Mallorca Lives Up to Its Real Name; Hugo Duncan Finds There's a Lot More to This Balearic Paradise Than Sunshine and Boozy Brits
Byline: Hugo Duncan
WHAT'S in a name?In the Balearic islands of the Mediterranean to the east of Spain, a lot. Majorca is a place invented by foreigners, where beaches and bars are packed with sweaty Brits abroad, where peace is rare and even unwanted, whereMagaluf is king.
But Mallorca, which is the local name for the island, is a place of history and culture,of palaces and castles,of monasteries and villages,and,of course, sunshine,mountains and beaches. Just a few miles outside Magaluf the tourist could be in a different world.
It is this contrast and diversity that makes Mallorca such a pleasure to visit. Everywhere on the island is within an hour and half of the capital, Palm a de Mallorca,and where better to start than Palma itself, a city bursting with life and history.
The city's masterpiece - La Seu,or Palm a Cathedral - is the second largest cathedral in Europe and rises high above Palma,its magnificent golden sandstone walls visible from the hills over the city or from Palma Bay.
On New Year's Day in 1230, the day after Palm a fell to King Jaume I and around the time Catalan became the main language - as it still is today - the first stone was laid. Before this the site was home to the city's main mosque, previously a Roman temple.
Over 400 years of work followed before the cathedral was completed, although work was resumed in 1851 after the west face was destroyed by an earthquake. Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi made further additions in the 20th century.
The area around Le Seu also betrays Mallorca's past. The maze of narrow, winding streets and courtyards which made up the old Arab quarter are now home to hidden shops and museums. Immaculately clean,Old Palm a is a most enchanting place.
But the new city also has plenty to offer the tourist. The marina is bursting with yachts of all shapes and sizes,andthe waterfront is alive with bars and restaurants, which suddenly jump into life at night as the locals come out to eat and drink.
There is no shortage of places to stay in and around Palm a and the choice is wide.
Just 5km from the city is the Castillo Hotel Son Vida, a five-star- deluxe hotel and a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
A 13th century castle set in acres of parkland,it was converted into a hotel in 1961,and now boasts two 18- hole golf courses and stunning views over Palm a Bay. It is also home to a collection of highly valuable art. With pools,health spas and tennis courts,it is a wonder we left the hotel at all. But short trips out of Palma are well worth it.
Just outside the city is the Castell de Bellver,a well-preserved14th century royal fortress unique among Spanish castles in that it is entirely round. …