For my first free weekend, I chose to fly to Majorca, one of the Balearic Islands owned by Spain. The island is a luxury resort; it’s where rich British and Spaniards go for their vacations. This is quite obvious from the moment you leave the airport. Most things are incredibly over priced. Additionally, many of the shopkeepers and waiters that we encountered spoke English to me before I had a chance to try to speak Spanish. It bothers me when this happens because I really am here to learn the language and the only way to do so is to practice. From these experiences, it seems to me that the culture of Las Palmas de Majorca has been quite diluted by tourists.
In any case, we arrived late on a Thursday night and the weather was beautiful. My host mom had graciously packed me a fantastic chorizo bocadillo and it was a perfect start to a weekend of fun adventures. Four of us were staying in the center of town and the other four of us were staying in a houseboat docked in the bay. I was in the former group, although at the time I envied those with the opportunity to stay in a boat. It sounded like quite the novel experience! Those of us staying on land took a taxi into the city and I was amazed at how paradisaical it all looked. The streets were lined with palm trees, the bay gave off the most pleasant breeze, the night life was just getting started, there were windmills overlooking the pier and a quaint castle on the dominating hill next to the port. Majorca being just off the coast of Barcelona, it was easy to spot the Gaudi and Catalan cultural influences.
The next morning I woke up with the sun and walked around the city which was already bustling with life. Because we are traveling off season, there were very few tourists to be seen. I’m sure the streets were more empty than a weekend would be in July. However, a stroll down La Rambla proved that there were many locals going about their daily activities in paradise. (Note that Barcelona also has a famous street known as La Rambla as well). After a bit of meandering, my travel companion and I wandered into a small cafe and ordered the best calamari bocadillos and freshly squeeze orange juice imaginable. That alone was an indication of what kind of day it was going to be. It tasted like a dream. If I have learned anything about the Spanish, it is that they do life the right way. Everything is about enjoyment: the festivals, the paseo, the food, the siesta period, and the general attitude of a relaxed life. As a country with some of the longest life expectancy, perhaps there is something to be learned here.
From there we visited the cathedral. This place was pure magic. It was practically on the beach and the room is so full of light. There were probably 15 stained glass windows that set the room ablaze with soft cascades of colored light on the hard stone floors and pillars. The contrast was breathtaking. I could have stayed for hours. Having been to probably around 15 cathedrals in my time, I feel justified in saying that this one is unique. In addition to the amazing glass work and spectacular altar, there was a chapel created by Guadi that was absolutely inspirational. The effect was that you were underwater looking towards heaven as the surface of the water. I may not agree with Antoni Gaudi on many things, but I cannot deny that he creates art through very unique means.
After paying our respects to the work of art that is the Catedral de Majorca, it was time to do as the Spanish do and relax on the beach. The weather was about as perfect as you can get for the beginning of March: 70 degrees with a very slight breeze. Just enough to stir your soul into longing as you stare into the deep blue of the sea. For the record: I can say that I have felt the healing waters of the Mediterranean, collected a rather large pile of sea glass, and built a sandman along the shore. I hope that someone found my sandman and I hope that it put a smile on their face, because it certainly made my day. By this time it was smack dab in the middle of siesta time and the entire city came to a halt. It seems that although the siesta is becoming less of an honored tradition, locals, especially older generations, honor it in their schedules religiously.
We tourists took our own sort of siesta on the house boat that part of group was staying in as we prepared to delve into the nightlife of the island. The thing was so small, I could not believe that two people, much less four could sleep in it. We played reggaeton and talked about life and dreams while getting strange looks from locals passing by. I often wonder how we look to the locals and whether they vehemently oppose tourists invading their cities day after day. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for thousands of strangers to take over your city everyday as the next cruise ship enters the harbor.
The rest of the trip was a flurry of trying typical Majorcan tapas (go for the bacalao, calamari, and all things seafood), postres (ensaimada is the dreamiest pastry ever, try the peach filled ones), visiting the windmill museums (complete with adorable local enthusiast who will give you an entire tour and history of milling in Spain), and hiking to the castle on top of the hill (breathtaking views of the port and the rest of the island dominated by a beautiful evergreen forest). You could say that I found parts of myself while walking through the small winding byways of a Majorcan dream come true. Although slightly overrun by tourist shops and English speaking waiters, it was fascinating to see the contrast in the Catalan culture between the mainland of Catalunya and this small island resort town.