Friday, April 9, 2010

Semana Santa - Majorca (Days 5, 6, and 7)

When I woke up Tuesday morning March 30th, packed my suitcase, and left my hostel in Bilbao, I was surprised to find that the good weather streak had come to an end. Instead of sunshine, it was now raining...but, I decided to tough it up, dug out my umbrella, and took off on the 30 minute walk to the Bilbao bus station where I planned to hop on a bus that would take me to the airport.  Yup, that's right; I was leaving the rain behind, and heading to sunny Palma de Mallorca (on the island of Majorca)!!

Once I had arrived in Palma de Mallorca, I was happy to see that it was indeed sunny (albeit extremely windy and a bit chilly for my liking). Nevertheless, I couldn't complain as I was thrilled to be on a lovely island in the Mediterranean!  From the airport I took about a 20 minute bus ride to the center of Palma. From there, I had to catch another bus to my hostel. After about 30 minutes or so on the bus, I realized and was slightly surprised to find that my hostel was located in a lovely (but pretty far away) district known as Cala Mayor.  I followed my printed out directions and got off at the correct stop. However, after wandering around for about 15 minutes and not finding the hostel, I decided to stop in a bar and ask for directions. So, I approached a man (who only had two people in his bar), and said "excuse me, can I ask you a quick question - I think I'm lost," to which the man replied, "no." I was slightly taken aback, and just said "uh..." and left. That was my first of many experiences with what I would consider to be very rude and unfriendly mallorquins. I was fortunate enough, however, to find someone else who was much friendlier and pointed me in the correct direction.  My hostel was lovely, and for the first time I had my own room and bath!  As usual, I dropped off my bags, freshened up a bit, and took off to explore Mallorca!

My first stop was the Castell de Bellver, a 14th century castle built for King James II of Aragon. Here is where I met my second not-so-friendly Mallorquin.  The price to enter the castle was 2,50 euros, and I had exactly 2,48 cents in change or a 50 euro bill. I asked the ticket seller if 2,48 cents would be okay...and he said "most certainly not." Then I said, "well, the only other thing I have is a 50 euro bill...and I've walked a long way to see this..." He then proceeded to snatch the 50 euros out of my hand...and give me my ticket.  Now, I'm a very honest person, and I always pay the correct price/fare/etc, but I really didn't see it as such a huge problem to allow me to pay 2,48 (afterall, most places have penny jars...).  Anyway, apparently the castle was used as a military prison during the 18th and 19th centuries, and is now one of the primary tourist attractions in Palma de Mallorca.  It is circular in nature, and probably one of the coolest, most unusual, and most well preserved castles that I have ever had the opportunity to visit.  After exploring the castle for a bit and admiring the stunning views it offered, I headed back towards my hostel.  Along the way, I decided to stop off at the beach, and just sat there for a couple hours watching the sun slowly sink below the horizon. 

On Wednesday, I woke up early, hopped on a bus to the center of Palma and immediately caught a vintage (albeit touristy) train to Soller, a small town on the other side of the island. I must say the train ride was nice, but to be honest I wasn't very impressed. Most of the time, the train was going through dark tunnels...and there wasn't much to see. However, it was a fun experience. Once in Soller, I took a few moments to look around, then took off walking the 4 km to the Port d'Soller.  Port d'Soller had beautiful views of the Mediterranean, and was a quaint little port town. 

I spent about an hour on promenade, then headed off to catch a bus to Deia, a neighbouring town nestled in the Serra de Tramuntana (Mountains of Tramuntana).  Once in Deia, I explored an old church and historic cemetary, then headed down a dirt trail that eventually led me to a beautiful, hidden cove along the beach.  Unfortunately, I only had a few minutes to enjoy the scenery, as I had to hurry back up the mountains and catch the next bus to Valldemossa, the next town.

