Hike to Torre de Estellella

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Some people call them torres, which is Spanish for tower. Some people call them the watchtowers. But the real cool people in the know, call them atalayas. I will call them watchtowers…. even though I’m still cool. 🙂 At least I think I am and that’s half the battle, right?

A loooong time ago, Mallorca had a bit of a pirate problem. Who didn’t in the years 1200 – 1600s? Seriously. Especially with the famous Redbeard pirate (aka Hayreddin Barbarossa) hayreddin barbarossa and his brothers. In 1530 Barbarossa captured the castle of Cabrera and set up camp there to use as his base. They would storm towns in Mallorca and if you were lucky they would only steal your possessions and burn your home. Not so lucky, they were killed or taken as slaves. Due to the constant menace of pirate attacks a series of lookout and defense towers were built across the island.

There were 84 towers built in the 16th century on the island but only about 50 them still exist today. Some are in good to great condition and some are deteriorating rapidly. The majority of them were built without foundations, the towers generally had between two and four levels and can be square, rectangular or circular in shape. The entrance was several meters above land and was reached by a rope ladder.

Joan Binimelis from Manacor designed a simple communication system of smoke signals during the day and fires at night. With it, neighboring watchtowers could be alerted, and the information was passed from tower to tower to the Almudaina in Palma.

I see these watchtowers all around Mallorca and while I knew they existed to warn villagers, towns, etc of pirate attacks I love learning even more about how they worked and when they were built. You can usually check out most of them. Some you can enter but most are closed up and you can just walk around it. Kinda like the one I like to hike to in S’Estanyol. I wrote about my hike to the lighthouse here but you can extend that and hike about 20-25 minutes more and get to the Torre de Estellella. It’s a non-strenuous walk along the coastline and the end site is worth it. Think of the history! The pirates! The people watching for those silly pirates! Arrggghh.

Here is how to get there:

S’Estanyol is a small town in the southeast of Mallorca, to arrive you would follow the MA-6015 to the end (arriving at S’Estanyol) and turn right. Park at the end of the road, after the S’Estanyol Club Nautico and get ready for your hike. Walk along the beach and you can either stay on the coastline or walk on a path through the pine trees. They smell so good! Follow the FAR signs. FAR is lighthouse in Catalan (faro in spanish). Just keep following that and soon you will arrive at the rocky coast where you will find this beautiful lighthouse.

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We always like to stop here for a beer. A picnic is a wonderful idea too. To continue onto the watchtower just keep along the water walking away from S’Estanyol and towards Cala Pi. The path will curve to the right and soon you will have the watchtower in sight.

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And the view towards the sea ain’t too shabby either.

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If these walls could talk. I would love to hear the stories!

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And there you have it. If you are in my neck of the woods please stop by Torre de Estellella. We would love to see you. Don’t forget the camera and some sunscreen! See ya there.

Top 5 Things To Do In Palma, Mallorca

So many people ask me about things I would recommend doing/seeing in Palma de Mallorca when they are visiting the island. So, why not give a blog post to that topic. Just for y’all, my favorite peeps.

It was a difficult list. Palma has so much to offer – art galleries, museums, shopping, great bars, hidden back alleys where you stumble upon something new every single time. I could spend a whole week just exploring those narrow side streets.

In no particular order because they all rock.

1.Pilar y Joan Miró Foundation

First up, the Pilar y Joan Miró Foundation. If you are an art lover, you can’t miss this. You actually walk through the studios Joan Miró worked in through 1956 until his death in 1983. The collection of works by Joan Miró includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints. You can see how and where he worked at the two studios (Son Boter and Sert Studio), both of these have been included in the Bienes de Interés Cultural architectural heritage list.

One of my favorite Miro sculptures in Palma ~ FEMME

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Joan Miró – Femme

2. La Seu

Next, the Cathedral – La Seu. This majestic, architectural masterpiece took from 1230 – 1601 to build. It has a gorgeous, gothic, rose glass window which is one of the largest in the world. And if you are into Gaudí, he later designed the columns and the controversial Crown of Thorns that hangs over the altar. It is situated next to the Parc de la Mar which is also a lovely place to hang out, look at the sea and have a glass of wine.

A visit begins through the museum entrance and there is a small entrance fee.

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La Seu in Palma, the Cathedral that took almost 400 years to build. Gorgeous!

 

3. Passeig Des Born

Enough architecture and art for you? Alright, how about some shopping. Did some of your ears pop up? Palma has great stores – from Louis Vuitton to Caroline Herrera to Hugo Boss. And they are all in one of my favorite spots in Palma, Passeig des Born. Come here to this tree-lined promenade with boutiques, cafes, shops and beautiful fountains at each end. You can always find a street performer or two to keep you entertained, if you are needing that.

Walk up to Jaime III and if you turn left you will find Es Corte Ingles (Palma’s big department store), Mango and other shops. Turn right and you can head to Placa Major, where pretty much in every direction are more and more shops. If you have been dying for a Starbucks, one has been recently established at the Placa Cort.

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4. Ca’n Joan De S’aigo

Time for a break after all that sight seeing and shopping. Stop at one of the oldest chocolatiers in Europe, founded in 1700. So much deliciousness under one roof. It’s almost a sin. Pastries, cakes, ice-cream, cava and the popular Mallorcan ensaimada. My favorite is the one with apricots. They have two locations but the Calle Can Sanc has the mosaic from the original building. Bon Profit!

