Friday, October 13, 2017

MALLORCA DISCOVERY...WE BEGIN IN BEAUTIFUL PORT SOLLER

I LOVE islands so Mallorca was naturally on my radar. We stayed a week before my bike tour to get a feel of the island. To say Mallorca is very popular with tourists is an understatement! I am glad we booked for the end of September as July & August are totally crowded with visitors from all over Europe, especially Britain and Germany! We choose charming Port Soller on the west coast of the island to begin our Mallorca Discovery. 
In the weeks ahead I will post on our explorations on beautiful Mallorca and on my favorite cycling tour ever! 

Our flight from Madrid to Palma Mallorca on Iberia Airlines was only one hour and 25 minutes. We decided to forgo a rental car and took a taxi to Port Soller. Hotels are fine, but we prefer an apartment so we can relax and cook some of our meals. A bonus was the great terrace overlooking the harbor. 

The tracks below our apartment are for the vintage tram which has operated from Port Soller to the town of Soller, just 5 kilometers away, since 1913. A number of bars and restaurants line the harbor.

People wait for the next tram to Soller.

Port Soller is a fabulous combination of sand and sea, along with the beautiful Serra de Tramuntana Mountain range. I will be cycling up those hills when my bike tour begins.

We love exploring early in the morning before all the tourists descend on the town.

A fishing boat offloads their catch of Dorado.

Port Soller's small harbor has limited docking facilities for mega yachts. This 175' super sailing yacht, "Nirvana Formentera" is owned by Spanish billionaire, Isak Andic, the owner of Mango stores. It has a crew of 9, can accommodate 10 guests, and was built in Holland for a price of $30 million.

This super sleek Italian built "Pershing 82" has a very cool look. We heard the woman on the deck complaining to a person on a neighboring yacht, "Can you believe we can't find any fresh strawberries in town?"  I guess one has certain expectations when you have a $3 - $5 million yacht.

Later in the day, it was time for the beach. Marla checked out some sandals on the way.

Port Soller beaches have fine sand, clear water, and few waves. You can rent "2 beds and umbrella" for only 12 Euros, or just find a clear sport and put a blanket down.

Marla walks out for a swim to the platform in the bay.

I'm ready for lunch!

What a fabulous day in the sun!

One day we jumped on the tram for Soller. I love the sound it makes as it slowly heads out of town. 

The tram runs right through the town of Soller. In the early 20th century the tram was used to transport fish from the harbor.

We wanted to take the electric train to Palma after arriving in Soller. When you arrive at the Station in the Plaza de Espana, you will find the Soller to Palma train on a separate track to the left of the main Station line (see picture above).
The train makes a few local stops, the first at Son Sardina, before reaching the town of Bunyola. You then travel into the mountainous Tramuntana region (Sierra de AlfĂ bia), through 13 tunnels, and over several bridges.The scenery along the twists and turns of the mountains is breathtaking and because of the slow pace of the train, you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the views. 

The train arrives at the old station in Palma.

Time for lunch and local Mallorcan wines in Palma.

Waiting for our return train.

Marla gives me her glamour pose departing from the train back in Soller.

We love visiting churches and enjoyed "Sant Bartomeu" (Saint Bartholomew) in Soller.  

Checking prices in Soller.

Back in Port Soller we had a perfect dinner table to enjoy the sunset at "Brisas del Mar." We loved the Cava Sangria while watching the golden sunset sky.

The owner of our apartment owns two restaurants in town. "Cava" has nice outdoor seating next to the harbor. They feature interesting gin and tonics served with dramatic flair by our waiter. We chose "Cabraboc", a local Mallorcan gin. We still had room for a little snack.

Breakfast on our terrace was our favorite. I went out early each morning to buy pastries for breakfast. Each little side street has at least one supermercado ( mini market) baking their own pastries and bread. It was fun to sample them all!








Images: Dick Gentry ( Not to be used without permission.)


Friday, October 6, 2017

MADRID STOPOVER...WANDERING, SHOPPING, DINING, ART MUSEUMS, AND A DEMONSTRATION

We stopped in beautiful Madrid for two nights before flying to Mallorca. We haven't been here for almost 15 years so it was great to return! This is a perfect place to get into a new time zone. We stayed at the Westin Palace Hotel, shown on the right, a favorite place to stay for the likes of Picasso, Dali, and Hemingway. It's located in the superbly located Centro District, home to great Madrid museums, restaurants, and shopping. And let us not forget those Westin Heavenly Beds!
I requested an early check-in as a Starwood Preferred Guest as our flight arrived at 7 AM. After unpacking and a short nap we went out to have lunch and explore the neighborhood.

A statue of Miguel de Cervantes on the square across from our hotel.

"Museo del Jamon" was packed for Merienda, or the mid-afternoon snack. It is very difficult for most American tourists, especially those on a Denver time-zone, to adjust to Spanish mealtimes! Lunch is usually 2-3:30 PM and dinner is between 9- 11 PM, or even later!

Interesting Madrid architecture on our walk to the El Corte Ingles department store. This is Europe's largest department store chain with numerous locations in Madrid, each specializing in different products. Their store nearest to the Plaza Puerto del Sol is quite a shopping experience.

Before our trip, I researched restaurants open early for dinner. I read about Gourmet Experience at El Corte Ingles department store. On the 9th floor rooftop of their Callao area store, they have a wonderful selection of fast-casual restaurants and is open from 10 AM to Midnight! This was the perfect place for an early first-night dinner!

Views of the city.

Marla scouts out a table while I search for drinks and food.

I'm savoring a Marguerita from "Central Mexicana" at the Gourmet Experience.

On the walk back to the hotel we came upon a giant demonstration. "Mision Abolician" was the largest demonstration in Spain to end bullfighting The plaza was filled with thousands of passionate people.

Demonstrators disperse after the event.

Not sure why these pigs were in attendance.  Maybe they are lobbying for an end to "Jamon", and Spain's obsession with dry-cured ham.

Buskers head for the subway from Calle de Preciados, the main shopping street in the central area.

The next day we went to the fabulous Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, just around the corner from our hotel. Marla admires a beautiful painting by Renoir. At one time this was the second largest private art collection in the world. 

I was particularly impressed with this 1489 portrait by Domenico Ghirlandaio. Since I am an old "textile guy" I love the fabric detail on her sleeve!

The fabric design and colors of this 15th-century dress are striking!

I really enjoy the French "Barbizon" school and particularly this 1855 painting by Rousseau. My great-grandfather painted in a similar style as a "plein air" artist in late 19th century San Francisco. He loved painting near Mount Tamalpais in Marin County.

This is a majestic portrait by John Singer Sargent.

Their museum gift shop even featured a bike seat cover and bike bags inspired by Gustav Klimt.

We still had a bit of energy so we walked across the street to the Prado Museum.

The museum was close to closing so we concentrated on the fabulous rock crystal bowl collection of France's Grand Dauphin, Louis XIV, in the museum's basement. I love anything about rocks and minerals and I was just amazed with this exhibit!

On the way to an early dinner at a place recommended by our hotel's concierge, we spotted these cooks relaxing at the entrance to a Cuban restaurant.

Dinner was great at El Barril De Las Letras. It was 7:45 PM and of course there were only a few Americans and Brits dining at this "unfashionable hour!"

Back at the Westin Palace Hotel, we had the energy for a glass of Cava before bed. Tomorrow we fly to Palma Mallorca.