Mr. McB decided to take a half-day excursion to Valledemossa, a small town in the Tramuntana mountains. His photos and recap of the excursion can be found on his blog. I wasn’t excited about this, or any of the other excursion options, so I decided to see Palma on my own.
There were free shuttles from the port to the town. I did experience some difficulty in finding the bus and most of it was my own fault. In Valencia, it was impossible to miss the signage. Palma’s port authority decided to post people in the terminal to guide you to the shuttle; but, they were standing with the people who were trying to sell you things so I put on my “New York eyes” and walked by them without saying a word. I wound up with a lot of other confused folks and a pack of cabbies who were eager to get fares. With some persistence, some other cruisers and I got rerouted and eventually found the free shuttle. In no time at all, we were standing across from Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma or more commonly known as La Seu Cathedral.
There is some conflicting information about when construction of the cathedral began. Some sources state that the head stone was laid in 1230 after King Jaime I promised that he would build a cathedral in honor of the Virgin Mary if he and his crew were saved from a terrible storm in 1229. The official booklet distributed by the cathedral states that construction began in 1306 under orders from King Jaime II. The structure was built on the site of a former mosque and for this reason, it faces Mecca instead of Jerusalem. Construction was completed in 1601.
On the way up to the cathedral, I found an alcove with a small pond where these cygnets were swimming with their parents.
These photos are of the Portal Mayor or the “Great Door” on the west side of the structure. In the center you will find the immaculate conception surrounded by 15 symbols of femininity that refer to Mary. The interesting thing about this door is that as massive as it is, it isn’t thick enough to be soundproof. Later, as I stood at the rear of the cathedral, I could hear the carriage rolling by.
Admission to the cathedral was six euro. Instead of audio guides, visitors were given guidebooks. After viewing Flemish tapestries and some lovely silver pieces, I made my way into the massive temple. Yes, it seems odd to refer to a Catholic church as a temple but that’s the term used in several places including the official guide.
I arrived just as the cathedral was opening for visitors so I had the luxury of enjoying a few minutes when the space was almost empty. As you can tell, it’s enormous. There are three naves with the central nave soaring at 144 feet making it one of Europe’s tallest cathedrals.
After taking in the size, I was struck by the light. There are more than 95 windows including two facing rose windows that cause beautiful sprays of light to fall on the stark sandstone walls.
Twice a year, on Feb. 2 and Nov. 11, there is an “eight of light” when the multi-color image of the main rose window is superimposed on rose window on the opposite side causing the window to appear to glow and the colors to become even more vibrant.
The old Gothic altar piece now hangs over the Portal del Mirador or the lookout door. It was Antoni Gaudi‘s decision to hang the piece here. More on Gaudi in a bit.
This image of Mary is found in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crown of Thorns. When the church celebrates the festival of the Assumption, the figure and the life-sized angels that surround her are moved to the central nave.
Now let’s move to the apses.
This is the most modern of all the apses. Located on the right side of the church, the redesign of this nave was completed in 2007. Designed by Miquel Barcelo, the design incorporates elements of the sea (fish, eels) and the earth (fruit). The figure in the center represents the Risen Christ. The design is very different from the other elements in the church. Without the guide, I would have thought that this was Gaudi’s contribution to the building.
We’ll visit the other side before focusing on the central apse.
This is the Baroque-style Corpus Christi. At the very bottom you can see Jesus being judged by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate. Above this, you’ll find a depiction of the last supper. As you continue up, there are depictions of Abraham and the wandering angels, the sacrifice of Isaac, and Melchizedek. You’ll see a closeup of the Last Supper below.
It is in the central apse that we see Gaudi’s major contribution to the building. He completely reworked this area. He removed the choir stalls and removed two altar pieces that hid the Bishop’s throne. He pushed the altar toward the congregation and added the crown-shaped canopy or baldachin.
The bishop and other church officials wanted to see models of Gaudi’s work. Since he did not have a lot of money, he constructed most of the canopy from paper and cardboard. One source even states that dried pumpkins were used in the piece. The church and Gaudi did not agree on the vision and the artist was let go. The canopy that hangs in this glorious cathedral is still the same paper model from the early 1900’s.
Outside the main temple, works of art are displayed in the Gothic and Baroque chapter houses.
After a stop in the gift shop, I headed out to walk around town a bit.
This is the Placa Mayor or big plaza. The plaza dates back to the mid-1800s. The area previously housed the Casa Negra or House of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Despite the fact that Jews and Christians have lived happily in Palma for many decades, things changed with the inquisition. There were forced conversions and much worse. The Casa Negra was destroyed in 1820 after the end of the inquisition. For more on the inquisition and Palma, read this page. The plaza now houses a Burger King and open-air market. Incidentally, I’m listening to Slacker and “Always Love” by Nada Surf just came on. “Hate will get you every time.” Can’t think of more appropriate words at this time.
After walking around town for a bit, I decided to tour the Palacio Real de la Almudaina. This fortified palace started out as an Arab fort. It was claimed as a royal residence in the 1300s. King Jaime II ordered changes to the building including the addition of a chapel to Saint Ann.
This is another shot of the palace. There were no photos allowed on the inside. At nine euro for admission (14 if you wanted the audio guide), I can’t say that I would recommend this stop. It’s interesting but not as interesting as some other stops might have been. I regret picking this instead of the art museum that is quite close.
After touring the palace, I enjoyed a bite on the benches near the cathedral. I met McB when he got into town after his excursion. We enjoyed the scenery for a bit and then he toured Palma while I went about my day.
I continued walking down through an area that looked like an old fortification. I thought I would end up at the Arab Baths but instead, I wound up running into a tourist that was either too cheap or confused to visit a proper bathroom. He was standing in the corner of the fort relieving himself. I saw this man and his wife earlier in the day and heard them speaking English. I’m not sure why his wife didn’t warn me about what I was about to see. I decided to head back to the main street for a different view.
Here’s a view of our ship. We’re the smaller ship on the right beside one of the vessels from the Costa line. You know, that Costa line…
Red Ginger was quite crowded when we arrived. After just a moment, we were seated and pored over the menu, not that this was the first time we studied it.
The meal began with an amuse-bouche of steamed edamame. The server also put a small pill on a plate and then poured a bit of boiling water over it. The pill puffed upward and became this little towel so we could remove the salt from the edamamae from our fingers.
I am nine years old so this was magical and very exciting to me. I proceeded to break our server’s heart by telling him that I did not want chopsticks for my meal. He took the glass box of beautiful chopsticks back to the kitchen and I felt a pang of guilt.
I had the spicy duck salad with watermelon, basil and cashews. It was delicious but not terribly photogenic since it is served on a dark plate in a dimly lit restaurant.
I ended the meal with the bounty cake. It is a delightful mix of vanilla, coconut and chocolate. McB had the lemongrass and chocolate creme brulee. He didn’t love it but with a belly full of other delicious treats, he was satisfied.
We spent the next day cruising the Mediterranean. Look for more in my next post.