Sad­dling up in Mal­lorca

Louis Fur­ney GET­TING THERE

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - PLACES -

ALOVELY trip to Mal­lorca last May proved ed­u­ca­tional in more ways than one. For a start it blew two of my pre­con­cep­tions out of the water. The first one was about Mal­lorca it­self, the sec­ond about Span­dex.

Among my gen­er­a­tion of twen­tysome­things, Mal­lorca, the largest of the three Balearic Is­lands, is as­so­ci­ated with its most fa­mous re­sort, Ma­galuf, which is fa­mous for par­ty­ing. And while I have no ob­jec­tion to the idea of par­ty­ing un­til all hours, I dis­cov­ered there is so much more to Mal­lorca than Ma­galuf.

One of the nicest ways to see all of that is by bike and that brings us to the Span­dex and my per­sonal re-eval­u­a­tion of what I once thought of as a dream ma­te­rial that night­mares were made of — be­cause it con­jures in my mind the im­age of the “Mam­mal” (aka the Mid­dle-aged Man in Ly­cra.)

How­ever, once you are faced with many kilo­me­tres on a sad­dle smaller than most smart­phones, some strate­gi­cally-padded Span­dex shorts will be one of your best friends.

The flight from Dublin to Palma takes just over two and half hours and once landed we made the 50-minute drive north across the is­land to the town of Playa de Muro. Our ho­tel, the very gor­geous Ho­tel Viva Blue & Spa, was more rem­i­nis­cent of a kit­ted-out apart­ment com­plex than a tra­di­tional ho­tel be­cause the rooms in­clude a small kitchen, which can prove both use­ful and cost ef­fec­tive. The rest of the ho­tel comes com­plete with in­door, out­door and kids pools with your choice of heated or not, as well as a very com­plete gym and con­fer­ence-es­que room.

Like much of Mal­lorca the ho­tel is geared around cy­clists and cy­cling hol­i­days. Most vis­i­tors choose to rent a bike, which, de­pend­ing on what model you choose, costs be­tween €135–€220 a week. The food at the ho­tel re­flects the clien­tele, with op­tions to cover ev­ery taste and di­etary re­quire­ment. Break­fast, for in­stance, had ev­ery type of milk and dairy sub­sti­tute, fresh smooth­ies, top qual­ity meats and eggs and ev­ery­thing else you could hope for, in­clud­ing ta­bles for ve­g­ans and coeli­acs. There are of course lo­cal bars and res­tau­rants if you pre­fer to dine more ca­su­ally.

Fed, wa­tered and sad­dled up with our own bikes we be­gan our ad­ven­tures in Span­dex gen­tly with a guided tour of the area. The go­ing was for the most part re­mark­ably flat although I’m un­der no il­lu­sion that they brought us on a gen­tler route than those nor­mally used by sea­soned rid­ers. In gen­eral Mal­lor­can roads are in pris­tine con­di­tion and of­fer lit­tle re­sis­tance so are suit­able for most lev­els of cy­clist. We did take some slightly “off trail” roads, and that was so we could en­joy some of the in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful land­scapes, rolling hills and truly beau­ti­ful wild flow­ers.

The go­ing wasn’t tough but still we felt we earned our tra­di­tional Span­ish lunch be­fore our trans­fer to Al­cu­dia which is a strik­ing 16th Cen­tury town. Din­ner at Can Costa, the old­est restau­rant in the his­tor­i­cal cen­tre, was fan­tas­tic. They serve tra­di­tional Ma­jor­can food like roast suck­ling pig and tombet (baked aubergine, pota­toes and pep­pers in a tomato sauce). Can Costa is down a lit­tle side street in the old town.

Scenery from the sad­dle is amaz­ing

It has a lovely gar­den ter­race and is very pop­u­lar so book­ing is ad­vised. Main cour­ses are priced well un­der €20.

Our next stay was in Playa de Palma and the Ho­tel Iberostar Cristina which was not only our home for the night but it was home to the cy­clists of the Six Days Cy­cling Se­ries, a huge in­door track com­pe­ti­tion. Com­pe­ti­tion was due to start the next day and it was fas­ci­nat­ing to chat to the par­tic­i­pants who came from all over the world to essen­tially fling them­selves around a velo­drome in the hope of se­cur­ing first place. Padded cy­cling shorts or not it was way out of our cy­cling league but it makes for a very good watch. The velo­drome had been used only twice be­fore and we were lucky enough to get a place in the VIP area to watch the fi­nal. Ad­mit­tedly it took a few events for me to half com­pre­hend the com­plex­ity of the sport but once I did it made for a re­ally in­ter­est­ing watch, in par­tic­u­lar the nu­ances in­volved in 20-odd cy­clists so close to­gether weav­ing in be­tween one an­other where one crash could in­jure many.

On our fi­nal full day we had a guided tour through the is­land and up to the town of Soller. For me this Mod­ernist town, right in the mid­dle of the very lovely “Val­ley of Or­anges” was a real high­light. The town’s for­tunes were built off the cit­rus fruit and the ar­chi­tec­ture is strik­ing. The main build­ing is Sant Bar­tomeu Church in Plaza de Con­sti­tu­cion, which is full of bars and cafes where you can sit and lis­ten to the tram which links the town and its port. It also has a gallery, Can Prunera, which has a permanent ex­hi­bi­tion of works by Warhol, Kandin­sky and Pi­casso, a mu­seum of nat­u­ral sci­ences and a botanic gar­den.

We had an au­then­tic paella in Es Canyis, a rea­son­ably high-end restau­rant where the rest of the menu is more like a Span­ish take on in­ter­na­tional cui­sine, for ex­am­ple carpac­cio of Soller prawns. A typ­i­cal three-course meal costs about €40.

All in all, apart from lessons about Span­dex, I learned that over the years Mal­lorca has not “mis-” but “mono-rep­re­sented” it­self.

It is known by most as a com­ing of age party spot which in it­self is not un­true. But this is merely a frac­tion of an im­pres­sively ver­sa­tile is­land. Not only does it cater to two dif­fer­ent groups of party tourists, Ma­galuf for Ir­ish and English and Are­nal which is pre­dom­i­nantly more Ger­man, but for the most part the is­land has main­tained its culture and her­itage.

It doesn’t feel like it preys on tourists, but em­braces them and that al­lows for a much more re­lax­ing hol­i­day. It’s also very good value so with­out wor­ry­ing about funds you can achieve what, in my opin­ion is the main at­trac­tion of trav­el­ling and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­where new: you learn.

For me Mal­lorca hits the right notes what­ever the hol­i­day you’re look­ing for, be it fam­ily, ro­man­tic, ac­tive, or a mad one. I will be back. A one-night stay in an apart­ment at the ho­tel Viva Blu & Spa costs €108 per per­son and in­cludes break­fast and din­ner (ex­clud­ing drinks). (www.ho­tels­viva.com/ es-es/viva-blue/)

We rented our bikes from the ho­tel

A one night stay in a stan­dard dou­ble room at the Iberostar Bahia de Palma is priced from €153 based on two peo­ple shar­ing and ex­clud­ing break­fast (www. iberostar.com/en/ho­tels/ma­jorca/ iberostar-bahia-de-palma)

Dis­cover the beau­ti­ful city of Palma de Mal­lorca by bi­cy­cle and drink in the cul­tural de­lights like a visit to the stun­ning La Seu Cathe­dral

Louis gets off his bike to take in the sights of Palma

A short two-and-a-half hour flight and you’ll be in sun­shine

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