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5. Palma Old Town Bike Tour and Tapas

Did someone say bike riding and tapas? I’m in. This is a super fun bike tour to see the top sights of Palma ~ La Seu Cathedral, the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, ride down the Rambla of Palma and discover the nightlife center of La Lonja. Finish your excursion with tapas at the Illenc restaurant.

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I hope you enjoyed the list. I would love to hear about your favorite must-sees in Palma. Thanks for stopping by this beautiful city!

Dia de las Islas Baleares

March First – Balearic Day. WHOOOP! The Balearic islands are so gorgeous -Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Have you been to all of them?

Here is one of my favorite beaches in Mallorca. I call it the Secret Beach because it can be a bit tricky to find if you don’t know about it. But it’s true name is Caló des Moro.

Man, am I ready for summer. See you at the Secret Beach!

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Sant Sebestià Fest~ Palma

Saint Sebastian is Palma de Mallorca’s patron saint and is honored for a week long during the end of January with each day becoming more and more adventuresome. Tonight there will be devils, fire and torradas. Will you dare the devils or will they dare you?

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Devils aren’t part of the celebration of Sant Sebastià, they are from the fiesta of Sant Antoni but the two are celebrated in Mallorca at the end of January and they have kind of merged together. Which makes for one fun party! The devils come for you as the correfoc (firerun) continues on, careful for fireworks and devils spitting fire at you.

The correfocs are my favorite.

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It’s cold in Mallorca so don’t forget your warm clothes, sausages for the torrada and you might want to forego that hairspray for the night.

(Pictures above taken by me January 2011)

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Spanish Navidad

Spain is a lovely place to enjoy the holiday season, with events and celebrations starting early December and going through mid January. Children typically only get a small gift on Christmas Day because they receive the majority of their presents on January 6th – Three Kings Day (Los Reyes). Christmas time is truly a special time of the year in Spain.

Here are some of my favorites from Spain.

The Belen (Nativity Scene) – You can always find a Belen in the bigger cities, some with a live Belen! And they can be very elaborate and beautiful.

And a bit of a strange tradition in Catalonia is the caganer (the crapper), where a defecating figure perched behind Mary and Joseph is said to symbolize fertilization, as well as bringing luck and prosperity for the year ahead.  The traditional figure is that of a young peasant from Catalonia, sporting a red cap and a pipe. But modern crappers represent public figures of the moment, from politicians to sporting heroes. Here is your Trump caganer that will probably be very popular this year.

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Next up is EL GORDO! You can get your lottery ticket pretty much almost anywhere. El Gordo (The Fat One) is a Spanish institution and the second oldest lottery in the world. The first Christmas lottery took place on 22nd December 1812 in Cádiz and the event has been taking place on the same day every year since.

It’s a bit complicated because so many people take part in the lottery, numbers are repeated up to 160 times. That means, if you win, you will most likely be sharing the prize with 159 others.

The night of the drawing is a drawn out affair lasting around three hours. The balls are drawn in a unique way befitting the unique lottery tradition, while the numbers are sung by the pupils of Madrid’s San Ildefonso school.

My next favorite Spanish fiesta is Three King’s Day (El Dia de los Reyes). If you remember the Three Kings are Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior and they bring the newborn Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The one thing that really bothers me is how the person who portrays Balthazar is a Spanish who is blackened up. There are many African people who live here, who I am sure would be quite honored to play the role of Balthazar.

There are many parades around Spain with the Three Kings throwing candy to the children. Here in Mallorca, the Three Kings arrive on boat. There is also the Roscón de Reyes which is a traditional cake (a bit fruitcake like) that families eat on the day. Careful though, there is a metal/plastic figurine inside it. Whoever gets it in their piece is crowned king or queen of the table. There’s also a bean inside the pastry and whoever gets it has to buy next year’s roscón.

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Good luck getting to be the king or queen of the party! Those are my favorites! What are some of your favorite holiday tradition where you live?

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El Día de los Reyes

Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)
Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)

The day for Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar to arrive is here! Children are anxiously awaiting all over Spain to see the Three Kings. Known in the Anglophone world as the Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Kings is defined in Spain by the enormous expectation and the tremendous annual celebrations that revolve around the event. Festivities officially start the evening before Epiphany, on the night of January 5, when the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Parade) takes place in every town and city, with hundreds upon hundreds of people crowding the main roads of the urban settlements in order to get a glimpse of the reenactment of the arrival of the Three Kings into town.

Here in Mallorca, the Three Kings arrive on boat and then proceed to join the parade (either on an elaborate float or on camels or horses) to throw candy to the children that line the streets. The children hopefully have been very good all year because this is the time they receive the most presents. Santa is definitely number two in popularity in Spain. But if the children have been bad they receive a bag of black coal, (usually a lump of hard sugar candy dyed black, called Carbón Dulce).

If you haven’t realized it yet, the Three Kings are the Three Wise Men who traveled by night all the way from the farthest confines of the Earth to bring gifts to Jesus, whom they recognized as the Son of God. The two days remain a beloved tradition, the night before when the Kings arrive and January 6, the day of the Epiphany.

It is a special time here in Spain! But sadly, it is also the end of Christmas.

Til next time!