Sensational Baby Boomers

Friday 7 June 2024

STAYCATIONS IN THE UK



The United Kingdom is rich in history and geographic diversity.  I believe we don't truly appreciate the beauty of our own country - probably because the weather is so unpredictable.  However, this year we have both taken mini breaks (in addition to our trips to try and find some sunshine) to take advantage of what we have to offer on home turf.

While we have both enjoyed trips to Italy earlier this year, Anne C headed south with her family to Portsmouth for a long weekend.

The reason for this was to visit the Naval Dockyard,Naval Dockyard, which houses the iconic Mary RoseHMS Victory and HMS Warrior.

Those of us old enough to remember the raising of the Mary Rose - the flagship of King Henry V111's fleet in 1987 watched in awe as the ship, which had rested on the sea bed in The Solent for more than 400 years, was lifted from its watery grave and gently transported to its new home." We last visited Portsmouth around 20 years ago when the ship was being patiently sprayed with a mixture of wax and water to preserve what was left of her. We had vowed to return when the restoration was complete." She said.

The Mary Rose

The remains of the Mary Rose

The new museum now houses a stunning array of artefacts, painstakingly restored and displayed with the history of each piece.  While only half of the original ship remains - the half that was preserved in the embedded in the silt (the other half had rotted away under the relentless tides), the museum has replicated the other half to show what it would have looked like.

It is still carefully monitored, however, in a climate controlled environment with special subdued lighting depicting sunrise, daytime and sunset.

Photo above is of the skeleton of an archer, while the picture below shows a reconstruction of how he would have looked .  To note the hands, feet and some ribs have been added in silicone as there were no original bones.



Of the thousands of bones collected, specialists created 179 full bodies, although more than 500 men were aboard.  While it is impossible to know their names, other than that of the captain Sir George Carew and a commander of soldiers, Roger Grenville, experts have reconstructed faces from skeletons, even determining from where they originated based on isotopes in the teeth, sulfur, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen values in the bones.  

Reconstructions have identified the ship's cook, a carpenter and one of the archers based on tools and equipment found near the remains, but also by analysing muscles and teeth. They have even reconstructed the ship's dog, Hatch (below), which is probably the most complete skeleton.  His remains were trapped between several chests, near the hatch (hence the name) which shielded him and prevented the bones dispersing.  


HMS Victory

But the site also houses the second HMS Victory, another flagship vessel launches in 1765, some 200 years after the Mary Rose.  She didn't suffer the same fate as the Mary Rose, or indeed her predecessor, also called HMS Victory, and remains largely as she did almost 300 years ago.  It is interesting to see the design changes during that time.  



"Yes I stood on the spot where Nelson fell during the Battle of Trafalgar against the French - marked by a brass plaque on the floor, though he died later in the sick quarters, and his body was preserved in brandy  (not rum because the it was the sailors' tipple - for which they were each given half a pint a day!) before being interred in St Paul's Cathedral in London." Said Anne.

The portrait of Nelson's lover, Lady Emma Hamilton, which hung by his bed.  Both were married to other people at the time of his death - the Vice Admiral to Frances Herbert Woolward and Emma to Lord William Hamilton.                                                           

The spot where Admiral Nelson fell after being hit - but he died after he was taken below decks.

Many of the saying we use today have their heritage in sailing.  "Three square meals a day" comes from the fact that the men were all well fed and food was served on square wooden platters. "Long shot" was when a shot over a great distance made an impact.  "Feeling blue" was when a captain or officer died at sea, the crew would fly a blue flat and paint a blue band along the ship's hull.  "Taken aback" was describing when the wind blew the sails of a ship flat, or back against the supporting structure.  "Toe the line" was for Royal Navy inspections where their bare feet had to line up with the seams of the planks.

Nelson's bed on board HMS Victory

The ship carried 821men, 51 of whom were killed in battle, 11 died of their wounds and 91 were wounded and survived.  The enormous ships anchor needed 260 men to haul up the anchor, which weighed up to 10 tons and could take up to six hours.  I mention all of these facts because it is almost unbelievable how hard life must have been on board ship, and how brave and courageous those early sailors were.

