after the noisy Halloween celebrations and parties!!
I reckon we saved the best until last – even if we did start off going on the
motorway towards Andratx the wrong way!! Drove past Magaluf and Palma Nova and found the Ma-10 that would take us to our first stop in Banyabufar. Lovely little place, with terraces of grapevines tumbling down to the sea, which we felt obliged to walk down to! It was steep – very steep and 700 metres down! I didnt do the steps at the very end but had wonderful views over the tiny harbour.
We were going to stop at Deia, that also looked a lovely place to wander around, but there was just nowhere to park. Deia was also the home to Robert Graves and his house is in the village. Next time!!
Carried on along the Ma-10, past Soller and various viewpoints to Formalux. We couldnt go to the highest peak as it was a Military Zone but drove down instead to Sa Calobra. Hair raising journey of 12km where the road doubled back on itself (360 degrees), and corkscrewed down the mountain with many hairpin bends and cutting through the rock! (check out the videos on youtube). The scenery was magnificent and Sa Calobra was pretty special too. Lovely little cove with numerous restaurants and walkways!
Drove back up and decided to have a Menu Del Dia at Lluc at the top of the car park! Excellent value (for Majorca that is!!) at 18 Euros for a three course meal, including bread, olives, water, gaseo, bottle of red wine and coke!!
Treated to a magnificent sunset as Chris drove back to Palma and back to the Airbnb by 6.30pm!
Today was the day we transferred onto a cruise! (Marella Cruise Discovery 2 Cabin No 3079) Quite painless!! We dropped the car at the airport and caught the first shuttle to the cruise ship where we checked in and spent a few hours relaxing – well ok – eating and drinking – before we got off the ship and got the No 1 bus back to the centre and wandered around the Almudiana Palace, that we didn’t visit last week. It was originally been built for the Moslem Governors in 1229 but was completely renovated, no idea when, but …..it was sort of ok! Walked down to the windmills on the sea front – I think they could make more of these…but then again they may be in
the gypsy quarter! Lots of graffiti and broken bottles around. Saw a load of motorbikes on our walk back to the Port – must be some sort of Chapter – no idea!!
A sea day!! The only one on the cruise and we spent it eating!! There is so much food!! The sea was quite rough and there were huge swells…..and it turned out that we wouldn’t be able to get into Ajaccio in Corsica, on the Monday, so we were going to dock at Olbio in Sardinia instead!! Oh well!!
No planning had been done so no idea what to do!! Got the free shuttle into the town and thought we would catch the Big Red Bus! This turned out to be a good idea as we travelled quite a long way from Olbia, onto the Smeralda Coast. Fantastic colour sea and wonderful views of the coastline with pretty emerald coves. Didn’t stop at Pittalongu Beach! Could have, but decided as everything was shut down, and it was a long way from Olbia, it wasn’t worth it! Got off back at the start and wandered up through
the Old Town to the 11thC Cathedral (Basilica San Simplicio) and then onto the Parc Urban Fausto Noce. Couple of water features and strawberry trees – not really worth the effort though. Strolled around the streets of the Old Town, looked in a church, nothing else to do, so back on the ship by 3.30pm. Lovely sunset as we left Olbia at 5.00pm……
Docking at Monaco was not possible due to the huge swells so we were going to dock at Villefranche…until 9.00am…when Captain Jason (!!!) announced that was not possible either as the Port wouldn’t allow the tender because of the swells in the harbour itself….he was trying to make alternative plans……
At around midday he announced we were going to…….Marseille!! No tender!! Unfortunately, the one place we had been to last year, and had explored quite thoroughly!! However, it was good to stretch our legs, the shuttle was free and we had a good wander along the harbour front to the covered mirror (always fascinates me!!) before strolling around the Old Town. Lit a candle for Tom in the Church on the front and then made our way back, past the
20 or so police riot vans and police in full riot gear- (there was supposed to be a demonstration, or someone important was coming - Macron ??– not sure!) back to the shuttle bus and safety of the ship!!!
We were greeted (at our first scheduled port of call!) at Toulon by what looked to be Breton Old Age pensioners singing and dancing, but on reflection they were probably doing a local Provence Dance!! Toulon looked a fairly nice place – we were docked right in the town and there was a lovely esplanade lined by 1960’s (?) apartments. Wandered back into the old town centre, along the tiny back streets, with its squares, to the Cathedral. Tried to get the No 40 Bus to the Cable Car, but a friendly Bus Driver said it was shut due to high winds.
We could have got to St Tropez on the bus, but it took just under 2 hours and as it was now 11.30 we thought we may get stranded there and miss the ship!! Instead we jumped on a number 70 bus that said ‘Plage Bonnegrace’ and only took about
40 minutes, and hoped for the best!! Loads of traffic and no views, so we were very pleasantly surprised when we reached Sanary Sur Mer and it looked ok!! There was a local market on, so had a wander through the tree lined avenue and arrived at a lovely little harbour with boats and a church, surrounded by mountains. Very colourful and delightful place where we bought some lunch and sat on the sea wall. Had a walk around and went up the steps at the end to the Chappelle Notre Dame de Pitie that originated from 1560AD. Pretty little place with an old wooden graffitied door with some really old graffiti on it dating back to the early 1800’s. Chris lit a candle for Tom. Got the bus back and was going to get the boat to Sablettes but chickened out as time was pressing on!! Next time!
