Since Adam had secured himself a contract in Mallorca, it seemed rude not to visit him, so one weekend I packed a toothbrush and set off for Palma. After an initial foray around the bars of the city and a few hours of kip, we ate some painkillers, bought some sunglasses, and headed off to explore the island.
Despite the hordes of English and German tourists that line its shores, Mallorca is still very much a Spanish (or, in view of its somewhat partisan nature, I should say Catalan) island. Tourism is highly concentrated in a few definite areas, leaving the rest of the island relatively unspoilt. Only relatively few visitors bother to hire a car and explore the interior, which is a pity. Or not, depending on your point of view.
The island itself consists mainly of a flat plain, edged along the western seaboard by a small mountain range. Scattered here and there across the flat portion are little isolated outcrops of rock, each standing high and proud above the terrain, and each equipped with a lonely castle, hermitage, chapel or convent. Many of these buildings are exquisitely decorated, and a privilege to visit.
Palma itself, the capital of Mallorca, retains a strong local flavour. The old town, although replete with restaurants and the inevitable Irish bars, has a genuinely busy Catalan night life that remains largely unaffected by the huge parties and clubs in the nearby resort of Magaluff, although you’re as likely to meet a resident ex-pat as a true local. They go all night, too. At five in the morning, street life resembles mid-evening in any northern European city, apart of course from the comfortable temperature and the universally happy faces.
In the daytime, the castle-like cathedral dominates the Palma skyline. The inside, however, somehow disappoints, even though all the right ingredients are there. Intensely coloured windows high up in the walls refract coloured light onto the ceiling, but it only seems to plunge the many monuments and chapels into gloomy darkness. Having said that, the altar major is exceedingly impressive, a Woodroffe-esque flight of oil lamps circling above the altar amid a sculpture of sails and reeds.
We pretty much circumnavigated the island over the weekend, and were presented with a continuous barrage of breathtaking views. Here are couple from the northern coast.
Hidden away in one corner of the western mountain range is a spectacular road. Aptly named Sa Calobra (The Cobra), it plummets via a knot-work of switchback hairpins from the heights down to the sea. There isn’t much to see at the bottom, but that isn’t important, it is the road itself that is the whole point of the journey. This area is made from a brittle white limestone that is scarred by rainfall and sculpted into the most amazing shapes. Sadly for this record, we descended in the gathering dusk and so I don’t have too many pictures, but if you’re ever on Mallorca with access to any vehicle at all, my advice is simple: drive it down The Cobra. You won’t regret it.