HMS Warrior

Next on the list was HMS Warrior, a steam-powered, armour plated ship which actually had very similar living quarters to the Victory below decks.  She was built in 1859, but was converted into an oil jetty in 1927, where she remained until 1979.



Said Anne: "It's true to say that I have always been fascinated by history, and coming from a military family, was surrounded by memorabilia from an early age.  But even for someone not interested in the nuts and bolts, seeing how the men lived below decks and defended our shores is fascinating."



There are lots of quizzes and things for the children to look out for if you're going with the family.  And there's even a mini sailing lagoon.

The rest of the weekend away was a disappointment to say the least.  The weather turned rainy - what a surprise - and we spent a wet and miserable final day at nearby Southsea. Had it been a nice day, we might have enjoyed a day on the beach, but British seasides in the rain are depressing, unless you enjoy amusement arcades and pubs (sorry I don't). We did visit the small Aquarium to get out of the rain, and there is also a nearby WW11 museum.  

Other things to do in Portsmouth include the Gun Wharf Quays shopping outlet (I wasn't allowed to go there!) and the Spinacre Tower (I hate heights!) Or take a boat ride around the harbour.

I won't recommend our hotel.  We had deliberately booked a cheap and cheerful hotel to rest our weary heads, since we had planned to be out during the day.  I won't mention it, but suffice to say it wasn't that cheap and definitely not cheerful, though the bed was comfortable, and the water hot.

However, we did meet up with a lovely young couple we met on holiday last year in Santorini, who took us to their local favourite cafe for brunch. Hopefully we will meet up in Greece again later this year.

SHARE:

Friday 12 April 2024

FALLING IN LOVE WITH VENICE (BUT NOT THE SEAGULLS)


Those of you who follow my personal account, rather than our travel blog, may remember that I celebrated (if that's the correct word!) my 70th birthday last year.  My gift from my wonderful daughter was a family trip to Venice for March of this year (2024).

The trip included my husband, daughter and her partner.  To say my husband didn't want to go is an understatement.  He doesn't like travelling at the best of times, which is why I often travel with my best friend Anne or my daughter.  He was not happy even as we sat on the plane for take-off.  But I have to report that Venice worked her magic on him and he came back converted ("But I don't want to go back".)

What's not to love about Venice? It is such an fascinating city, both architecturally and historically.  Anne and I went there in 2019 (see our previous blog) but only for a day as we were sailing the Adriatic Sea on a cruise, and I vowed to go back and spend some time there.

THE HOTEL

We took an EasyJet holiday and stayed at the stunning San Cassiano Calle del Rosa situated on the Grand Canal, near the famous Rialto Bridge.  A fabulous old-style palazzo, we were given the choice of a ground floor room or one two floors up, but there was no lift.  Because I have a bad back, we opted for the downstairs room - probably the only bedroom on the ground floor and was much larger than average. 


Our Room at the Hotel San Cassiano Calla del Rosa


The hotel is somewhat famous for being the home of the Italian artist Giacomo Favretto (1848-87) who painted everyday scenes from his home city. Prior to this, I have been unable to find out who owned the building, which would probably have been a wonderfully palatial home to one of the rich merchants in the distant past.

Today's decor pays tribute to its historic past, lavishly decorated with reds and golds, and filled with extravagant artifacts and glassware - more on that later. 

The Poultry Seller by Giacomo Favretto

Breakfast in the hotel was a very reasonable 8 Euros with as much as you could eat, with a choice of bacon, egg, sausage and toast, cereals, pastries and continental selections. Although there is no restaurant for lunch or evening dining, snacks are available and there is a bar, but since we were out all day, it wasn't a problem. The breakfast room, however, had a small balcony with a fabulous view of the Grand Canal.


Our Hotel Balcony

TRANSPORT

I had paid for a private water taxi via Venicelink from the airport, since we didn't know where we were going, or how to get the bus or vaporetto. Most hotels on the canals have their own mooring, so we didn't have to wander round looking for ours. It was quite expensive at 240 Euros for the return, but since we were leaving for the homeward journey at 4 am, I figured I didn't want to be trying to find the bus station or waiting for a bus at that time.  It turned out to be the best thing I did, since on departure morning, the weather was exceptionally foggy, and our boatman told us it was too bad to take us all the way to the airport.  Instead he took us to the nearby bus station, where a waiting Mercedes private minibus whisked us comfortably through the fog in plenty of time.

