We’ve been to nearly all the major islands in the western Mediterranean and we’re making a pretty good dent in the Greek and Turkish islands of the eastern Mediterranean. The biggest gap for us has been the Balearic Islands off of Spain so when we decided to visit Dan & Lorraine in Barcelona we figured we would then explore Mallorca, the biggest of the island group.
Here we are, then, on the northwest coast of Mallorca for four days. Getting here was fun. While the flight from Barcelona to Palma (the main city on the island) was pretty ordinary, you get to Sóller via a classic old train from Palma. And once you get there there’s an even more classic old tram that takes you the two miles down to the port area. So moving around was a lot of fun.
And speaking of moving around… Sóller is a tourist area and for us the big attraction was some spectacular mountain hiking. The Sierra de Tramuntana is a mountain range that runs along the western coast of Mallorca. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 because of its beauty and cultural importance, the area is studded with great hiking trails of which we did a couple during our relatively short stay.
The first was a maybe three-and-a-half hours to the even littler town of Deiá. We were pretty excited when our hotel manager told us about the hike. Deiá, you see, is something of an artist colony, with the great British poet and writer Robert Graves living and ultimately dying there. More to our tastes, the manager told us that Andrew Lloyd Weber has a place there and one night his wife, enjoying a drink with friends, was surprised to see Weber and his one-time musical partner Tim Rice show up and start singing Beatles songs.
Our Deiá experience wasn’t quite so eventful. It was a beautiful and challenging hike, but no Andrew Lloyd Weber. We did have a great lunch, though, on the terrace of a lovely Italian restaurant and then one of us walked back, up and over the mountains again.
The next day was mostly a rest day, in part due to a bit of on-and-off rain but mostly because I was worn out. Our last day, though, was another great hike, this time nearly five hours to a little town of Tuent. Part of the attraction of doing this hike was that, at well over four hours, there was no prospect of just turning around and walking back. Instead once a day at 4:45 PM a boat pulls up to the little pier at Tuent to whisk you back to Porto de Sóller, the little port town near Sóller proper. Sounded fun.
Along the hike to Deiá and the early part of the hike to Tuent Mark and I would note that while the terrain was beautiful and the sea was, well, the Mediterranean (you need say no more), this was no Capri. Then at one point on the trail to Tuent *bam!* there it was, just a stunning view of the mountains and the sea and the trail and yes, it was just about as good as Capri. So we finished the hike just loving the natural beauty with one looming question: what kind of lunch would we find in Tuent.
A woman at our hotel in Sóller had described the hike and boat ride to us and explained that there was one restaurant there. Just one. My expectations were low since if there is only one it probably aims for a pretty low standard. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a beautiful place with a great terrace shaded by huge trees. Good food, good wine, lots of water, and a beautiful setting. You couldn’t really ask for much more.
In other words a great lunch, but with one exception: a group of some 30-or-so French hikers who’d been a challenge to get around on the trail. There were just so many of them, walking fairly slowly, and all of the with those silly walking poles that just take up too much room on the trail. That was OK, but they got to the restaurant just about the same time as we did (after we’d made a wrong turn and detoured by maybe 30 or 40 minutes) and were just obnoxiously loud. There were a number of other guests but somehow the French figured they had a right to chant and sing and just be noisy. Next time I hear someone complain about loud Americans I’ll have a story to tell them.
After an otherwise great lunch (and they did eventually quiet down more or less) we had time to kill before the boat ride, so we just hung around reading. And then we finished it all with a beautiful little boat ride along the coast up to Port de Sóller. Close to perfect!
Besides hiking and food there was plenty to enjoy about Sóller. It’s mostly just a cute little town with cute little streets and a cute central plaza. But it has one of the most interesting train stations you’ll ever see anywhere. Two giants of Spanish art, you see, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso, both spent time in the area; Miró in particular spent a lot of time here. So the train station has a little museum with art by both of them. Picassos and Mirós in a train station.
The other highlight of Sóller is the tram ride down to the port. Port de Sóller is a separate town about two miles away; it’s where you go for a (modest) beach experience and the newer hotels and restaurants are down there. You can walk there (and we did on occasion) and there are buses and taxis that go back and forth. But tourists travel by an old narrow-gauge open air tram that’s just fun to ride on. Definitely touristy and more expensive than the alternatives, but fun and pretty much worth it.
Thus our first stop on Mallorca was a success. One of the things we learned here was that Mallorcans actually have their own language. It’s close to Spanish and for a while we thought it was Catalan, which was strange because this isn’t Catalonia. At some point though someone explained to Mark that Mallorcan is in fact its own beast, a separate language close to both Spanish and Catalan but also different from both, reflecting the separate history that the island has had.
Maybe we’ll come back some day so Mark can study Mallorcan.
First, though, we’re off to Alcúdia up on the northern tip of Mallorca and then on to Palma, the major city.