Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mallorca - what a beautiful place

We just returned from a four-day trip to Mallorca - one of the beautiful Balearic islands in the Mediterranean just off of the coast of Spain. This region was not even on our radar until we came across a Ryanair bargain that could not be turned down. We somehow lured our friends, Meg and Robert, to come along with us. Somehow having a toddler in tow did not scare them off. Not knowing what to expect, we went to the island fully excited and ready for anything. Need I say, we were pleasantly surprised.

Mallorca is an island that has a little something for everyone. Like many of the Balearic islands, its reputation for clubbing and partying all night definitely proceeds it. That said though, it has so much more to offer. You really can make what you want out of your trip to Mallorca. The northern coast offers more than 5 miles of sandy beaches and exclusive resorts, Palma de Mallorca (the capital city) has a nightlife and is a charming city with a well-preserved old town, and the eastern coast is littered with resorts and a variety of beaches. After much painstaking research, we decided to stay on the west coast in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.

The western part of the island has fewer sandy beaches, but the geography of this area prohibits expansive growth, so the true character of the island is not as overrun by tourists or resorts. We were attracted to a small town called Sollér, which sits nuzzled into the Serra de Tramuntana and has a small port town, Port de Sollér, not far away. Not only was this area attractive for the type of vacation we had hoped for, but Sollér is connected to Palma de Mallorca by an historic railway - Ferrocarril de Sollér - built in 1911 with money from the orange and lemon trade. This old historic wooden train snakes its way through limestone mountains with breathtaking views.

It's no secret little r LOVES trains
and his Daddy...
I enjoyed the ride, too!
Our daring pals, Robert and Meg, joined us on our adventure
the smooth rocking motion of the train put little r right to sleep
a view of the train as we snake through the Serra de Tramuntana
The Ferrocarril de Sollér connects Palma de Mallorca to Sollér with stops at a few mountains towns along the way. Once in Sollér we would catch a tram or streetcar, also historic and very cool, to the town of Port de Sollér, which is where we called home during our stay on Mallorca.

Before it was time for the tram, we walked around Sollér and took in the historic and characteristically Spanish town. We grabbed some tapas for lunch and enjoyed our first Sangria on the island. It was a lovely start to our vacation.

Sant Bartomeu in Soller
Fountain in the square in Soller
walking the streets in Soller
so much fresh food on the island
breathtaking views of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains
The tram took us down to Port de Sollér where we quickly found and settled into our hotel and packed up our things for the beach. We stayed at Hotel Sollér Garden, which was nothing to write home about, but it was super cheap, clean enough, and centrally located with a pool, wine bar, and breakfast. Not a whole lot to complain about, and it made a decent home for our weekend stay on the island.

The island boasts a typical arid Mediterranean climate with over 300 days a year of sunshine. Ah-hem, except for the four days we were there. Meg and I were so glad we headed to the beach as soon as we got settled because that was quite nearly the last of the sunshine we saw until we left Mallorca. I applied sunscreen all of one time and could not have been more thankful that I packed hoodies for us all. What we thought was going to be a tropical vacation of salty, sunburned skin and hot days was quite the contrary. But overall, we still managed to really enjoy our stay in Port de Sollér.

boats anchored at Port de Soller
more boats...
one of the many beaches at Port de Soller
more beach..
ah, the beautiful sun...too bad this is all we saw of you
some of the larger yachts docked in the Port
little r was a natural at the beach - not sure what to think of the salty water though
My favorite time of day on this vacation was easily our evenings. Yes, it might have been because the weather didn't really allow for much beach time, but mostly it was because of the mood along the Port at night and the amazing food. Even though little r certainly had some challenging moments on this trip (as would be expected of most children his age), he helped make our evenings special by sleeping through them. By 8:00 p.m. each night, he was either asleep on my lap or a bench beside me. It was rather lovely, actually.

We cannot think of a bad meal we had the entire time we were in Mallorca. The choices were plentiful, and we somehow managed to choose wisely each time. Our days were filled with Spanish tapas and Sangria and our evenings were enjoyed over bottles of local wines and amazing seafood. Overall it was absolutely fantastic. The food was good, the wine even better, and the company, well...that brought this trip to a whole new level of enjoyment.

sun setting on the boats docked in the Port
street lights add a new ambiance to the life within Port de Soller
one of the many delicious meals we ate during our stay on the island
Port de Soller was overrun by feral cats - most were pretty friendly and happy for a sweet rub
Tapas our second evenings at El Pirato - easily some of the best Tapas we have ever had
I was all smiles
our table under candlelight - so pretty
dinner our last evening. one minute little r was rambunctious, the next he was asleep.
dinner our last evening at Sol y Sombre - a more local restaurant that won our prize for best and most affordable food in Port de Soller
Since our days were mostly rain, we used our time to explore Port de Sollér. We did some shopping, some hiking up to points that provided breathtaking views, and we found perfect cafes to sit and watch the rain while we enjoyed Sangria and excellent food. Our third day we did manage to sneak in some beach time between rain showers. When the sun was shining, it was warm and lovely. I think Meg swam in the sea for over an hour just treading water and enjoying her day in the ocean while Robert took a nap on the beach and Big R and I played with little r.

many of the restaurants, cafes and stores had inviting entry ways
family portrait
dramatic photo of the point at the edge of the island
waves crashing at the edge of the island
some of the feral cats were quite regal
i loved the streetscapes in Port de Soller

One of our days we spent a fair amount of time at a bar called "Miami Bar" with one of the friendliest restauranteers in town. We kept saying we needed to find a Spanish grandmother to wisk River away for a few hours and she was an answer to our prayers on that rainy day. She fell in love with him and kept bringing out toys to keep him happy while we enjoyed our champagne sangria - talk about a piece of heaven!

walking along the beach
those clouds look so ominous
walking along the Port de Soller
what do you think of that sky?!?!?!
this is a happy little bear
Since the rain wasn't letting up, we decided to hike up to the lighthouse and check out the views from the top. All that food and Sangria, we probably needed the exercise! The views did not disappoint. Here is a sampling of what we saw...

little r with his Daddy - definitely his favorite way to travel
one of the views of Port de Soller on our way to the lighthouse
absolutely beautiful
the sun would shine between clouds and sparkle across the water
Then we hit the beach. We decided the storm was not going to hold us back. The ocean was calling, and we were anxious to respond!

dramatic photo of the clouds at the beach
Beach time! And hey, that's sun!
the locals were out to enjoy the little bit of sun on a Sunday afternoon as well
We were sad to leave Port de Sollér the next morning. Mostly because we had seen the forecast calling for beautiful skies all day. But instead it was time for us to head back to Palma de Mallorca to do a little exploring before heading to the airport later that day. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the old town in Palma is. The city is huge, but the center is nicely preserved and full of old charm and character. We enjoyed our stroll around the old town soaking up the sun and having our last delicious Mallorcan meal before heading to the airport.

this building was decorated with mosaics - it was beautiful!
typical architecture found in old town Palma
flags displayed on the government building
first view of the cathedral
trendy cafe where we had lunch - turned out to be quite the spot!

And then it was time to say "good-bye" to Mallorca. We found our way to the airport, quickly got checked in, and began our long journey home. What an amazing trip. Thank you, Meg and Robert, for such a fantastic time and helping us create such wonderful memories!

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