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Stranded on a desert island PDF
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 00:00
 

Stranded on a desert island!  Well, just for one day, and it was only Mallorca!  Yes, our short break to the largest Balearic isle was fortuitously extended by one day thanks to the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name.  

When we found out this morning that Sevilla airport was open again after being closed yesterday, the day of our planned flight back to Andalucía, we were somewhat disappointed that we weren’t going to be compelled to stay even longer; if only because the weather in Mallorca was cracking the flags, whereas back home in the Serranía de Ronda, it was raining again!

But, being serious for a moment, what do I mean - only Mallorca?  The place was a revelation.  I’d been a couple of times many years ago and attended a conference there last year, but the Hausfrau had never been.  So, being there on holiday gave us the chance to explore the parts of the island away from the ghastly southern high-rise coasts and before the season got into full swing and filled up with sun-seekers.

We stayed in a delightful little 3-star hotel right on the beach in the tiny little bay of Cala San Vicenc in the north east of the island.  With a room overlooking the sea and the gentle sound of waves breaking on the shore, the location could not have been better.  

During our short break we toured the whole of the western, northern and eastern coasts, and quite frankly, you’d go a long way to find more stunning scenery.  From attractive but touristy Valldemossa, onetime home of Chopin and his mistress George Sand, past pretty Deia, where the poet Robert Graves lived, to Port Sóller, terminus of the wooden tram from the capital Palma, was the start of our thrilling, winding route to our hotel.   Then it was along the top of the island, with stunning sea views at every turn, via the monastery at Lluc, past Roman Pollensa and down to the little bay at Cala San Vicenc, and our home for the next few days.

Another daytrip out to Cape Formentor was a helter-skelter journey past what seemed like thousands of cyclists pumping their legs to slowly climb the steep hills and then racing past us again on the downhill stretches.  We wondered how many accidents there were per year, for this was scary stuff indeed!

Via shabby Port Pollensa we drove on down to check out Alcúdia.  Well, the old town is simply stunning – hidden behind the remnants of ancient city walls, this collection of narrow streets has been tastefully done up, and, although it’s full of restaurants and boutiques aimed at tourists, it seemed classier than I remembered from two decades or more ago .  As for the beach resort, forget it!

On another day we pottered down towards the lowest of the three peninsulas that jut out from the north-east of MallorcaCala Ratjada seemed characterless, touristy and a beach-free zone, so we headed for one of the many coves that dot this area.  

We got lucky, for we fetched up at beautiful Cala Mesquida, which is in a protected area.  A huge sandy beach at the bottom of an estuary is flanked on its northern side by an exclusive up-market Scandinavian-owned hotel and apartment complex, but the southern side is totally free of buildings.  The protected dunes stretch for miles, and the sea is clean and several shades of blue. There are no cars to be seen, as, sensibly, you have to park at the top and walk about 200 metres down to the shore.  It seems as if the Spanish may be learning at last not to ruin every bit of their coastline. Simply gorgeous.

We returned via the inland town of Capdepera, which has an old part dominated by a castle from where the views are spectacular, and a second visit to Alcúdia old town.

The owner of our hotel, Doña Teresa, told us we absolutely had to go to Torrent de Pareis, about 1.5 hours away westwards, but to go early.  We found out why the next day.  After an early breakfast we left at 9.00 am.  As you descend from the main road towards Sa Calobra, you can see the road ahead in all its narrow, winding glory.  Absolutely fantastic, and hardly another vehicle to be seen.  Once in Sa Calobra, you walk to the right through two pedestrian tunnels hewn from the rock and emerge into an estuary with a pebble beach and a peaceful bay between two huge cliffs, dappled by the early sun.  This was Torrent de Pareis. No beach bars or sun beds here, just nature as God made her.  An absolute delight.

After a while appreciating the peace and quiet of this place, we set off back up the steep serpentine road, and we soon saw why Teresa had suggested we go early! Above us we could see tourist coach after tourist coach crawling along as if on shelves above us, making their way slowly down to where we’d just been.  We had to pull over and stop about a dozen times to let them squeeze past during our ascent.  We were told it gets even worse later, as coachloads of tourists from all over the island turn up to see this stunning location.  Can’t blame them – it’s absolutely worth it!  

Back on the main road we checked out some of the pretty, lush, well-kept  inland villages inland towards the west before heading down to Santa Ponsa, where I’d been at said conference a year before.  Then we just had to see how bad the tourist strip east of Palma was – it was bad!  OK, if all you want is non-stop sun, sand, sangria and sex, it’s fine, but not for a couple of 50-something lovebirds!  We were glad to get back to the Hotel Niu and our extra day of enforced holiday.  Thank you, Mount Eyjafjallajoekull!

©  Paul Whitelock
 

 

 

Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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