Friday, May 20, 2011

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

May 19, Thursday.... we docked at Palma around 11 am. We had decided to go to Dragon caves (Cuevas del Drach) in Porto Cristo which is on the east coast of Mallorca. So as soon as we exited the port of Palma (which is a fairly huge port) we started looking for taxis. Unlike in Italy, taxis were very strict about the number of passengers in each car I.e. 4 in each and there are no taxis that will take more than 4. So we had to take 3 taxis for the 11 of us at €160 per cab for about 5 hours. We got this really cool cabbie called Francisco (Frank in Ingles :-) ) who knew a little bit of English. (Ugh, I wish I knew Spanish...I know, Gabe, u tried to teach and I think that needs to be my resolution for the year!)... we started out towards Porto Cristo winding our way through Palma, took a pit stop at a gas station on the way, went past Manacor (where Francisco pointed out that this is Nadal's home town and what an awesome guy he is!!!), and reached Porto Cristo in about 50 mins. The cabbies took us to this restaurant near the Dragon Caves called Ca'n Toni serving local Spanish cuisine. I had some amazing mixed salad, Spanish omelette and even loved the vegetarian paella that my friends got. I am not a huge fan of paella but the one served here is excellent. Tickets to dragon caves is €11,50pp (free for kids under 7) and tours start every hour. We started our tour at 3 pm. There are no words to describe how stunning the caves are. What makes the 2 km long caves of stalacmites (????) even more stunning and beautiful is the amazing lighting, planned and carried out by Dr. Buigas. The apparent highlight of the tour is the classical music (concert!) played by boat-bound musicians floating across Lake Martel, one of the largest underground lakes in the area. The show was definitely nice but for me the highlight were the caves themselves and the absolutely breathtaking feat of nature. Its a shame photography is prohibited....there was so many instances, due to the gorgeous lighting, of perfect reflections that they would have made amazing subjects for photographers!

We then headed to Manacor where we stopped at a pearl factory on Carrer de Majorica. Majorica pearls are made by replicating the natural process of pearl creation by the oyster. DH surprised me by buying me a gorgeous pearl necklace/ear-rings set. Once back in Palma, the driver took us through old town - which is an intricate alleyway of narrow roads. The one thing immediately noticeable about any street, any alley way in Palma is that its spotlessly clean. This is because tourism is the primary source of income on this island and the locals take this very seriously. The city is kept incredibly clean and inviting. The driver also brought to our notice futuristic looking contraptions on every street - gold colored bins which were garbage disposal chutes. Garbage went down this chute to be sucked by vacuum to the central disposal area somewhere underneath in the middle of old town. Every street also has bins for recycling different articles...very impressive! The old town is very charming. The drivers dropped all of us off near the cathedral. Its a beautiful building just like any other in all of Europe. We walked around the cathedral, through the town visiting stores and looking around. Around 6:30 pm, we split up - my friends decided to head back to the ship and took DS along with them while DH and I decided to continue our exploration of the city. We walked into narrow streets from the main avenue and looked at many interesting stores. On the main avenue (???need name), we sat down at a cafe called cappuccino for some coffee and drink which seems to be the past time for most locals around 7-8 pm everyday. Dinner doesn't happen till much later in the night, so one sees a lot of people sitting down in street side cafes sipping on beers, wines, drinks or cappuccino/coffee! The city had free Wi-Fi and we were able to surf so much faster than on the ship! I was most impressed by the city....dare I say, I fell in love with it! I would love to come back to experience the charm on a more day-to-day here for a week or more...after that we walked along the marina, found an interesting street side restaurant called Gotic and sat down for some tapas and wine. Tapas were the usual, nothing outstanding but we enjoyed our dinner. Our waiter, Ganeshwar Singh was originally from India and settled in Mallorca. We had an interesting conversation with him and were amazed at how fluently he spoke Spanish....

The walk from the cathedral area to the ship was several miles - we had underestimated the distance but we had a slow and long walk along the marina. The city is extremely beautiful and the coastline is dotted with hotels and restaurants catering to tourists. Lots of Indian restaurants as well.

Once on the ship we had to pack our bags for disembarkation tomorrow. Once that got done and kids were settled in, I went to deck 15 with my tripod and camera to get some night time shots of the lit up cathedral. But even with 200mm zoom, the shot wasn't tight enough. There was a party going on in deck 14 by the Aqua Park...we hung around for a bit and then retired early for the night.

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