Arrived in Barcelona about 9.00ish and caught the shuttle (4 euros return) to Christopher Columbus column. (First shuttle we have paid for so far!) Walked up the Ramblas, past St Joseph Market that appeared huge and waited in Plaza de Catalunya for our Free Walking
Tour! Francisca was a live wire, and very funny! Full of historical facts and stories e.g. Did we know that Christopher Columbus was an Italian and is not pointing to America …..but to Libya!!! Think about it!! Barcelona is on the east coast of Spain and he is pointing out to sea!!!
Francisca also told us about the Cathedral being named after St Eulalia, joint patron Saint of Barcelona (along with St George!!) St Eulalia was a 13 year old martyr in about 303AD and refused to deny that Christ was the Son of God, so was tortured by the Romans! First they put her in a barrel full of knives and rocks and shards of glass and rolled her down a hill…..she survived! Then they tied her up, naked, but a snow storm came and covered her modesty. They also tried to burn her but she still miraculously remained unscathed. She suffered thirteen tortures until they cut off her head and she died! It’s said that a dove flew out of her neck and in memory of her, thirteen white geese are kept in the Cathedral Cloisters.
She also told us the story of the Catalan flag!
How William the Hairy and Charles the Bald had a fight and William clawed down Charles back creating four red streaks and hence the flag!!
There was a lot of stories and interesting facts – not sure how many are true but it made for a really good tour!! Look out for the purple umbrellas!!
Got the Metro then to Plaza Espanya and were once again quite wowed by it!! A magnificent shopping centre with a glass lift to the terrace at the top which gave us fantastic views of the Plaza Espanya and the fountain in the middle of the roundabout! It was unfortunate that none of the fountains were going – I think they may have switched them off for winter….
Walked up to the top of the National Palace that is now an Art Museum. There are escalators up and down, carefully hidden in amongst the gardens. Very clever! Took some pics at the top of the views including the Unfinished Church with its cranes!! Metro back, walked down the Ramblas and along the waterfront to the giant Lobster before going back to the ship.
Valencia!! Another free shuttle bus took us, through horrendous traffic, on a 40 minute bus journey to the outskirts ( Carrer de Guillem de Castro) of the Old Town. It soon became obvious why there was a lot of traffic as the Ayuntamiento Square was full of tractors and people protesting, with all the adjoining roads shut!!
Walked along the tree lined avenues, past many beautiful buildings, towers and squares to the Cathedral where we were meeting for our Free Walking Tour (orange umbrella this time!!) I think she had been taking tips from Francisca as she was also quite animated and had a few little stories to tell!! Like the one about Santa Maria who was the patron saint of the Cathedral. It was said that she saved the souls of the discarded people from the town by lying down on them and for many years was portrayed as a lying down Saint with a pillow. Then the cathedral was built and they had to stand her up, but she was much smaller than they realised and where she had been lying down for many years it looked like she had a hunchback!!
She then took us
to the Placa del Furs and the Torres de Serranos, which is where the Fallos celebrations begin on the last Sunday of February (until 19th
March!) before taking us to the Placa del Negret, explaining that because the River Turia had been diverted and Valencia didn’t have any water, oranges were known as the Water of Valencia!!
We passed many churches and impressive buildings before coming to the Placa Mercat where we had a 10minute break to look around inside. Went to the Church of Santa Catalina before making our way back to the Cathedral. Another interesting fact she told us was that the Cathedral has three doors or entrances. One door faces east (remnants of the Moslems) One door is highly decorated Baroque style (chrisian Era) and the other door has the Star of David above it (From the Jewish religion) This is also the door that eight men sit around every week discussing the water supply to Valencia as the River Turia has eight ‘arms’ of irrigation to it!
Afer the tour we wandered over to the Placa del Temple, Pont de Real to see the gardens of Turia made out of the dry riverbed, before
passing the Placa de Tetuan, La Glorieta, Placa D’Alfons el Magnanim and wending our way back to the shuttle bus via Church of Tomas y San Philipe Neri and the Town Hall. We still feel its worth at least another visit!
Captain Jason (!!) had told us that he would be approaching Cartagena at 7.00am and that the approach was worth seeing! We were up before sunrise and watched the ship weave its way past the cliffs and into the harbour. Off the boat at 9.00am to see the few sights of Cartagena! We were quite impressed! A few lovely old buildings, lots of saved facades and a wide walkway took us to the top of the town and then right, past some old roman ruins!
There was a Medieval Market on at some time today but at the moment everything was shut so we trekked upwards in search of the castle. Found the old Roman amphitheatre that we could gaze down on, and then carried on upwards towards the Castillo La Conception. I don’t think there was much of the original castle left as they have now turned it into a Centre
for the Interpretation of the History of Caragena! However, we passed the Old Bullring and got some fine views of the ship and the town, as well as all the Forts and Castles on each hill! Cartagena has been a civilisation since 229BC being occupied by the Romans, Moslems and is home to the Spanish Military Fleet. There are water cisterns there dating back to XIII century on the remains of a Moslem Fortress. The castle was rebuilt by King Alfonso X the Wise being a strategic defence and vantage point of the City until the second half of the 18th
century when it was then abandoned.
The Medieval Market had lots of the stalls open now so we had a good wander round, having some street food for lunch and buying various bits and bobs. Took a boat trip around the harbour, learning more about Cartagena history and then back to the ship.
Today was disembarkation day and everything went extremely smoothly albeit an early start. We picked up the rental car at Malaga Airport by 11.00am and went back to the house to do the washing!!! Only a short stay of
five more days and then back to the UK. Tui cruising is very efficient, the food is hot, the cabins are a bit small, terrible sewage smell at times by the lifts, entertainment a bit samey but very professional, 99.9% English people, freedom dining, free shuttle buses, tips and drinks included so always a bonus! Back to Malaga for 5 days at the house before going back to the UK.
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