Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Palma Diaries: Day 1 - Thursday 19th September 2013

As we spent most of the previous day travelling and then a late evening arrival in Palma, for the purposes of my trip report Thursday is going to be day 1 as it was the 'real' start of our holiday. 

So forget the chilly mid-September temperatures at home, when at that point the heating had already been on for a couple of weeks.  It would be nice to remember what sunshine actually looked like again, as we'd forgotten.

As I'd mentioned previously in a couple of posts over at Random Ramblings, I'd been floored by a viral infection just a few days before the start of the holiday and hoped that the change of scene might speed up the recovery.  (Unfortunately this wasn't to be, as the soundtrack to every day was a persistent throaty cough, horrendous headaches and nasal hell). However, despite this (and a couple of other health niggles which I won't go into here) I still managed to have a highly enjoyable time in the capital of Mallorca. 

Palma is the main destination for all travellers to the island, however most of them then board a coach to one of the numerous popular resorts.  But we were more fascinated by what the city had to offer as a short break destination.

Thursday was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature in the high twenties, just perfect.  The layout of the city centre is hard work for those who may be used to a grid system, as it's all twists and turns particularly around the old town where we were based.  It's easy to take a wrong turning and a map is highly recommended.  We get our bearings on arrival at the Plaça Major, which is visually quite similar to the Plaça Reial in Barcelona, painted in similar colours and has archways on all four sides.  There's a number of outdoor restaurants/tapas bars here with a good selection of menus.  More later...

We make our way through the old town and down towards the seafront.  On our way we pass the majestic Almudaina building (pictured below), which was probably my favourite piece of architecture in the whole city.  It began life as an Arab fortress and later became the Spanish royal family's residence in Palma, where official functions take place. 

The most famous building in Palma is probably the Cathedral, which sits alongside the Almudaina on a very photogenic spot of land.  It's big - very big indeed.

The area between the front of the cathedral and the seafront has been landscaped with an artificial lake and a tree-lined walkway.  This setting feels like a million miles from Magaluf, and we've already made our minds up that we made the right decision coming here.

During my research on cruise itineraries, Palma kept turning up as a popular cruise destination.  There were two ships in port today....

...the Costa Serena (left) and an MSC ship on the right. 

Apart from cruise travellers, Palma is packed with a cosmopolitan mix of international travellers, but so far, not a football top in sight!  There's lots of very upmarket clothes shops all over the city, which doesn't seem to be showing too many signs of recession.  The city has a relaxed atmosphere though, so casual holiday clothes are fine. 

Palma is like a smaller, more compact version of Barcelona, with its Catalan language and architectural gems.  It also has a street called La Rambla, however unlike the Barcelona equivalent Las Ramblas, this one is a bit of a missed opportunity, with only the odd restaurant and flower market.  As we will find out later in the evening, all the buzz is happening around the Passeig des Born. 

It wouldn't be a holiday diary without some gratuitous food photography of course.  For dinner tonight, we return to the Plaça Major for some old Spanish favourites.  Starting with Gazpacho....

...and then onwards to some veggie paella....

...all of which is accompanied by a bottle of the (very strong!) local Mallorcan red.  Needless to say in the interests of research, we would indulge in some Mallorcan wine tasting over the coming days. After all, you don't see these in the shops at home, so when in Palma...!

The square, and the city, was packed tonight.  The reason being that it was the Nit de L'Art - the night of art - which saw the city transferred into one giant art gallery.  Apparently it's an annual event - read more about it at  The Plaça Major was the centre of lots of arty activity, including a jazz band playing on a small stage and a Mini car set up as an art installation where the artist invited members of the public to cover it in sticky tape.

There's lots of people walking around in green "Crida" t-shirts.  I later learn that these are worn in support of a teachers' strike.  The teachers are striking in protest at the Spanish government downgrading the status of Catalan-language education in favour of the Spanish language.  In this Catalan-speaking part of Spain it's a very hot topic, and over the week we saw many people wearing these symbolic green t-shirts. 

After dinner it's onwards through the old town and down the Passeig des Born which is absolutely jumping tonight.  It feels like the whole city is out to party.  If Palma seemed a bit sleepy on our arrival last night, the residents were obviously catching up on their sleep in preparation for tonight's arty party!  Palma is living up to the description of 'the city that never sleeps'.

Every bar and restaurant is packed and there is a great lively atmosphere.  So far, Palma also feels like a very safe city.  But as I say in every holiday diary, everywhere feels safer than home does :) Finally, here's yet another picture of the Cathedral - by night.

In the next instalment, further exploration of Palma, and taking the weight off our feet on a sightseeing bus tour. 

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