Advantages Too many points to mention.
Disadvantages Lager Louts and Ill disciplined Tourists.
Spain to me had always meant the greener north or Seville, Toledo, Madrid and the historic cities of the south, staying as far away from the tourist traps of the Mediterranean coast as possible but earlier this year the possibility presented itself for a two week break at a very reasonable price to Mallorca. Rather reluctantly, we booked. With great trepidation, I might add!
True to form, I began to plan this holiday like a military expedition, carefully considering the various details of the logistics involved. Air-port car parking, air-port in UK, air-port in Palma, hotel, resort, facilities in both, maps of resort, Palma and the island of Mallorca, tourist spots, car-hire, language (refresh very rusty Spanish and investigate simple Mallorquin phrases).Just a few points on a lengthy list.
What we discovered and the way that we tackled our holiday may prove beneficial to some of you out there, so read on!
The hotel that we stayed in was the Santa Lucia in Palma Nova. It was intended as a place to sleep, wash, store our clothes and proved perfectly adequate for our needs and I do not intend the opinion to dwell upon it`s good or bad points. Try to get B&B or room only to take advantage of the wide range of eating establishments on the island!There is a wealth of hotels and self-catering apartments to stay in and a large number of resorts to contain them. North, south, east or west, you take your choice. Because of the relatively small size of the island, it doesn`t take long to get anywhere. You will find that some places are predominantly English and some that are German. There are a few Scandinavian places around but evidently, the French stay well clear of the island.
Access to the good road network was easy from it, allowing us to travel with ease and relative speed to all parts of the island, even though Palma Nova is in the bottom left hand corner of Mallorca. It only took us 20 mins to drive to Palma and a little over 50 mins to get to the far north of the island. The motorway skirting Palma and extending to Palma Nova in the east, past the airport in the west and northwards to Inca is brilliant and allows speedy travel nowadays.Palma Nova itself has excellent beaches, loads of hotels, an adequate tourist information bureau, banks, post office, a wide variety of restaurants and bars and the usual tourist shops. Ideal for those who intend it to be their "home" for their stay. It`s quieter than Magalluf, just next to it on the coast so not so rowdy for us oldsters! Thank goodness.
I no longer hire cars through the travel agent before a holiday. I always find it cheaper to get it in the resort, playing one company off another. It tends to be a cut-throat business with far more cars available than tourists to hire them and you can usually get excellent rates, especially if you don`t go for a new car. I hired an Opel that was 2 years old at about 33% of the rate of one company that was only 100 metres away that was offering new cars. It pays to shop around and walk a bit to save money! Rates change from week to week and from resort to resort so I`m not quoting the price we paid.
Petrol is quite a bit cheaper than UK - around 70% of the price and a full tank will last you days even travelling a lot. A word of warning. Parking tickets! Lots of the towns supplement their local taxes by levying these on unsuspecting motorists. I was done at 8 o`clock on a Sunday evening in an almost deserted car-park in Valldemosa. The other few cars alongside also had little tickets affixed to their wipers! None of us were very pleased! Conveniently, instructions in several languages allowed us to pay a reduced fine immediately , depositing the money and ticket into a little slot in the ticket machine - which was hidden away from sight far down towards the end of the car-park.The real advantage of having a car is that you can escape from the tourists although a few will have similar ideas to yourself. You`ll get used to driving on the right pretty soon and will only really have problems up in the mountains on the very narrow, steep and twisty roads. Palma will also prove stressful for those who hate big city driving but not for those used to London traffic!
Get a car and get into the mountains for some fantastic scenery. Get a car and discover those secluded coves along the non-touristy bits of coast. Get a car and visit real restaurants miles away from the beaten track.
What if you don`t drive or are not confident enough to get to grips with Mallorcan motoring?There are plenty of coach tours available to all sorts of destinations throughout the island. You can book these at your hotel or also at the car-hire places. Little difference in price from one company to another.
Taxis. These can only take a maximum of four passengers but can work out cheaper and far more convenient for shortish trips. They are all over the place and display a green light on top if free, so hail them down. Most drivers speak some sort of English, so enquire about the approximate cost BEFORE setting off. Late nights incur a supplement as does Sundays.Buses. Local buses are a great way to travel either short or long distances. It`s a very convenient way to go from Palma Nova/Magalluf to Palma and is very cheap, about £1. You can catch buses from there all over the island. Ask at the tourist place for maps and places to catch buses. You also meet real people on buses! After all, Mallorca is home to many thousands of locals.
The train. Mallorca has one or two lines left. These run from Palma to Soller - a tourist spot and from Palma to Inca in the north. The line to Soller is very slow, narrow gauge and extremely pleasant passing through almond and olive groves. To be recommended.And then there is walking! The hills and mountains are very tempting with some fantastic views. Get a guide book and find out the most scenic spots.
If you pre-arm yourself with a good travel book, you will uncover many lovely places to visit.
Where to go!
There are the towns and then there`s the city of Palma.Palma has a very long history and is cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Full of palaces, museums, a cathedral, churches, shops, restaurants and a harbour with billions worth of luxury yachts. Don`t just spend a day in Palma, it`s not enough! You`ll find lots of shops eager to take your rapidly dwindling euros or to swipe your little bits of plastic. A cople of these are very big and one of the is well known from UK. That`s C&A! Still alive and kicking on the continent. Two big "El Corte Ingles" department stores provide a wealth of goods to part you from your cach as does the "Galerias Preciados". The centre of Palma does not cover a great area and a tourist map and a good pair of shoes should be enough. As well as a few welcome beers or soft drinks on a sidewalk cafe.
Visit Inca to buy leather goods and Manacor for glass, ceramics and cultured pearls. All over the island you`ll find handicrafts of varying quality and authenticity, so be careful.There are many small towns and large villages around to choose from.
The island has a great coastline and this can be explored best by car but it also has a mountain chain running along its western side that gives spectacular panoramic views, especially seawards. In the east, there are also some huge caves called the Drach or Dragon caves. A bit bigger than the Blue John Cavern in Derbyshire! These caves go on for about 1.5km and one of them has a big 500m lake in it`s interior.Other attractions not to be missed include Marineland, on the coast between Palma and Palma Nova.The sealion and dolphin shows are not to be missed. Take plenty of film.
One attraction that is always being touted is "Son Amar". This is a spectacular country restaurant/theatre set in a converted country house on the road north out of Palma.The show is very entertaining with lots of singing and dancing of all sorts. I didn`t think that it would be my cup of tea but have to admit to enjoying the whole performance which lasted well over 2 hours. The show is billed as being up to West End Standards and I can well believe it. Your ticket, costing about £40, provides you with food as well but this is generally very disappointing. I will say no more.Markets. Lots of them with all sorts of crap, so be careful.
Telephones - easy to use to phone home but check the rates from your hotel. It was cheaper for us to dial direct from our room than it was to use the public ones outside.
Churches. Spain is Catholic and there are lots of them.GOLF! I believe that this is rather popular with some people and Mallorca has lots of courses.
Doctors and Pharmacists. Many British doctors have decided that working in Mallorca is just that bit better than working for the NHS so no problems there. Most chemists have younger staff fairly fluent in English so again, few problems. Prescription medicines are often bought "over the counter" so check before going to the expense of a visit to a doctor.
My fingers are getting tired now so I shall wrap up soon.(Thank goodness, I hear you say!)Wherever you are on the island, there is always plenty to do, see and eat(and drink).
There is so much more that I could have put but I`m not writing a book about Mallorca so I shall leave plenty for you to find out yourselves.That`s it folks. As Arnie says "I shall be back".
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