HISTORY

On our first visit, Anne and I had visited the Doge's Palace - the political, cultural, military and judicial centre, now a museum incorporating several buildings, which has pride of place in the main piazza overlooking the lagoon. The first building was built in the 1100s but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt during the 14th and 15th centuries.  I won't go into the long and varied history history, but you can read via the link here which will tell you all you need to know. Suffice to say, Venice was invaded several times over the centuries, by Arabs, Genoese and Ottoman Turks, since it occupies a strategic maritime position, which brought trade and wealth to the city.(Interesting fact Casanova was the only person to escape from the prison where he had been imprisoned inside the palace). Randomly, we also went into the Torture Museum, which appealed to the macabre member of our party!  All I can say about that is that there were some very sadistic and devious people back in the day. It is situated within the Doge's Buildings and links to the prisons in the palace.

We didn't go in the main palace this time, instead heading for St Mark's Basilica, (Basilica San Marco) which we missed last time.We chose to buy tickets in advance here, since there are often long queues, especially in high season.



The Doge's Palace

The construction of the first church on the site was commissioned in 828 when the relics of St Mark were brought to Venice from Egypt. This was done by the Doge (the then head of state of the republic), whose palace was next door, the Palazzo Ducale. During an uprising in 976, the church burned down completely, after which rebuilding the remains of the church started two years later. 

Inside St Mark's Basillica

The current building – the construction of which dates back to 1063 – has been extended on almost all sides. During the extensions and renovations in the following centuries, the wooden beams were replaced with stone for durability. However, while the stones are covered with marble and sculptures, you can longer see the original rough, underlying constructions. 


The Piazza San Marco is where all the action happens, though unfortunately during our visit, there was a lot of construction and maintenance work, with bare pipes and standing water.  Normally in summer, this is a hive of activity, though the cafes were still doing business around the edges. The 99' bell tower, situated at the corner of the square was built in the early 16th century, on the site of a lighthouse dating back to the 9th century. Tickets are available to visit, but since I hate heights, I gave this one a miss.


The bell tower situated are the corner of the piazza.

PLACES TO SEE

We had been advised by a friend to visit the Hotel Danieli for a coffee - not to stay there, although I would have loved to, but at between 1-2,000 Euros a night, it is totally out of our price range. Instead, we opted for drinks and a hot chocolate.  This superb hotel overlooks the lagoon, with its own mooring.  What a treat  - the stairway looked like something from a Disney musical, and the drinks were accompanied by crisps, chocolate and savouries.  Well worth a visit (note if you watch Netflix, there's a scene in the current mini-series, Ripley, featuring the hotel, where the character's father is staying).

The Hotel Danieli

No visit to Venice is complete without a ride in a gondola, and there were many gondoliers to choose from.  We picked up ours outside the Zara shop, and the ride was magical. Our gondola cost 90 Euros for about 40 minutes. My husband worked in construction, so he was interested in the construction of the buildings and how well they have endured being under water.  


A gondola on the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge in the background.

The Floating City is actually a series of around 120 islands, standing on marsh and salt lands.  To build on such unstable land, early builders drove millions of piles of wood into the earth at 17cms apart before constructing concrete on top and then brick buildings on top of that.  Brick is lighter than stone, and the buildings had many arches to carry the load - giving Venice its trademark look.  The wood hasn't rotted since it is permanently under water, starved of oxygen. Authorities regularly monitor the canals and rivers to look for damage caused by silt which is churned up by the very busy river traffic. There are some fascinating videos on You Tube which you might be interested to watch for more detailed information on the history of the construction of the city. And yes, some of the sewage finds its way into the canals, particularly during high season with more visitors and lower water levels.  However, recent investment in sewage treatments and strict rules for hotels and restaurants about waste disposal and septic tanks continue to improve the situation.  And although some people swim in the lagoon area, I wouldn't risk it!

Note the cherry beak!

