Spain 2012-4 Majorca

Majorca is a beautiful island. The great fan that I am; what helped persuade me though is the fact that Chopin had left his foot prints on the island. The irony is that Chopin and George sand, hoping to escape the cold winter back home in France and find a warm holiday in Majorca, did not find the warm weather they had hoped for nor did they find warmth from the society. Locals of 1838 were leer-eyed of their unconventional relationship as unmarried couple as well as George Sand’s equally unconventional characters and eventually shunned them. As a result, Chopin, George Sand and her two children had to move from their rented villa in Palma, capital of the island, to Valldemossa, a small town atop a hill north west of Palma, and found residence at the former Royal Carthusian Monastery. Majorcans nowadays obviously hold very different thoughts of Chopin and George Sand. Actually they are proud of the association, an association that obviously has lent to enhance the island’s appeal to tourists, including me.

The flight from Seville to Majorca is an easy hour. It was made breezier for it was a clear day and observing the natural landscape down below on earth was as though I was looking into a kaleidoscope. At first we flew over flat tracts of land that looked like patch works of deep burgundy, light clay and all other colors in between.

Next we were over mountainous terrain, bodies of blue water in various shapes and sizes enlivened the otherwise would have been quite gaunt, bare and desolate territory. As I zoomed all the way in through my 250mm Tele-lens, more details of the terrain came through. It is not as flat as it had looked at first, quite the opposite, it is as craggy, jagged, high rising as can be imagined. At one lake, a vast sheet of sheer rock could be seen towering over one side of the lake. It looked uninhabitable and it was not until I’ve returned home and pored over the photos, zooming in and out, that I noticed in the flatter stretches/valleys not far away signs of farming with groves shown themselves here and there.

Still in awe over the rocky territory, beautiful coastal area emerged and we were over the southern edge of Spain. Shortly afterwards, we were above large expanse of water, nothing but water. In what felt like a few minutes, Majorca came into view and equally beautiful coastal sights laid below us. As we approached Palma, I could spot water front resorts and large cruise ships as well.

From the airplane – Ground patches

From the airplane –Lake and rocky wall

From the airplane –Land’s end

 

 

Majorca has a lot to offer its visitors. But with only two nights and one and half days to allocate, I decided to focus on Valldemossa and Majorca’s west coast scenic route. For this kind of itinerary, having our own car was proven to be most desirable. At Palma airport we picked up our reserved car and a Tom-Tom at extra cost since my hubby forgot to bring his beloved Garmin. It was a twenty minute drive from Palma to Valldemossa. Ranges of Mountain Tramuntana started to appear 10 minutes out of Palma and the road veered closer and closer to the rocky mountain sides. Few minutes after a picturesque hill town loomed ahead, we reached Valldemossa.

Hotel Apartamentos El Encinar is located on the northern edge of Valldemossa near its border with the next village Deia. Stepping out to our balcony on the sea side, we were welcomed by an exhilarating and vast ocean view! Looking straight ahead, deep blue Mediterranean Sea runs farther and farther beyond till it turns into pale mists and mingles with clouds and you can no longer tell ocean and sky apart. To the right is a great view accentuating the famed rock, Foradada.

Valldemossa is a quiet and pretty village. There are two parking lots available on both sides of the tourist office located on the main drag of the village, Ave de Palma. Shops, restaurants, and a supermarket there and on two other neighboring streets constitute the commercial center of the town. Main attraction, Royal Carthusian Monastery is few minutes away on summit of the hill.

Royal Carthusian Monsastery as it exists today is a complex comprised of a church, a cloister and a strip of “cells”, a garden and an adjoining building on the south east corner, the Palace. The garden is open to the public with no charge. A fee is required to visit the church, the cells and the palace. The history of this site is interesting. Originally a royal summer residence, it was bestowed in 14th century to the Carthusian monks who occupied it till 1835 when it was taken over by the government and auctioned off to private owners. The cells, each a suite of 3 adjoining rooms, have gardens that look out to delightful mountain views south of town.

