7 April 2014: Palma de Mallorca

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

Mallorca is Spain’s largest island possession, and its second-most populated island (after Tenerife in the Canary Islands.) Palma is the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands.[whohit]-7APR2014 PALMA MALLORCA-[/whohit]

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On the streets of Mallorca. Photos by Corey Sandler

Spain was officially non-belligerent during World War II; in reality General Francisco Franco leaned heavily toward the Axis powers. In any case, Mallorca was a backwater through the war.

Since the 1950s, tourism has transformed the island.

In 1960, Majorca received 500,000 visitors; today about 10 million tourists come to Majorca or the other Balearic islands each per year. Most come by air, but about 1.5 million come in by cruise ship or ferry.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly referred to as La Seu, is a Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral built on the site of a pre-existing Islamic mosque…atop the former citadel of the Roman city.

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Palma below and above ground. Photos by Corey Sandler

Just to boot, it overlooks the Mediterranean sea. You can’t miss the Cathedral; it dominates the waterfront.

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The Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca. Photos by Corey Sandler

Begun by King James I of Aragon in 1229, it was not finished until 1601. It was designed in the Catalan Gothic style with Northern European influences.

In 1901, fifty years after a restoration of the Cathedral had started, the great Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí was invited to take over the project.

While some of Gaudí’s ideas were adopted, he abandoned his work in 1914 after an argument with the contractor. The planned changes were essentially cosmetic rather than structural, and the project was cancelled soon after.

Es una lástima. That’s a shame.

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Not by Gaudi. but the Catalan’s influence is everywhere in Mallorca. Photo by Corey Sandler

Sóller is one of the most beautiful towns on the island, thick with palatial homes built in the 19th and early 20th centuries by the owners of agricultural estates and the merchants who thrived on the export of oranges, lemons, and almonds.

Some of the buildings were designed by associates and students of Antoni Gaudí.

The focus of the town is the Plaça Constitució which is surrounded by cafés and has plane trees and a fountain in its centre.

You can drive to Sóller from Palma by car, taxi, or bus, passing through the hills and a long tunnel.

But my favorite way to get across the island is a ride on the historic railway, the Ferrocarril de Sóller. The Ferrocaril was completed in 1911 with profits from the orange and lemon trade.

The narrow-gauge train is an attraction of its own, passing through some beautiful countryside and towns, through a dozen or so tunnels and several significant bridges including a spectacular viaduct in the mountains.

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Street artists hanging around and ready to pose (for a tip). Photos by Corey Sandler

And finally, a bit of Chopin.

The great Polish composer, who spent much of his time in France, also dallied—and composed—for a short while in Mallorca.

In Valldemossa, the Reial Cartuja (Royal Carthusian Monastery) was founded in 1339, but when the monks were expelled in 1835, it was privatized, and the cells became apartments for travelers.

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Food for thought. Photos by Corey Sandler

Undoubtedly the most famous lodgers were Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the Baroness Amandine Dupin—better known by her nom de plume, George Sand—who spent three difficult months here in the winter of 1838-39.

Chopin and Sand were not very happy here, for different reasons.

Sand, well, she was just unhappy.

Chopin had to rent a not-very-good local piano. Still he managed to compose the memorable “Raindrop” prelude.