Building work on Palma Cathedral or, to give it it’s full name, the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, started in 1229 and wasn’t finished until 1601. It’s Catalan Gothic style has undergone work and changes throughout the centuries to bring it to the point it’s at today. It has one of the largest rose windows in the world (known as the Gothic Eye) and is the main focus of Palma’s coastline, overlooking the Parc de la Mer and the port.
As often happens with me and tourist attractions, I got so engrossed that I couldn’t stop looking at it and taking photographs. Even though we passed it multiple times during our short stay, I never tired of marvelling at the detail or the sheer scale of the building.
In truth, for me, the outside was probably more impressive than the inside, purely from an aesthetic point of view. I mean, just look at that detail! The intricate carvings and turrets are incredible. But the Gothic Eye and other stained glass windows are very beautiful and bathe the light stone interior in lots of colours, and for just 7 euros entrance fee it’s certainly worth a visit.
It’s also possible to book a tour of the cathedral terraces, which aren’t open to the general public, but we didn’t get chance on this occasion.
I’m quite the fan of going away for May Bank Holiday weekend – you get an extra day “free” and generally the weather in Europe is better than at home so its good time to soak up a bit of culture and avoid the wash out that is usually a UK bank holiday.
Imagine my chagrin then, when the weather forecast in the lead up to our weekend in Palma last month was predicting rain, while the UK was in for a heatwave? That’s not how it’s supposed to work! (although, thinking about it, our May Bank Holiday trip to Lyon a couple of years ago came with rain and wind, although at least the UK had the decency to be having the same weather at home).
Ever the optimist (seriously, I’m the kind of person who will look through ALL the weather forecasts until I find one I like!) off we went on our early morning flight to Palma with me declaring it would “all be fine” and if it does rain “it won’t last long”.
Well, it was raining when the plane touched down, raining when we left airport arrivals and absolutely torrentially bucketing down by the time the taxi dropped us off at our hotel about an hour later. It was too early to check in and we were only in the city for 3 nights so we left our luggage at the hotel, dug out our brollies and headed out into the narrow cobbled street (me in open toed sandals, told you I’m an eternal optimist, I didn’t pack any wet weather shoes!)
It rained all the way through lunch in Placa Espanya (although I still insisted on sitting outside “because were on holiday” even though we got dripped on from the welcome but not completely covering us awnings) but by the time I’d finished my second goldfish bowl glass of sangria the clouds had started to break and that was that for the whole weekend.
Palma de Mallorca is the capital of Majorca, largest of the Balearic Islands and around 2.5 hours flight from Birmingham. Lots of people land on the island and head straight to the beach resorts, and of course there’s the hideous party town of Magaluf that doesn’t do Majorca’s reputation any favours but the island is very beautiful, with so much more to offer than white sands, cheap beer and a really good climate (arrival day excepted). Just 20 minutes in a taxi from the airport, the capital is a maze of cobbled streets, bright plazas, a bustling harbour with cruise ships coming in and out and the piece de resistance, Palma Cathedral. It has a wealth of great shopping opportunities (we weren’t there to shop, but if you were you wouldn’t be disappointed), some great food and wonderful architecture.
We did our usual open top bus tour to get a feel for the city, wandered through narrow streets, ate delicious ice cream, looked up at the buildings, looked out at the sea, took a train journey away from the city and up through the mountains (more on that in another post) and generally just had a lovely time.
Here are some pics.
We stayed at the Dalt Murada hotel which is in the Gothic Quarter and very well located for the cathedral, seafront and lots of places to eat. It’s a 16th century building situated on a very narrow side street which would, at some point, been lived in by a well to do family. There’s lots of dark wood, stone floors and old paintings, a bright breakfast room opening up on to an internal courtyard (we didn’t eat breakfast in the hotel) and a rooftop terrace with views towards the cathedral. It was reviewed in The Telegraph and I’d say it’s pretty bang on. I’d always rather have a bit of character than a faceless place to stay, given the choice.
Have you ever been to Palma? Or to Majorca? Let me know in the comments!