I know you want to hear about the seagulls - which are definitely to avoid! The food in Italy is divine, and so is the galato, so we couldn't not indulge.  I ordered my pistachio, mango and cherry gelato as we walked away from the lagoon, when I was attacked from above by the biggest seagull I have ever seen.  I thought something had fallen on my head as the gull dive-bombed from above and stuck its beak in my icy treat.  Fortunately its claws didn't break the skin on my face, but I had a very pink cheek for the rest of the day. It was only the following day when we saw the signs advising tourists not to eat outside.  I'm glad it was only gelato and not a meal from one of the pavement cafes by the lagoon!




Glass blowing at Murano


We had booked excursions for day three (there are many from which to choose), taking in Murano and Burano islands.  Again, I had previously visited Murano, but thought the men would be interested in watching the glass blowing.  It is worth mentioning that every building we went into  - our hotel, restaurants, cafes and tourist shops were full of Murano glass lamps, chandeliers, glasses and nick-nacks. They also ship all over the world, but as every piece is hand-made it is very expensive, and will probably become more so since it is becoming a dying art.  The glass-smiths usually hand down their skills and their jobs to members of their families, though of course the conditions are not ideal for the younger generation, because of the intense heat - which is much worse in summer. Unfortunately they do not allow you to photograph and stunning finished pieces in their shop, but everywhere we went had a Murano chandelier or lamp!
A colourful Murano chandelier
A more intricate Murano chandelier

Burano was were I particularly wanted to go, since we hadn't had time previously, and it didn't disappoint.  Pretty fishermen's houses in glorious colours met us as we stepped from the boat.  The tradition of painting their houses was so that the returning seafarers could see their homes as they sailed back into port after long days away at sea.  Once again, though, fishing as a career is dying in Venice, so many of the homes have come up for sale in recent years - with the stipulation that if they are re-painted, it must be in the same colours.

Burano is also famous for lace-making, and there is a museum of beautiful lace just off the main square.  There are also pretty lace tops and homewares to buy.




Coloured houses in Burano

There is still a thriving fish market, however,back on the main island, which we stumbled upon by accident.  We found sea bass, sea bream, red mullet, lots of crabs and shellfish.  Next door, fresh flowers and vegetables created a colourful display with chillies, artichokes and tomatoes.

Fish Market

Flower Market

TRANSPORT

Getting around Venice is relatively easy.  There are plenty of water buses, or vaporettos, and water taxis to get around, but we walked everywhere, since there was always something to see.  Our hotel meant crossing the famous Rialto Bridge to reach the lagoon area - which we did several times a day! The bridge itself is also fascinating, particularly for its construction, which has no central support - and also for the fact that it is a small shopping centre! 

It was also fun to see how all the supplies come in from the mainland by boat.  We had a laugh seeing the ASOS parcels piled up on the DHL barge!

The famous Rialto Bridge

The trips to Morano and Burano were organised, so we got lots of information from the guide, but I would have liked to have spent longer in Burano, particularly since the weather was sunny and warm. (Did you know the word "quarantine" comes from the Italian number 40 "quaranta".  This is because sea farers who came back to Venice were required to spend 40 days on the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio after their travels, if they showed signs the black plague. Those infected were transferred to Poveglia ("Death Island"), and there are tales of medical experiments and painful deaths. Apparently because of this, and those who died there in extreme pain, it is believed by some to be the most haunted island in the world.  Access to the island is forbidden, but we sailed past it.

The stunning bridge artwork by Lorenzo Quinn

We also saw the "Building Bridges" artwork by Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn depicting six human hands which span the entrance to the basin of the Arsenale, a complex of 12th Century shipyards in the Castello District.  This was an exhibit from the 58th International Exhibition of Vienice Biennate.  The bridge represents humanity's universal values of friendship, faith, help, hope and wisdom, representing people coming together to build a better world.

Historically, the Venetians were prolific shipbuilders, turning out as many as three ships a day, to service their sea-faring careers, and there is still a military college nearby, operated by the Italian Navy.

EATING OUT - food and drink

With such diverse eating preferences and tastes, we did have a couple of issues during our stay.  My daughter is gluten intolerant, and has to be very careful not to eat wheat - not easy in the land of delicious pasta and pizza.  

So on the first night, we looked at reviews for inspiration and settled on the A1 Grill, which had five stars.  It wasn't my favourite, since I don't eat much red meat, but it was a hit with everyone else, who tucked into mixed grills with steak, chops, sausage and chicken, all washed down with Aperol Spritz which originated in the Veneto region(of which Venice is the capital city) in the late 19th/early 20h century.

We specifically looked for restaurants offering gluten free options, and found one which fitted the bill, with gluten free pasta a speciality.  We sat down and ordered our drinks while perusing the gluten-free menu.  Mulling over the menu with yet another Aperol Spritz (everyone drinks this in Venice!), we all opted for different pasta. Unfortunately we were told they no longer served GF pasta - despite it being on the menu, but she could have GF pizza.  We had all had pizza for lunch so awkwardly had to decide whether to leave and go somewhere else - when we already had our drinks - or find something else on the menu to eat. Interestingly, the Italian Celiac Association is the oldest in the world, since there are some three million celiacs in Italy, and schoolchildren are now tested for the disease. In the end we stayed, but the moral of the story is to always ask, and not rely on what it says on the menu.

In Burano, we found a lovely small family-owned restaurant, Trattoria da Primo, and it was wonderful to dine alfresco in the sunshine.  They had gluten free pasta, breadsticks and nibbles, so that more than made up for the previous evening. The Bellinis were rather good too!

Enjoying a Bellini in the Burano sunshine

We do have a little tradition on city breaks by always visiting a Hard Rock Cafe - to get the Unity Rewards and a penny stamped with the city. Our last evening was spent in the restaurant just off St Mark's Square - which was complete with a bright red Murano chandelier. The food is obviously fairly standard throughout the world, so no surprises there.

THE WEATHER

I remember from our previous visit - which was in October - that the day often starts off quite grey and misty but then clears up to brilliant sunshine around midday.  This was also the case for our March visit - although it was a little chillier in the mornings, so coats were required first thing in the morning and again in the evening.  But it was dry and often sunny, so much better than the miserable rain we left behind in England. Actually it was the perfect time of year to visit - looking back on previous photographs, there were many more crowds of people, and while it was quite busy in March, it wasn't overpowering.

Given the bad publicity tourists are currently getting in Spain, we found all of the staff in the hotel, restaurants and attractions to be very welcoming, warm and friendly.

By coincidence, since returning, I have watched a fabulous BBC television series called "Italy's Invisible Cities" which includes a fascinating episode on the history of Venice.  UK residents can watch it online here - it's well worth viewing.

Would I go back again? Of course... there are museums to see, and we didn't manage to get to a concert at the Vivaldi church.  Then there are the shops..........

 


SHARE:

Friday 14 July 2023

DOES TOURISM RUIN AREAS OF NATURAL BEAUTY?



Recently the governor of Lanzarote has announced she wants to ditch the island's dependence on British tourists.

This of course has caused uproar amongst the the 2.5 million tourists - more than half of them Brits - who travel to the Canary Islands for some much needed sunshine - something we are sorely deprived of in the Northern Hemisphere.

The island plan is to reduce the number of British tourists, but to "increase spending in the destination so that they generate greater wealth in the economy as a whole."

Growth would therefore be expected in the French, Italian, and Dutch markets.

So is it that the islands can attract more of the "wrong" kind of tourist - groups of hen/stag parties looking for cheap booze and rowdy nights out rather than those interested in culture and history?

Certain resorts in Spain and the Canaries have definitely encouraged them with English pubs and fish and chip restaurants, but it's hard to see how they're going to encourage more continental clientele. Or even whether the clubs, restaurants, hotel and bar owners will want to see their profits plummet.

So has tourism ruined places of outstanding natural beauty?

A couple of years ago I joined a "Going to Hawaii" Facebook Group before a trip there.  I was horrified to read several posts from locals telling tourists (not just Brits, I might add) to "stay away" because they were ruining those beautiful islands, with large corporations taking over the tourist attractions, and pushing out the locals.



When we eventually got there, however, the locals were very friendly, the islands were pristine and we saw no signs of damage.  All of the tours we took part in were focussed on ensuring that natural habitats were not disturbed and we there was no destruction to wildlife, nor rubbish left behind - even our sun lotion had to be ocean friendly!

