Monday, October 10, 2016

Majorcan Adventure: RnR in the Mediterranean

Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, Majorca is a part of the Balearic Islands archipelago, which falls just off the coast of Spain. The island is home to about 850,000 people, of which about half live in the capital city of Palma. The landscapes on the island vary from lovely beaches, to rolling hills, to rugged mountains, the highest of which is Puig Major at 1445 m (4741 ft) in height. Well known for its fine wines, excellent dining, and laid-back culture, Majorca is a dream escape for anyone looking for a little rest and relaxation, mixed in with some moderate adventure. It also happens to be the location for my latest escape, which has gotten off to a lovely start.

After a very busy of year of travel so far, I've been looking forward to this visit to Majorca for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm joined on this excursion by my wife and some good friends. Often when I hit the road for an adventure it is by myself, so I've welcomed the company of these companions and I'm happy to have a group of others to share the journey with this time around. Of course, that also means we needed a nice place to stay that could accommodate us all under one roof. Fortunately, Majorca has lots of options in this area thanks to a wide variety of lovely villas scattered throughout the island. Finding such a villa is made all the easier thanks to Travelopo.com. The site is a bit like AirBnB, but instead of finding a room in someone's guest house, you're actually able to view and book beautiful villas from all across not just Majorca, but Europe in general.

We ended up staying in a beautiful four-bedroom, five-bath home not far from the town of Pollença, a sleepy little berg that is within easy walking distance of our villa. That location has made it perfect for our plans, which involve equal doses of relaxation and exploration. In Pollença we've found an excellent base camp where we can wander through local markets, dine in lovely outdoor cafes, and sample some of the region's best wines. Oh yeah, we also managed to walk around nearly every part of the city, and hike to the top of a high hill that offers stunning views of the northern shores of the island and the Mediterranean beyond.

October is a great time of year to visit the island, as the high tourist season is over but the weather remains warm and accommodating. Most of the restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are fairly quiet, as are the beaches, trails, and other popular destinations. This makes getting around a lot easier, and finding a spot to sit and enjoy a beverage while watching the world go by more enjoyable too.


My traveling companions and I arrived in Pollença on a Saturday afternoon following three flights and a dramatic shift in our timezone. Feeling a bit rundown after all of that travel, we were anxious to get settled into our villa and start enjoying our Mediterranean escape. That started with a quick dip in the pool at our home for the next week, before showering up, getting dressed, and heading into town for a delicious meal and a solid sampling of the local wines. By the time we returned to our accommodations we were all exhausted and ready to sleep, with everyone retiring to their respective sleeping quarters not much later.

On Sunday we were ready to explore more of Pollença, while also continuing to rest up some. Most of the group slept late, then headed into town for some lunch. That was followed by a leisurely stroll through the narrow, twisting streets that led us to the foot of Calvari, a tall hill on the edge of town that features 365 steps that lead to an old cathedral at the top. The walk was an exhilarating one, but not difficult enough to really prevent anyone from reaching the top. Legend has it that with each step of the climb, those making the pilgrimage to the summit can wash away all of the bad things that have happened in their life over the past year. I can't confirm that that is true, but I can say that it is worth the hike.

Once at the top, those who make the march are treated to some spectacular views that include glimpse of the Mediterranean in the distance, numerous rolling hills across the countryside, and rocky cliffs on the top of some very prominent bluffs. You can also scope out the entirety of the town of  Pollença, which sprawls out below. I would later use this same vantage point during an evening run, which allowed me to navigate to parts of the city I hadn't seen before and discover more of what this region of Majorca has to offer.

We capped our Sunday activities with a late dinner in town that included locally grown olives, as well as traditional bread with aioli sauce, along with a wide variety of tasty meals. It also gave us a chance to dine like the locals, sitting outside in the cool evening air at a fine restaurant that sits a bit off the tourist track. It made for a wonderful evening of conversation, laughter, and making new friends. Later, we would head home well fed, in great spirits, and ready to retire for the night once again.

On our second full day on the island we started to branch out a bit further from our villa. After wandering into Pollença in search of some morning coffee to get the day started, we were soon feeling ready to hit the road. By mid-morning, we had rallied up the troops, got in our rental cars, and drove a short distance out the city to one of the local wineries – called Can Vidalet – for a tasting. Once again, we were delighted to discover the local wines are very tasty, particularly when enjoyed with bread, sausage, and cheese. Early on, it is already abundantly clear that we won't be lacking in both red and white wines to enjoy on during our stay.

With our early wine stop behind us, we next set out for a nearby town called Alcúdia. Being a bit of a history buff, this was one of the destinations on the island I had most been looking forward to seeing. The town was established on the site of the beaches that the Romans used when they first came ashore when they invaded the island back in 123 BC. They soon captured Majorca and subsumed it into the empire, with the capital of Palma being founded shortly thereafter. The city of Alcúdia didn't come about for another 1400 years however, and was officially founded in 1298 by King James I.

As the city crew, it became a fortress with stone walls surrounding its borders. Those were completed in 1362 and the remnants of that construction is still visible there today. Large sections of those massive walls remain in place, and can be walked by visitors to the city. Strolling along on those battlements, it is impossible not to think about how much history that place has seen over the years, including when a large harbor was added to Alcúdia back in 1779.

Today, the town is a popular stop with visitors, and it is by far the most touristy place we've seen on Majorca so far. Where as Pollençia is quiet and accommodating, Alcúdia has a lot more hustle and bustle. On top of that, the streets behind the ancient walls contain a number of shops and restaurants that accommodate to travelers. While I definitely enjoyed walking those narrow avenues, it was also clear that we had found one of the places that was most popular with tourists. That doesn't mean it isn't worth a look, just be sure you're aware of this before visiting.

In addition to the 650 year old city walls, there are a number of other architectural points of interest in the Alcúdia area as well, including some old churches that tower high above most of the other buildings in the area. Unfortunately, none of those churches was open to the public on the day that we visited, but they were still impressive to see, with stone relief carvings, stain glass windows, and high bell towers.

After enjoying a few hours exploring Alcúdia, it was once again time to head back to your villa, which is definitely our refuge on this trip. Quiet, peaceful, and oh-so comfortable, our entire group genuinely loves spending time there. Whether its wading in the pool, sitting in a comfy chair with a good book, or knocking out a quick game of ping pong, we couldn't have asked for a better place to stay during our visit. It is spacious, comfortable, and features a fantastic location. Which is all you can ask for in a holiday rental property really.

With our first couple days under our belt, and the group feeling well rested, we're now eager to set off to other parts of the island. We have a few solid plans on what we'll be doing over the next few days, as well as some things that we'd like to do when we have some free time. I'll report back with more tips and advice from Majorca as I uncover more myself.

No comments: