Mallorca, just 60 miles east of the coast of Spain, is the largest of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous community and province of Spain. The islands are very popular vacation spots, particularly in the summer.
Palma de Mallorca, the capital city on the southern coast of the island, has a population of 407,000, with total population of nearly one million in the overall region. When approaching the city from the sea, the massive Beliver Castle on a hill on the west side of town, and the Catalonian Gothic cathedral, La Seu, situated at the foot of the harbor dominate the skyline. The city’s architecture is a mix of Gothic and Moorish designs, with many modern, late 20th Century apartment buildings across the city (outside of the historic Old Town which is predominantly a pedestrian district).
Situated just inside the old fortress city wall, across from the contemporary yacht harbor, Es Balluard Museum (opened in 2004) showcases modern and contemporary art. The permanent collection has some works by Miro, Barcelo and Picasso. The sculpture garden, adjacent to the excellent restaurant, atop the old fortress wall (with excellent views of the harbor and Old Town in the distance), is pictured below. The stair step sculpture is by the contemporary Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava, known for his modernist bridges and buildings that seem to defy gravity. (In Valencia, Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences and the Opera House have become famous worldwide as one of Europe’s great city cultural and educational urban redesign projects.)
The indoor food market, Mercat d’Olivar, has hundreds of stalls of fresh items and several places for snacking (on barstools) and dining. Mid-morning we enjoyed several “tapas” of fresh and smoked salmon in different preparations, along with some very good espresso.
The Catalonian Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral Palma de Mallorca, commonly referred to as La Seu, dates back to the Thirteenth Century. Local tradition has it that a storm arose as Jaume I (James I The Conqueror, King of Aragon, Valencia and Mallorca from 1213 to 1276) was sailing towards Mallorca. He vowed that if he landed safely he would build a great church in honor of the Virgin. On New Year’s Day 1230, a day after the fall of Palma, the foundation stone was symbolically laid on the site of the city’s main mosque. Work continued for 400 years — and had to resume in 1851 when an earthquake destroyed the west front. More touches were added to the interior in the early 20th Century by the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi (1852 – 1926).
In addition to the metal ring of lights on each column, Gaudi — from 1901 to 1914 — designed the “halo” (canopy) pictured below along with numerous other features that made the gigantic cathedral more “personal” to worshipers.