I got on the bus to Valldemossa...and about 10 minutes later, it came to a stop at a slightly sketchy looking bus stop with a sign that read "Valldemossa."  I didn't see a town, but the stop clearly was marked Valldemossa, so I proceeded to ask the bus driver if this was the stop for Valldemossa.  I had just expected a "yes" or "no", but instead he responded "Where is Valldemossa?" I said, "well, I suppose this is it, isn't it?"  He said, "Where is Valldemossa?" Then I said, "I don't know - hence why I'm asking if this is the stop or not." To which he replied, "Do you see a town? Do you see Valldemossa?" I confusedly responded, "I see a few buildings, and for all I know, the town is down the hill and I can't see the rest of it."  Finally a lady in the front row spoke up and said "It's the next stop."  To which I said, "thank you very much" and sat back down.  I mean, was all that discourse really necessary???? All I wanted to know was if I should get off the bus, or stay on.  Apparently the bus driver was not in a good mood, but he should be happy because he wins the prize for being the third unfriendly person I met in just two days on the island.

Once I actually arrived in the town of Valldemossa, I ran and picked up a guide and started looking around. I only had 1 hour and 30 minutes before my bus came to take me back to Palma.  So, I went to the most important monument, the Real Cartuja de Valldemossa.  Originally a royal residence, the monastery was inhabited by Carthusian monks from 1399 to 1835!  However, it is probably most famous for housing Frederick Chopin (famous Polish pianist and composer) and George Sand (French writer) during the winter of 1838-39.  It was truly beautiful and was incredibly well decorated (with original artifacts).  Next to the monastery were some absolutely stunningly manicured gardens, and the Palacio del Rey Sancho.  I took thirty minutes to run through the Palace, which had been a home to many famous people including the Latin American poet and author Ruben Dario (who I have studied many times and really enjoy!). 

At 18:30, I hopped on my last bus for the day, and headed back to Palma de Mallorca.  Somehow I managed to find yet another unfriendly and extremely cranky bus driver who cussed out two passengers (they didn't understand, but I sure did) and almost killed a pedestrian by accelerating on purpose (and saying, in Spanish of course "take that and shove it up your @$$").  I am not sure how, but I managed to make it back to Palma in one piece...and I took off on the 90 minute walk back to my hostel.  All in all, it had been a very busy day and I was ready to just chill out and do a few sudoku's in my room. 

Thursday I had planned to explore the city of Palma..., however ended up spending most of the day on the beach. I left my hostel around 9:00 and walked along the coast and peninsula in an attempt to visit the naval museum. However, when I got there, it was closed...despite the fact that it's timetable said it should be opened. Since it is connected to the naval base, I proceeded to the guard's hut and asked one of the guards if it was a holiday (that was the only reason I could think it would be closed). He said he didn't think so, but that it was quite possible. Well, I took that to mean, "yes."  So I went on my way, slightly bummed I wouldn't have the opportunity to visit the base or museum.  When I finally arrived in Palma, I headed over to the famous cathedral.  I couldn't quite figure out where the entrance was, and I saw people lined up to enter the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, so I joined in the line. When I bought my ticket to enter the palace, I asked where I should buy the ticket for the cathedral. The attendee then proceeded to inform me that it was a holiday and the cathedral was closed.  Fantastic. My last day in Palma, and I wasn't able to visit the famous cathedral.  I was once again, bummed, to say the least.  However, I took my time exploring the Palace of Almudaina, which was actually quite impressive...then spent a few hours exploring central Palma.  However, there really was not much to see, so I headed back to my hostel, put on my bathing suit, and went out to enjoy the last few hours of sun.  I at least had a relaxing afternoon, so again, really cannot complain!

On Friday morning, I had set my alarm to go off at 5:40 am in order to catch a bus at 6:30 am.  My alarm did indeed go off...but I for some reason turned it off...and continued sleeping.  At exactly 6:40 am I woke up, looked at the clock, and screamed...well, I won't tell you what I yelled.  I had missed the bus, and now was thinking I would miss my plane. I have never dressed so quickly in my life.  I didn't do my hair, I didn't put on makeup, I just dressed, grabbed my suitcase, and went running (literally) out of my hostel and down the street.  I anxiously waited for the bus, which luckily came only a few minutes after I got to the bus stop.  It was only 7:15 am, but I was still worried because I had to transfer buses and get to the airport no later than 8:15 (and that was really pushing it as it was). However, no sooner had I gotten off the first bus, than the next bus pulled right up.  It was truly my lucky day! I arrived at the airport with a few minutes to spare, ran to the restroom, put my face on and fixed my hair, and headed to catch my flight to Sevilla. Whew, what a whirlwind of a morning.

No comments: