“The colours, the colours!” I hear this phrase go round and round my head as I explore the magical island of Mallorca, as though through repetition, I may begin to make sense of the kaleidoscopic ravishment on my senses which comes of every colourful inch of this incredible Balearic beauty. Is it just the contrast from grey, industrialised London which makes the exquisite azure of Mallorca’s seas so ultimately seductive to the eyes, or is it true that here in Mallorca, the seas are more crystalline and cerulean than any other Spanish coast? While I’m used to being enchanted by the blue skies and sandy ochres of Andalucia, I have never seen turquoises like these along the Costa del Sol.
From the sea, to the sky, so rich a sapphire that it cannot help but pump optimism into the hearts and minds of every person shining beneath its reflective glory. And also reflecting in that sanguine light are the verdant greens of Mallorca’s lush landscapes, bounteous in swaying palms and plump prickly cacti, fragrant wild herbs and the perfumed blossom of almond and orange trees.
No greater are the vivid colours of this sunshine paradise more alluring than in the snug natural harbour of Port d’Andratx where we ventured today. I remember so well being seduced by this picture-perfect little port when first holidaying on the island with my mother. After hiring a car and negotiating both a left-hand drive vehicle for the first time and the rather speedy roads of the island, as well as narrowly escaping the unsavoury Magaluf peninsular (which we almost ended up in after taking a wrong turning – god forbid!), Andratx brought something of a antidotal calm after the hair-raising journey. And then of course, down on the port, we found a d’Andratx branch of my beloved Cappuccino Grand Café, this one boasting a winning position next to the harbours edge (I shouldn’t have been surprised – Cappuccino always manages to bag the best locations on the island). I was in love. So having returned now to Mallorca with my partner, the Port d’Andratx was a must-visit location, even car-less as we were.
The Port d’Andratx
The port wasn’t exactly straightforward to get to using public transport. Well, that’s not quite true. We only had to take one bus (the L102) all the way there from Palma, but what on the map looks to be a very short journey was stretched to a full 1hr 20mins each way owing to the twists and turns this busy little bus took in and out of towns along the way. Still, the alluring Mallorcan landscapes, dotted with their iconic old windmills and benefitting from a stunning backdrop of rolling hills on one side, and sparkling seascape on the other, made for an apt diversion, and soon enough we made it to the Port d’Andratx.
It’s one of those places which can’t fail to take your breath away. A cosy natural harbour with its share of crystal aquamarine waters, still the home of a working fishing fleet whose charming paraphernalia of fishing nets and buoys recline languorously on the harbour side in the sun. The port is littered with little restaurants and boutique shops, while around the corner from the port’s main artery, the coastline becomes progressively more craggy, almost surreal in its rocky formations, reminding me of the kind of curiosities which may turn up in a painting by surrealist Salvador Dali. The only slight blot on the landscape is the speedy development of what look like identical almost flat-back villas, rather scarring the naturally green hillsides besides the harbour with their coarse open balconies, maximising on view, but lacking any architectural charm.
That aside, the Port is a paradise, and none of that paradise was lost on us. Heading to Cappuccino Grand Café and finding fortuitously one table left in the sun, as though awaiting our arrival, we sat down for a lavish long lunch of fresh sushi and smoked salmon sandwiches and numerous glasses of exquisitely chilled sauvignon blanc. Is there any greater pleasure in life than this?
Rather tipsily after lunch (and so not recommended!) we ventured upon the craggy coastline, exploring what I fear may have been a private beach (albeit that there were no signs) and there finding the most stunning scenery of all – where the cerulean blues were tinted cobalt by the rock forms beneath, where lush greenery clung onto rocks exhibiting a thousand different geological colours.
But all too soon our time in Port d’Andratx came to an end, restrained as were were by the rather limited public holiday bus timetable. But by the time we arrived back in our adopted home of Palma, the evening sun was still able to charm us with its warmth, and we headed to the roof terrace of the architecturally impressive Es Baluard museum of contemporary art for afternoon tea.
Es Baluard is located within the perimeter walls of the Sant Pere bastion, part of the Renaissance walls that surrounded the city of Palma until the beginning of the 20th century. Masterfully designed by architects Lluis and Jaume Garcia-Ruiz, Vicente Tomas and Angel Sanchez Cantalejo and opened in 2004, the building presents a harmonious relationship between old coarse renaissance walls and the clean sharp lines of contemporary architecture. I adore the use of bare, smooth concrete, cold linear steel and sharp clean glass which coexists so sympathetically with the ancient walls. The building is in itself worth a visit, such are the large areas of ramparts and terraces on offer, all of which can be explored for free, and which present the visitor with some superb views over both the historic centre of Palma towards La Seu, and also westwards over the harbour and up to Bellver Castle.
Architectural fusion at Es Baluard
The cafe terrace
View from Es Baluard
View over Palma’s marina
Inside, the museum presents a consummate exhibition space, all the more impressive when considering that Palma is the capital of the Balearics, but not of the whole of Spain. The collections revolve and change, but we were lucky enough to time our visit with a display of Picasso ceramics, and a large collection of prints and paintings by one-time Mallorcan resident Joan Miró, as well as an assemblage of impressive Mallorca-born artists. My favourite of these was undoubtedly Joaquim Mir, whose landscapes and snapshots of Mallorca perfectly captured the extent and variety of those same scintillating colours which have so entranced me in Mallorca, evidence that those vivid brilliant colours have inspired generations of artists, to which I can now be added in number.
Concrete fuses harmoniously with the renaissance walls
Es Baluard’s contemporary glass
La Seu and a contemporary art sculpture
Our first full day in Mallorca was at a glorious end, and the hedonistic pleasures of a long hotel bath soak awaited. Of course there was still dinner to go, something which deserves a post all of its own. So please return to catch up on that tomorrow, as my journey across Mallorca continues. Until then.
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