Cell #4 is the one where Chopin and George Sand stayed and costs €3 extra to enter. The cell is now a museum of Chopin and George Sand. Among others, the piano Chopin used during his stay and manuscripts of his work are on display. We had the unexpected benefit of additional information from a man who we ran into while looking around for Chopin’s cell. He later came into the cell, joined us and divulged in us very interesting info. Although there are three rooms in the cell, all four in Chopin’s party slept in the same room to fight off the wintery cold. He also pointed out sketches of views of the town and garden in 1838 and sketches of George Sand’s son Maurice who was quite an artist himself. Among the souvenirs for sale, there were CDs of Chopin’s music composed while staying in Majorca and George Sand’s book, “A winter in Majorca”, which is available in multiple languages. I signed the guest book, simply as “An honor to be here. I love Chopin. We visited George Sand mansion in Nohant, France last year.”

With that, we ended sightseeing of the day. Supplied with fruits, snacks, water and Gatorade picked up from the small supermarket, we hung out back at the hotel, relishing the magnificent view from our balcony till the sun had set and it was nothing but darkness outside and therefore dinner time.

The next full day was devoted to exploring Majorca’s west coast. The recommended route starts from Palma. Knowing myself, I decided however to pare down the ego just a bit and set out from Valldemossa instead. It was a day fully rewarded by delightful encounters. The beauty of Mediterranean Sea paired with the majestic Mountain Tramuntana seems to be a magic canvas that produces numerous masterpieces.

It was only minutes before we made our first stop at San Marroig, fromer residence of Archduke Lluis Salvador. The house was closed on that day, a Sunday, but the look out next to it does not close; a restaurant at the lookout was also open. The lookout seemed situated directly above Foradada. Closer up, we could now see brow of the rock pierced. We could also see a path on Foradada and ant sized people walking on it.

There were yachts and boats floating about Foradada but it did not seem possible to access the rock from sea. We wandered past the house and noticed a couple of young women climbing over a gate. Moments later a family of three followed suit. Next thing I know, I was climbing over the gate myself despite protests from hubby and son. I was determined and the only thing for the boys to do was to “man up” themselves. We wandered into a farm land where we encountered groves and groves of olive trees and several goats that seemed to try hide themselves by staying still but the bells under their necks rendered it a helpless effort. We walked on and spotted a great view of the house and its beautiful gazebo that is located apart from the house and much further out to the sea. Looking down, we knew we would not be able to complete the journey to Foradada unless we made it the only stop of the day. Back at the gate, a group of two couples and several children, and several pieces of luggage in tow, were attempting the same feat at the gate. I had to admire them for their spunk and send a good wish that they’ll survive the journey hauling all those luggage over that looong path of gravel and dirt.

Back to the road; but we stopped again in a few minutes. A storybook hill town rose ahead and it was Deia, a beautiful little village. We found a parking lot in the center of town to leave our car, wandered a bit and walked up to the summit of Deia. Located up there are Deia’s church and its Camp Santo, or monumental cemetery, where English poet Robert Grave is buried. It is also a great spot for panoramic view of the town.

Our next stop was Port de Soller, harbor of a large town, Soller, which is set in the valley of Mountain Tramuntana. We strolled on the pebbly beach and had lunch at a water front restaurant before moving on.

After a brief stop at Port de Pollenca and a few other unknown lookouts, we reached at 7:30PM our final destination on the route, Cape Formentor. Situated on the northern west tip of the island, the view around Cape Formentor is outstanding. In addition, there is a grand light house built on the site.

P.S. Before the trip, I found comments that the road to Cape Formento is not for faint hearted visitors for it is narrow and bendy and was a bit apprehensive of it. What I found is indeed a bendy but in the meantime a nicely paved two lane road.  For my husband and I, who have passed Ballagbeama Gap, a desolate path of dirt and gravel as narrow as sheep’s intestines in Kerry, Ireland, unscathed on an overcast day, this was nothing. The thing that might get on some nerves is that the road skirts around the mountain side by the sea and as it gets higher and higher up, looking down at some spots that is very close to the edge of cliff can produce a vertigo effect. Otherwise the road can be easily managed, provided no speeding and no driving up there after dark.

Valldemossa

View at Hotel Apartamentos El Encinar

Sunset at Hotel Apartamentos El Encinar

Foradada from Hotel Apartamentos El Encinar

Royal Carthusian Monastery : View from the garden of Chopin and George Sand museum

Royal Carthusian Monastery : One of the rooms at Chopin and George Sand museum

Foradada seen from San Marroig

Deia

Deia: an olive tree at a house by the street

Beach at Port de Soller

Look out close to Fornalutx

This rock appeared many times on the route but seemed closest to village Fornalutx

Look out close to Port de Pollenca

Light House at Cape Forment

View at Cape Formento

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