Episode 215 – Palma de Mallorca

March 6, 2022. 61°F/16°C and raining.

#myvikingstory

Yesterday was a sea day, most of which I spent fighting for any kind of wifi bandwidth to complete the blog episode about our day at the Alhambra. We did, as usual, take time to enjoy a lovely dinner (caviar and blini, Beef Wellington, and carrot cake!), take in the evening vocal performance by guest entertainer Paul Emmanuel, and enjoy a cocktail with music and conversation in Torshavn.

We docked this morning in Palma, capital city of the island of Mallorca, in Spain’s Balearic Islands. I knew nothing about the island, so was a blank page on which our tour guide could write.

But first, what a gorgeous large harbour! We were docked beside the biggest ferry I have seen to date, one of 2 identical ferries here this morning belonging to the GNV (Grandi Navi Veloci) Line which runs from Palma to Valencia and Barcelona. There was also the Mein Schiff 5 Tui cruise line ship from Germany in port, with a potential 2500 passengers.

Left: GNV Ferry. Right: Mein Schiff left, Viking Star right, seen from the city.

We’re not touring the cathedral today (the interior is closed to tourists on Sundays), but we had a perfect view of it from our ship. The La Seu Cathedral (Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca) is built on the site of a former mosque, which was in turn built on the site of a Roman temple, so it has long been a site of worship.

We had a wonderful included 4-hour tour today, with a very knowledgeable guide. We began driving through a little bit of Palma en route to the picturesque village of Valldemossa. The village has several claims to fame: a Carthusian church and monastery; the birthplace of Santa Catalina Tomàs (Saint Catherine Tomas); the retreat to which Frédéric Chopin and his then mistress George Sands came while the composer was suffering from tuberculosis; and the more recent donation of a cultural centre to the town by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.

The Carthusian Church is distinguished by a tower with a turquoise cupola, and beautiful treed gardens. The building itself is now mostly boarded up, although its monastery wings, which housed monks for over 400 years, are now shops and apartments.

Bottom: busts of 2 famous residents adorn the gardens: Chopin, and the Archduke Louis of Hapsburg
The monastery pharmacy was identified by both a plaque and the medical symbol on its doors.
In Valldemossa the streets, sidewalks, fences, and houses are ALL made of stones, and are quite beautiful.
Many of the buildings still have their unique original doors.

After enjoying a cup of thick sweet Spanish hot chocolate in a main street café, we were one of the few people on our tour to walk all the way down to the Eglésia de Sant Bartomeu (the Parish Church of St Bartholomew) and we were glad that we did. While not large, the interior was beautiful, with several niched statues … and a very contented looking white cat unconcernedly washing herself on top of one of the wooden confessionals.

Sant Bartomeu’s tower was under repair, hence the blue netting.
This painting in one of the side chapels is unsigned, but it is obvious from the brushwork and colours that it dates to the 16th century. The style could easily be Rubens, although he didn’t paint here, so it isn’t.
We also visited the birthplace of Santa Catalina Tomás (Saint Catherine of Palma), who was born in Valldemossa May 1,1533. Almost every building in the town has a small ceramic plaque beside its door asking the Saint to pray for the inhabitants. The one bottom right is typical.

The portion of the island of Mallorca between Palma and Valldemossa called Serra de Tramuntana is a UNESCO world heritage area, largely because in previous centuries it was been almost entirely re-landscaped with dry stone walls creating terraces and irrigation paths. That process created a unique cultural site.

The area was resplendent with blossoming almond trees, bright green carob trees, and fig tree orchards.

Our next stop was at Bellver (“belle view”) Castle, with its commanding view from a hill overlooking the entire city and harbour of Palma. The structure, built for James II in the 14th century, is one of Europe’s few circular castles. The interior was not open, so we could not climb the tower.

Returning to the city, we had just enough time to get out of the bus for a few close-up photos of the cathedral.

The cathedral’s construction was started in 1229 and not completely finished and consecrated until 1601. It is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world, but also incorporates many other styles, including work by Gaudi – the only portion of which we could see from the exterior was the “Gaudi carpet” outside the entranceway.

The Gaudi “carpet”
The entry doors featuring Saint Mary and the 13 symbols associated with her in the Catholic religion, as well as detail of the rose window above the door.
Top: the cathedral is reflected in a salt water pool that was created after Palma grew large enough onto reclaimed land that the cathedral was no longer reflected directly in the Mediterranean.
Bottom: a portion of the Moorish arch that was once the city’s entrance from the sea.
Beside the cathedral is this statue of a slingshot-wielding Mallorcan. The Balaeric Islands were long and successfully defended this way!
On the left side of the cathedral is the Almudaina Palace, originally constructed as a Muslim fort in the 13th century, and modified several times before reaching its final use as an official residence of the Spanish King for state ceremonies and receptions.

We enjoyed one last lovely dinner with Linda and Mike Bradley before they leave the ship in Malta, and then joined Judy and Bill for a quick drink in the Living Room before retiring after another enriching day.

8 comments

  1. Another place I’ll likely never see, but so glad to have had your perspective. I sure wish defense were still a matter of slingshots…
    Thanks!

    Like

  2. I subscribe to your blog and just love reading about your travels. Thanks for the time and effort you put into it!!

    Like

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