Mallorcan Summer Family Adventure
Marquesa is back at school after an exciting nine weeks off school. But let’s face it; summer holidays aren’t just for kids! I was lucky to have a short summer break at work too which allowed me to plan a two-week family getaway. Like many people, we love to travel and, it may come as a surprise to some, but I love to travel with my daughter! I rarely travelled as a child and was only able to afford to do it on my own in my late 20s and early 30s so it’s a gift and a privilege that I don’t take lightly today. I feel very lucky to show her other parts of the world and expose her to languages, cultures and traditions. I like to think that when she’s away from the classroom, she’s still learning a whole lot.
For Summer ‘19, I had one thing on the brain: a family reunion in Portugal. It’s my father’s homeland and where his family still resides – two sisters, their children and their children! We don’t get to see them as much and now that there are nieces and nephews in the picture, the timing couldn’t be better to introduce Marquesa to the other side of her family! She’s at a great age to remember the memories we’re making. Also, as my parents get older, I know that trips will become increasingly challenging, so YOLO! They’re 77 and 79 and in great physical shape so there is no time as good as now to for multi-generational travel. My sister was also off work and able to join so it was a full Grelo contingent crossing the pond! Family is very important to us and nurturing relationships with relatives across the ocean will hopefully make the distance feel a little shorter.
But first, Spain….
Travelling overseas is a big undertaking so I wanted to make the most out of two weeks and visit two destinations. Our first stop? The island of Mallorca, Spain. I originally planned on travelling to Spain last year, but after my daughter and her cousins spotted a Toy Story Land advertisement on a Toronto subway, all attention turned to Disney World! So, that’s where we went: Florida! I packed up the family, along with my cousins and their families and went south. It was a memorable trip that we won’t soon forget.
But back to Spain…I still had an itch to scratch after a wonderful trip to Barcelona in 2015. I wanted more but I also wanted less – less crowds, less line-ups, less hectic energy, so I found Mallorca. All the Spain, none of the frenzy.
Planning was a quite easy because I had already done quite a bit last year. Also, Mallorca operates on island time so there is never a rush to see or do anything. You can wander at your own pace and see what you want, when you want. No tickets to buy in advance, no restaurant reservations to make, no scheduling at all. I wanted to embrace curious wandering and simply let the island take us where it wanted. If you know me, that’s not my travel style, but I truly wanted a break from my calendar and almost ANY and ALL planning. It was a gift!
The only “must-visits” or “must-dos” on our list? The Royal Palace of La Almudaina, The Cathedral of Santa Maria (also known as Palma Cathedral or La Seu), beaches, flamenco, food and drink in whatever order they happened.
We flew overnight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Toronto and connected in Amsterdam before we flew another two hours to Mallorca. It was our first time on the airline and it was spectacular!
We stayed at the glorious Gloria Hotel de Sant Jaume in the heart of the city of Palma. We wanted to be in the middle of town and walk everywhere so the location was perfect. The hotel is a beautiful converted ancient home with only 14 rooms that have been meticulously restored. Every room is different with modern amenities. The one-on-one care and service is second to none. Our favourite place was the indoor pool on the lowest level. Marquesa called it “The Cave” because of the arched ceilings. We also loved the small but relaxing rooftop pool and sunbathing deck that overlooks Palma’s charming clay rooftops.
First stop was The Royal Palace of La Almudaina, the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain, though you’ll rarely see them there as they often spend time at their residence in nearby Marivent. The name “almudaina” means “fortress” in Arabic and its use as such over hundreds of years is evident. The Palace overlooks Palma Bay. We especially enjoyed visiting the palace at night when it was well-lit, enjoying our ice creams and serenades by Spanish guitarists busking on nearby streets.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria, or La Seu, is a MUST-SEE. It is located right next to the palace and in fact from some views, appears to be a part of the same building. But it has unmistakable ornate spires and a breathtaking entrance. The only shame is that you can’t stand back and enjoy it better from a distance. Only a narrow passage separates the palace wall from the Cathedral entrance. Aside from that, the BIG plus was no line-up or fee to enter.
Once you do enter, the sight will take your breath away. Much like the Notre Dame in Paris or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the sheer grandeur of the space is awe-inspiring. Begun in 1501 and only completed 100 years later, La Seu is one of the tallest Gothic structures in Europe and even taller than the famed Notre Dame. It has the nickname of “Cathedral of Light” because of its 61 stained-glass windows, including the impressive central rose window. One of the cathedral’s most notable features is the crown-of-thorns canopy that hangs above the altar. It is evidence of the renovation details of famed Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. My advice? Don’t rush this visit. We sat in the pews and enjoyed different corners of the cathedral for over two hours.
There are over 200 beaches in Mallorca. Do your research and you’ll find the one that’s perfect for your taste. We’re not a huge beach-going family but wanted to experience the seaside vibes Mallorca is famous for. We visited Ses Illetes because of its proximity to Palma. Turns out, everybody had the same idea that day! It took us a while to find a free beach chair and umbrella, which you need in sunny, 35-degree days in Mallorca! My advice? Go early and secure your shady spot for the day. The water was warm, shallow with few waves, perfect for a family with small children. The beach is not large, but intimate with all the food, shops and drinks you need. We lazed the day away going in and out of the water, sipping Cava Sangria (and apple juice for Marquesa!) and eating paella. Important travel note: taxis are almost impossible to hail to this beach. Either take the bus home or rent a car for the day and park it nearby.
The food scene in Mallorca could rival those in Barcelona or Madrid. We enjoyed typical Mallorquin seafood along the Paseo Maritimo waterfront promenade and took in views of multi-million dollar yachts. We especially loved Mar de Nudos Mediterranean and Japanese Restaurant. During the day, Cappuccino Restaurant inside Hotel Mama became one of our favourites. No night was complete without enjoying some ice cream or gelato at a local heladeria. When the temperature only cooled to 28 degrees overnight, we all needed the cool treat!
Spanish and Catalan culture are rich in Mallorca. One of my personal highlights was enjoying authentic Flamenco dancing. Our first taste was at the Son Amor dinner show theatre. It was a fun variety show in a beautiful estate setting, but we wanted a more authentic, small town experience. We decided to rent a car and make the 45-minute trip to the north of the island to the medieval port city of Alcudia to watch the “Flamallorca” flamenco show. It was worth the drive and worth every penny of the ticket. The show takes place in a former bullring. The show begins at sunset in the outdoor reception and bar area. The dancers, guitar players and singers then move to the bullring to dance, then to the former bull holding pen area for a dramatic overhead performance. Finally, the show moves to its grande finale on a large wooden stage mounted atop the stands in the bullring. I got lost in the music, the singing and the passionate dancing that reverberated around the ring that provided perfect acoustics. The entire experience made a huge impression on my family and me. It struck a deep chord in my soul, awakening childhood memories of watching flamenco as a young girl. The dancing and singing went well into the night and shops in town close relatively early. Be sure to eat well beforehand and maybe even consider spending the night in a quaint hotel in town.
As we wound down our week in Mallorca, I planned for a professional family photo shoot through Canadian company, Flytographer. It’s like an Uber for photographers. You input your city and the website connects with you talented, reputable local photographers. I like to do book shoots for big family trips so that I can capture the magic we felt and relive the moments through a professional photographer’s eyes. This time, we were connected with Maya, lovely young woman who lives in Mallorca but is originally from the U.K. She took gorgeous photos of Ryan, Marquesa and me around Palma at my favourite time of day: sunset. It was the perfect ending to a perfect first week of vacation.