I mentioned during my packing post that the forecast for Italy wasn’t great and that I had invested in waterproofs. In the first few days I’d only used mine to walk from the bedroom to the bar (and therefore it was already a worthy investment!) By Thursday, it was worth it’s weight in gold.
The Amalfi Coast drive is renowned as being absolutely beautiful, with sheer cliff drops, sea views, and towns precariously built into the rockface. There are the usual organised trip options, which we always avoid where possible, plus the local SITA buses and the red sightseeing bus. The SITA bus, although cheaper, makes quite a lot of stops between Sorrento and Amalfi and is renowned for being very busy and hot. The red sightseeing bus stops just once at Positano and then again at Amalfi – a 90 minute journey overall. It also has the benefit of audio description in 5 different languages, which is useful for finding out what you’re seeing and a bit of history.
By the time we got on the 10.45 departure there were only 4 seats left – all of which were on the left side of the bus, The right side is the place to sit on the outward journey for the best views. Luckily, at Positano (which is where the best views of the coastline start) some people got off, so I pushed the husband into grave jumping action and we got to see more of what was going on.
It had looked overcast when we had breakfast that morning but seemed to be brightening up (in my little optimistic head) by the time we left the hotel. I’d checked the forecast and Positano looked to be getting better weather during the day than Amalfi, but I was confident (in my own naive manner) that we’d get away with it.
My little optimistic head was wrong; alas it wasn’t to be. I’d be lying if I said the weather made no difference, as visibility was reduced and everything looks better in the sunshine, but the coastline was beautiful nonetheless.
Then came the rain. Full credit to the driver, who’s dexterity around the sharp bends and twisty turns made for a comfortable drive as we meandered our way along the coast.. I couldn’t have navigated it in a car, let alone a great big bus! Just look at them!
As we headed down towards Amalfi the weather took a distinct turn for the worse and the wind started to howl; leaving the harbour looking grey and uninviting rather than the pretty blue sea we’d imagined. The harbour itself was a myriad of buses and coaches, and people huddled under canopies to escape the weather – not the picturesque scene we expected and made for a rather gloomy destination.
We hadn’t planned to spend too long in Amalfi anyway, wanting to get back to Positano, but the weather made our decision easier and we stayed just long enough to snap a few pictures and christen our kagouls before jumping back on a dry bus.
The cathedral is a fabulous building.
I don’t want to do Amalfi a disservice, as I’m sure on a dry day it’s absolutely beautiful, but it’s not much fun squelching around and getting rain in your eyes while trying to sightsee (believe me, I tried). I would definitely give it another try next time I’m in Italy.
Frantically looking for the light at the end of the tunnel (literally!) I used the wifi on board the bus to check the weather forecast in Positano, which suggested the rain would definitely be stopping! Clinging to that hope we took the 45 minute drive back along the coastline, laughing and freaking out at some of the terrible driving on this crazy road!
I’d read that Positano was a must see for it’s prettiness and higgledy piggledy cliffside development. And so we got off the bus once again, into the rain, with the dogged determination to see what all the fuss was about.
Wearing my kagoul (again!) with an umbrella up (it was that wet) we set off down the hill. The rainwater was running down the gutter and the views across the bay were somewhat obscured by a myriad of tourist umbrellas but it was impossible not to fall in love with the tumble of pastel buildings, ceramic shops and restaurant terraces with gorgeous seaviews.
We followed the natural slope of the town down towards the harbour, pleased to note that the rain was easing.
We took refuge in a beachfront restaurant where we ate bruschetta, aubergine parmiagiana (me – boy was this good; one of the best meals of the holiday for me), spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter sauce (husband said this was delicious) and drank wine and beer.
After lunch the rain had stopped and we had a mooch on the beachfront. There are some great boat trips available including a trip to Grotto Smerelda which I’d love to see.I’d happily base myself in Positano next time in Italy. You can visit Capri by boat, as well as being a short drive back to Amalfi where there are bus trips to other villages along the coast like Raffaello and Maiori.
It’s just so pretty!