That most definitely isn't the case in Santorini, recently voted the most popular holiday destination for Brits.  We have been visiting the island for almost 25 years and until the last few years, we have seen little change. Cruise ships docking into the port were limited some years ago, to cut down pollution but there are no high-rise hotels, and very few new builds, though tourism has certainly increased, along with fast food restaurants in the capital Thira having multiplied exponentially. Visitors flock to Oia to watch the stunning sunset - if you can get anywhere near to see it. Sadly, along with that come mountains of rubbish, especially plastic bottles.



And on our last visit, the sleepy village of Megalachori had a bus load of American tourists marching along the single track main road - something never seen before. While in the small beach resort of Perissa, two smart new beachside hotels seem to have overloaded the drainage system, creating quite an unpleasant smell. Loud pop music blares out from beach bars in Perivolous and also in the capital, which comes alive at night after the ships have departed.

As tourism has increased, so have the prices.  Happily though, this is not an island which encourages cheap booze and hen/stag parties, rather this is more a couples destination, which we hope will deter those looking for sun, sand and a bit of the other!

So are the Spanish right to start managing tourists, and does that mean that travel will be priced out of range for most families in the future?

We have always been responsible tourists - if that isn't a misnomer.  Yes, taking planes across the world pollutes the planet, but I can't help thinking that our airmile footprints are infinitesimally small when compared with industries in China, India, Russia and the US.  And we do try and look after our own local environment with recycling, eating less meat, and walking wherever possible.  

However, that said,I realise that we are a long way from being carbon neutral and many tourist countries rely on visitors for their own survival.  Will we be holidaying abroad again this year? Yes, but I hope we do so with respect for the local environments and populations.



SHARE:

Saturday 8 July 2023

A CITY BREAK TO PALMA, MAJORCA




After a long and miserable UK winter, we decided to seek a little sunshine (it's been a while since we managed to get a holiday together!) and book a short city break.  After debating on Italy (too expensive and Anne H will be visiting family there soon), Greece (Anne C going there later in the year) and other European destinations, we listened to friends' recommendations and booked Majorca.

Now Majorca is probably one of the place I have previously ignored as being famous mostly for Hen and Stag holidays, with my only previous experience of a holiday there being 50 years ago with my Mum and auntie!

But a fabulous surprise was in store for us.  First off, it's just a two-and-a-half hour flight for us flying from our local airport. It was also quite a special occasion, as Anne H had booked wonderful surprises for me as part of my pre-big-birthday celebrations coming this summer.

We fast-tracked through security and settled into the luxury of a travel lounge before departure, with a tasty breakfast, followed by a smooth and trouble-free flight.

Our accommodation was a two-bedroom apartment at the Borne Suites in the centre of the old town in Palma, which was perfect for exploring the many fabulous bars, restaurants, art galleries, shops, and was also very close to the marina. It was situated above the Hugo Boss store, with a perfect view of the sparkling fountain in the middle of the road! The apartment had all the necessary amenities, though we didn't do any cooking or food preparation - but we could have done if we had chosen to do so.




While the building looks modern, it is actually built on Roman remains - a fact which escaped us as we entered the building, but on leaving and stepping back out of the lift, it was disconcerting to see a glass floor featuring the stone remains beneath it - causing me to do a double-take and step back into the lift.

EXPLORING - Day One

Arrival day was spent getting our bearings and exploring.  We came upon a lovely little restaurant EG3 (very mixed reviews on Tripadvisor - maybe we were lucky!) and ordered our first sangria and delicious tapas.  The pavement restaurant was full - always a good sign - but we managed to squeeze onto a table.

Although it is a city, there is a beach nearby and a marina boasting some very impressive super yachts. There is plenty to do and see - if only to people watch - which we did a lot during our trip, over a cocktail or three. 

There are more independent boutiques than I have ever seen in one city, but beware - the shoes can be very expensive, and designer boutiques are not for those on a budget.  

We spent the evening wandering through many of the tiny backstreets, alleyways and courtyards.  There is an eclectic mix of architecture, from quaint gated courtyards to wide modern streets, but it was all completely accessible and felt very safe.

We wandered up to a central plaza - known as a patio in Spanish - opposite the City Hall and decided we just wanted a light bite for dinner.  The Hotel Cappuccino provided a perfect, delicious small plate. It is obviously part of a chain, since we did find another restaurant of the same name close to the magnificent cathedral.  Decor was very modern, boasting some impressive tiles, which we found were a feature in many other restaurants, thanks to the Moorish influence which pervades the city. We loved the place so much, we returned another day for a meal. It looks fabulous to stay there - but expensive!

City Hall

Hotel Cappuccino

Day Two

One of the first things we do in a new city is to get the hop on-hop off bus so we can scout where we want to go. Being over 65s meant we paid only 10 Euros for our tickets, and the bus took us around the city area into the suburbs, so we knew where we wanted to go for the rest of the holiday.

The bus took us through many of the residential streets and up to the Bellver Castle, with its impressive panoramic view, as you would expect from an island which has been invaded several times.  We didn't hop off this time, but you can read about it here.

Back at the terminus, there was a little market in the shadow of the cathedral, selling all manner of jewellery, trinkets, souvenirs and artworks - all well worth a browse.

Cocktails by the Marina

Dinner on the second evening was at THE place to be seen - the Mar de Nudos brasserie overlooking the marina.  Our pre-dinner cocktails (Porn Star Martini for me (my new favourite) and G&T for Anne) were delicious, but as we sat for dinner, it was obviously the place for all the beautiful people to congregate.  Nevertheless, the food - a mix of Mediterranean and Japanese cuisine - was perfect. It was also a great place for people watching, and for soaking in the atmosphere.

Day Three




Day three saw us visit the very impressive cathedral - actually called the Catedral-Basilica de Santa Maria - which is an absolute must for any visitor to Palma. We had pre-booked our tickets, enabling us to skip the queues, which had stretched around the side of the building by the time we exited.


We took hundreds of photographs in the cathedral, so difficult to show you all of them, but this one features the Dormitrion of the Virgin Mary who "fell asleep before she is taken up to Heaven, body and soul."  The exhibit is removed to the centre of the cathedral on the 15th August in celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin.

The beautiful stained glass window, which perfectly aligns with another window at the exact opposite end of the cathedral


Construction of the Cathedral of Mallorca started in the 13th century and ended in the 1630s. The Cathedral is in the Mediterranean Gothic tradition, but over the centuries, it has incorporated cultural forms of the modern and contemporary periods.

The history of the Cathedral is intimately linked to the local monarchy. After the conquest of Madina Mayurqa in 1229, James I, who was king of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, ordered the consecration of the former great mosque to the Virgin Mary as a site for Christian worship and the building of a new church in the style of that time, using part of the site of an old mosque.


Interestingly at the end of the 19th Century there was a plan to make the cathedral more accessible and to remove many of the original Gothic features.  Its young bishop had met Antoni Gaudi in 1899, and two years later he moved to Majorca to take on the mammoth project.


Gaudí adapted the inner space of the Cathedral to meet those new liturgical and pastoral requirements. His renovations, promoted by the bishop, Pere Joan Campins, were carried out between 1904 and 1915. This liturgical restoration recovered space for the faithful and opened up the choir’s chancel, the bishop’s throne and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity.

While he succeeded in making those renovations, his radical plans did not meet with approval of the church and he finally left in 1914 (obviously after some major disagreements) to devote his time to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, while his assistant succeeded in finalising the changes. Apart from his influence in the cathedral, there is an interesting Gaudi-esque building in the city centre shopping area, adjacent to the Carrer de la Bosseria.



We moved from the Cathedral to the Royal Palace of Almudaina next door.  While the palace is the traditional summer residence of the Spanish royal family, it is also used for more formal royal events.

The royal castle has been the seat of power on the island possibly since Roman times.  Remains of the Arab citadel, which was mentioned in the 12th and 13th century references, can still be found in the layout of the present castle, which was built between 1305 and 1314 for James ll.



Lunch was at the Bocalto restaurant, featuring more tapas.  We spied a delicious old-fashioned bakery next door and planned to buy cakes for later, but in the end, we were too full, so gave it a miss. It's on my list of places to visit next time though!



