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Aug 2011

Palma Coat of Arms

Off to Palma Majorca are you? Going to Alcúdia? Nice if a little quiet mind but Puerto Pollensa's lovely. Where you going?

'We're going to Palma'...

Sure, you're flying there but where you staying? Knowing you two, probably Magaluf eh? eh? We went go-karting there, when you got plastered doing shots, and there's a massive new Aldi™ with a free shuttle bus[1]. Where you staying again?...

'We're going to Palma and we're staying in Palma'...

... Why?

[1] There's not really but you get this big snob's point?

  Carrer de Sant Magi

Unconventional accommodation up a death-defying, stone, communal stairway. An early form of Airbnb™, you call from the airport and a Dutch lady meets you there when you wonder if you'll ever see that cash deposit again.

You will if you survive the railless mezzanine layout but it was the only place in Palma that could be found with room outside on the roof.

Well, here's for why! It looks not a little unlike this although all of them boats are said to leave some people feeling a little seasick.

The maze of backstreets are a treat with all your major international cuisines covered and it's barely 20 minutes in a taxi from the airport.

There's history here that goes back 3,000 years, unlike Magaluf whose civilisation of sorts can only boast that many bars. While the subject is on, isn't Magaluf dreadful?

It just is.

  Puerto de Palma

There's a time-killing boat trip to be done to get up close to some yachts.

Them and this floating behemoth, which reminds you why this place is a stopping off point on the Mediterranean cruise circuit.

Looking at some fish and meat in a city of this size is a must and the Mercat de l'Olivar is Palma's main market.

By 'looking', it's not meant in a 'UURGH! What's that' or 'AARGH! They eat those bits here?' kind of way. No, that stage has well and truly been passed and besides, there's often some good lunching with the locals close to hand.

None of the roads have been cordoned off so there's no need to nip in the back in by the back via a colourful floral display. It's almost as if there's nothing going on here?

There isn't, you see, so that's where the similarity with Alicante ends, which is a shame as they still get mixed up in this pair's minds, and there's no clever, Catalan[1] pun that you definitely don't see every day.

[1] They speak a variant called mallorquí here.

There is a castle to lug yourself up in 30°C heat and there's a faint memory of taking a tourist bus to the top. The memory's faint, however, because a sight had already been seen that morning, the Poble Espanyol.

The Spanish Village or 'Little Spain', as it's now known in this house, is a littler version of one in Barcelona and is a scaled down reproduction of the whole country's prominent architecture.

It was only built in the 1960s, has a few people living in it and is occasionally given over to the conferencing. If they could only hide away those stacks of chairs and scribbled on flipcharts, this could be the greatest visitor attraction in Spain, scratch that the world!

Why go to Granada when there's an admittedly smaller version of the Myrtle Courtyard right here?

Why visit Valencia when there's an admittedly smaller version of the Torre de Santa Caterina right here?

It's all a little bit shabby and it's not thought that  El Greco left that crisp packet lying about in his house. It is, however, captivatingly bonkersly empty and with some investment, this could be the greatest visitor attraction in Spain, scratch that the world!

If only the local layabout Peter Stringfellow, say, stopped stuffing cash into ladies' thongs and used his spare fivers for the forces of good?

Down by the water and just west of Av. de l'Argentina, there's a pleasant, raised area that's home to a number of windmills.

There are over 2,500 on Majorca although some are more modern and metallic than others. They're not really windmills neither, they were mainly used to pump water up from under the ground.

The ones here in the city are still pumping... the music out! One's a small, live venue for gigs and another, a rather dodgy looking nightclub where there's still some grinding going on, probably.

  Namaste Indian Restaurant (Carrer del Torrent)

Tiring of the tapas, which had been quite frankly routine, an Indian restaurant to stop you feeling homesick. Preferring outside, you'll find yourself seated next to, why, it's only old  Peter Stringfellow! Despite his dubiousness, some casual chit-chat ensued and a charming character it has to be said. On clocking the accents...

'I was good friends with  Chas Chandler and he said to me back in the 60s, "Peter, Peter, I've got this young, black kid over from the States and you've got to book him."'...
Jimi Hendrix was it?
'So I booked this kid at my club in Sheffield and he totally blew the place.'...
Was it Jimi Hendrix?
'You know that young, black kid's name?'...
Jimi Hendrix?
... 'Jimi Hendrix!'

Yeah, didn't see that one coming but by this time his pal has had a skinful in between the bhunas and even managed to squeeze in a phone argument with his 'missus'. They head off to their parked car where his pal jumps into the... driving seat!

Would we be the last people to see Peter Stringfellow alive[1]? Apparently not and, by the way, Peter says 'Hi' to 'All the guys in Newcastle.'

[1] Turns out that would be the last time we would see Peter Stringfellow alive.

The Catedral de Santa María guards the harbour, sort of. Kicked off by the king it took nearly 400 years to complete so by 1601, James I of Aragon was long gone.

Finished off as classic Gothic, of course, the nave is nearly 150 foot high and surpasses Paris' Notre Dame's.

Not normally such big fans, these places can be very intimidating[1], but hanging about near the lake out front, it was noticed that the queues were down.

[1] 'Sssh!' and cover up those shoulders!

Once inside, however, and this is astonishing! Not exactly a Damascene conversion but the light was certainly seen.

The light that enters by the stained glass rose window creating a sunset inside. Twice a year, when the alignments are right, this is projected onto the opposite wall although Stonehenge sort of beat them to it by about 4,000 years.

It has to be confessed that, in this light, you'd be forgiven for thinking the altar's part of a modern art installation but more on that in a minute.

  Arab Baths (Carrer de Can Serra)

A bit of a disappointment, baths-wise that is, but these date back to the Moors and 20 minutes of your time will have you transported back to the 10th century.

If you're fond of an artwork, this whole city will keep you contemplating.

 Es Baluard Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma is a mouthful but contains an eyeful. It's built into the old city wall down near the water and has a modern walkway on the roof with panoramic views from a turret.

Up from the cathedral, the  Casal Solleric is a courtyarded manor house and today there's an exhibition of photographs by journalist Steve McCurry. Because it's municipally run, unlike the  Afghan girl in his famous snap, it's free.

Finally, near the centre, the  Museu Fundación Juan March is mainly 20th-century modern art and sits in another old manor house. It was renovated in the 1990s and boasts the best stone architraves ever seen and, get this, we've seen a few.

All of this is just an artistic teaser for there's an internationally renowned attraction a couple of miles south-west...

You'll have to negotiate a bus to get to the  Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, a museum dedicated to the  painter's work and that's a him not a her. Catalan John, born in Barcelona, adopted Palma as his home and is one of the big hitters worldwide hanging in most of the big galleries and selling for up to $26 million.

Away from the displays, there's access to his original studio, his paint pots preserved in a roped off area.

Some of his most recognisable work involves primary colours on a predominantly white background. Just looks here like a toddler has been handed four felt-tipped pens and told... 'Go on then, do a new logo for the Olympics.'

  Cala Mayor

Beach resort south-west of town that you'll end up in on the way back from the Miro when the driver stops for a fag and you're not sure if you're supposed to get off or not? Nice beach but be wary of a dip.

There's a strip of flotsam and jetsam caused by the tide that's doing, literally, a nice line in 'pappy' nappies!