We jumped on the SITA bus back to Sorrento as it arrived just as we reached the bus stop, and it’s fair to say the driver was a lunatic! I was glad we hadn’t taken that bus all the way along!
It’s unfortunate that we did the drive on a rainy day, but it was either that or miss out (as it was our last full day) and I’d rather have seen it not it’s very best than not seen it at all.
On Saturday I had a fabulous afternoon seeing my home city through tourist eyes; looking at it in a way I don’t generally experience.
And it was brill.
It started from the desire to go owl hunting – The Big Hoot has scattered hand painted owls all around the city to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. They’ve been around since July, but I haven’t had chance to get into the centre of town to check them out (although I did see a couple locally about a month back).
So off we went, with no particular plans apart from to find as many owls as we could and then see where the day would take us.
One thing you forget, walking round Birmingham with a purpose in mind, is how beautiful some of the architecture is.
Floozie in the Jacuzzi
St Philips Cathedral (with added owl!)
Museum and Art Gallery
One such piece of architecture is the new (ish) library. I never truly appreciated what a structure it is. In the past I would have classed myself as not being a fan, but for the first time I went up close and personal and was astounded. The circular metal cladding gives the building an industrial feel.
Inside, all the escalators have futuristic blue lights.
I didn’t realise until recently that the building has two outdoor viewing platforms, with gardens.
The views across the city are pretty cool.
Out of towners often think of Birmingham as being dull and bleak, but there are flowers everywhere.
And miles of canals.. Hard to believe that I’ve lived in or around this city my whole life and didn’t actually realise how beautiful the canal area is.
We found about 30 owls altogether, here are some of my favourites.
Bob the Bat
I love living in Birmingham!
Do you ever look at your home town through fresh eyes?
Birmingham is buzzing right now. There’s a whole heap of redevelopment in the city; from the refurb of the high end Mailbox shopping centre, to the new train station, John Lewis department store and shopping/food area, to The Cube (love it or hate it, it’s certainly iconic). We have theatres, great restaurants, museums, cathedrals, concert venues, street markets, food and more. We have a world famous cricket ground. We have premiership football clubs. We have miles of canals. We have the oldest working cinema in the UK.
Here are just some of the great things I’ve done in Birmingham so far this year.
While researching Nice and all the nice things to do, I read that it was easy to get out and about for the day by train. Blessed with almost 3 full days and being located about 5 minutes walk from the train station, we set off for Cannes.
Just half an hour along the coast, we arrived there at around 10.45 and found our way to the seafront. It’s evidently an area with money, noticeable by the proliferation of designer shops.
Luckily, with it being Sunday, everything was closed, or I’d have gone on a shopping spree (ha, ha, RIGHT!!! £1500 for a bag? Never! Although the window display at D&G was very pretty.
Unlike Nice, the beach in Cannes is soft white sand, and there were lots of people sunbathing and children playing. The sea is just as blue as in Nice, and the waves lapped gently at the shore as we meandered along.
I’m very partial to Birds of Paradise flowers – I had them in my wedding bouquet.
The most imposing hotel we saw was the Carlton – a drinks menu showed 11 euros for a Coke!
The town is gearing up for the film festival, and there was evidence of staging being built in preparation for the town coming to life. I’m sure there’ll be more and more yachts arriving this week, but those that were already in the harbour were pretty impressive.
Not being overly enamoured with Cannes (I know it has an old town but we had already walked miles) and wanting to squeeze in Antibes on the way back, we headed back to the station for the 3 short stops to our next destination, where we had promised ourselves lunch. The graffitied trains were something to behold!
Antibes is much prettier, more French and less touristy, but still with the same blue sea and another well stocked port.
A small and pretty cathedral is at the centre.
I couldn’t resist a picture of this well lived in decorated van at the street market
After a lunch of chorizo and ratatouille crepe with copious amounts of rose wine it was time to catch the train back to Nice. Double decker trains – such a novelty!
Nice Ville station is very ornate.
We walked around 10 miles over the course of the day, but everything was so pretty we hadn’t even noticed. My feet certainly felt it once I took my sandals off though.