The afternoon was spent browsing the impressive buildings and window-shopping the fabulous clothes and even more fabulous shoes, but you will be spoiled for choice.  There are of course some recognisable shops - Zara, H&M, and Massimo Dutti, but many more independent Spanish boutiques.

The beauty of our central apartment was that if we needed a rest or a coffee, we could just nip back and put our feet up for an hour - which we did.  

Dinner was another treat - a vegetarian tasting menu at the Botanic - a little haven tucked away in a back street, and entry through a large wrought iron gate, leading to a large secret garden.  The food here was exquisite.

Dinner at The Botanic

It is worth mentioning a small cafe/restaurant right next to our accommodation - Ombu.  We planned to have lunch or an evening meal there, though it never happened, but we did eat breakfast there every day.  We can highly recommend the creamy scrambled eggs or the pancakes with your cappuccino!

DAY 4

I think I have said before that I am a compulsive shopper, but Anne kept me in check, though I did manage to buy a jacket and a handbag.  For those who love jewellery, it is probably worth visiting the Mallorca Pearl Factory.  Although we didn't get there, there are plenty of shops in the city selling beautiful pearl jewellery from Majorca.  A lovely young assistant explained there are three qualities - two of which depend on how long the pearls have been in the sea, while the third are man-made in their local factory. 

There are also a number of small galleries showcasing interesting works of modern art - particularly if you move away from the main shopping area into the back streets.



For our last visit, we took a taxi to the Pueblo de Espanol, which we had seen from the bus n our second day.  This is a small "miniature village" - though the buildings are full size - which has been especially built to represent the different architectural styles on the island and in wider Spain.  From traditional Spanish buildings to the Moorish influences from the time Majorca was controlled by the Turks, we strolled through pretty streets decorated with beautiful tiles and flourishing orange trees.  It wasn't busy - and I felt more could have been made of it since it looked as if it was mainly used as an evening event centre.





We walked back through the shopping area, visiting El Cortes Ingles department store, which had all the well known designer brands of perfume/make-up and handbags etc, and Spanish clothing.

Dinner on our final evening was another treat and had been recommended by a friend.  We struggled to find the Tast Club since it was tucked away down a side street with very little signing.  It was another interesting building, which we entered through a cobbled yard and into a back door, through a library and eventually into the dining room.  Decor was reminiscent of a traditional gentleman's club - not that we have ever visited one! However, once again the food was outstanding (although the ice crushing machine - if that's what it was - was exceptionally noisy). Fortunately it didn't detract from the evening.


 Abaco Bar

We had been recommended to visit the Abaco Bar, and finally managed to get there on our last night. The place is just WOW! I wish we had gone sooner - such an interesting place hiding behind a huge wooden gate.  Originally a 17th century house - apparently the previous home of the noble Marcel family, the bar is situated in what was the carriage house and stables, but is now interestingly decorated with flowers and an abundance of fruit which would put a market garden to shame.  The garden was prettily decorated with tables, and candles, while the upstairs rooms - which originally housed the family, gave us a peek into life from another century.  Well worth spending an evening there! Please click the link to browse their website and see other wonderful gallery photos!



Day 5

Our final day meant we had to check out at 12, while our flight wasn't until 8 in the evening. (having said that, it was delayed an hour due to bad weather - yes it poured just as we got in the taxi to leave).  The weather, much like the rest of Europe at the end of May, was very mixed.  There were a few spots of rain throughout the week, but it was generally warm and sunny, interspersed with cloudy intervals, followed by an almightly cloudburst as we were leaving.

We headed to the marina again, where we had lunchtime cocktails (oh dear) but the friendly staff were in no hurry to move us on, so we moved onto lunch, and then eked out the time by finishing with coffee. We had left our luggage in the free lockers at the Borne accommodation, which was useful.

If I am being honest, I probably wouldn't have had Palma high on my bucket list, but we had a wonderful break, and Palma is lovely. Would I go back? Oh yes - I need to visit the pearl factory and the Cuevas del Drach in Porto Christo next time.



SHARE:
© Sensational Baby Boomers

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig